Police have reissued warnings for horse owners to be wary of unscrupulous individuals who promise the perfect loan home, only to sell horses on.

An owner, who cannot be named, contacted H&H about the “disappearance” of her 10-year-old bay mare three months into a formal loan agreement. This is now under police investigation and looks set to be heard as a civil case.

During an unannounced visit on 2 January, the owner, from Surrey, was initially informed that her mare— loaned out last October as a companion due to behavioural issues — had been moved to a different location. After repeated enquiries, the story changed to a claim that the mare had broken her leg and had to be put down.

But the owner, who used a sample British Horse Society (BHS) loan agreement, was not contacted or given any supporting evidence except for the name of a man (not a registered knacker or vet) who allegedly shot the mare.

“I haven’t completely lost hope,” said the owner, who refuses to believe her horse is dead. “But what are the chances of finding her when she wasn’t microchipped or freeze-marked? She does have a scar from a colic operation and two white socks [one front and one hind].”

RSPCA inspector for Surrey Nicky Thorne said it was tragic that an owner who clearly tried to do the best for her horse was seemingly “conned by someone with no regard for horse welfare or the law”.

Miss Thorne stressed that a claim made by the borrower that she rehomed horses for the RSPCA was fabricated. She urged owners to contact organisations to validate similar claims.

It is the kind of story that is all too common for International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) field officer (south-east) Ted Barnes and Inspector David Collings, who heads Hampshire Police equine liaison officers’ scheme.

“Every so often, someone will think there’s a window of opportunity — if a horse looks reasonable and the owners have entrusted it into their care — for them to have a licence to print money,” said Mr Barnes, formerly of the Metropolitan Police equine crime unit.

“It’s not endemic, but people who go into this situation must be aware that it’s a minefield and someone will always see an opportunity to make money out of other people’s misery.”

  • Read this story in full in today’s issue of Horse & Hound (23 February, ’06)
  • Horse & Hound SubscriptionsHorse & Hound Cover
    SUBSCRIBE TO HORSE & HOUND AND SAVE

    Enjoy all the latest equestrian news and competition reports delivered straight to your door every week.

    To subscribe for just £1.43 a copy click here >>

    Horse & Hound Equestrian News