Your horse’s passport, microchip and freezemark are all in your name — so there’s no doubt that you own him. Or is there?
Teresa Newcombe-Baker of Woodford, Northants, put 14.3hh bay cob Quincy out to loan in last December after she suffered a shoulder injury.
She claims her 13-year-old pony was sold on by the loanee and although she knows who the new owner is, the police refuse to help her reclaim him.
“I sold a thoroughbred mare in December last year and the people who came to transport her said they had heard Quincy was available to loan,” Teresa told H&H.
“I agreed to let them take him then instead of having to make a second journey.
“We agreed that I would visit in a couple of weeks and they would fill out the loan agreement then.”
But Quincy’s new keepers, whom H&H is not naming, repeatedly deferred her visit and eventually stopped taking her phone calls.
“I found out that the phone number was used by a woman who had sold dozens of horses over the past year,” said Teresa.
Cambridgeshire Police made inquiries and it transpired that the pony had been sold just weeks after being loaned.
But the loanee claimed he had been given to her by Teresa and the police dropped all the charges.
Teresa has tracked Quincy down through a horse forum but has been warned by police not to try to remove him from his new home.
“It’s heart-breaking but I can’t get my horse back,” she said.
A spokeswoman for Cambridgeshire Police said they had advised Teresa that the case should be dealt with in a civil court.
“She claims the woman stole her horse, the loaner claims she gave it to her. It’s one word against another, and we can’t prove it either way,” said the spokeswoman.
She added that if Teresa had a loan agreement the case would be stronger.
But Teresa says taking on a solicitor to fight a civil case is too expensive for a horse worth no more than £2,000.
Missing Horses on Loan, a group set up to advise people in this position, says owners have got to wake up to the dangers inherent in loaning out their horses.
Ali Cann, who established the website, said: “I have about eight ongoing cases at the moment and things don’t seem to be getting better.
“Owners have to ensure they have a loan agreement, but the police have to start treating these cases for what they are — theft.”
And even with a loan agreement, Ms Cann says the police may not pursue the claim.
“There seems to be loophole in the law. In a couple of cases recently the police have said the loan agreement is a civil contract and so is not a criminal matter.”
A World Horse Welfare spokesman said: “This is a very sad case and highlights that it is vital that any loan home is thoroughly checked out and a legally-binding loan agreement is signed before you allow the horse to leave your premises.”
This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (28 July, 2011)