The number of horses stolen has “significantly increased” year on year, according to police and Horsewatch co-ordinators around the UK, with coloured equines, Shetlands and miniatures most wanted.
Hampshire Police’s equine liaison officer DI Collings told H&H that horse theft — usually patchy — has been consistent throughout the year.
He warned: “We also see a marked increase in thefts as it gets dark earlier.”
One hotspot is Thames Valley, where Horsewatch co-ordinator Helen Evans reports 15 horses stolen in the past month.
Among those who have lost horses is Kath Spencer, who had five Shetlands stolen from a field in Chorleywood on 8 October, while her sister, Sylvia, lost a piebald cob on 20 October from the same place.
The Shetlands were in the field with five other horses. Thieves later returned to try to take these, but only succeeded in stealing one, Benji.
“They’d obviously loaded Benji and presumably tried with my other horse Amy, who is the world’s worst loader, and then gave up the struggle,” said Kath.
The four other horses were later found, but despite endless searching of sales and auctions around the country, there is no trace of Benji or the Shetlands — three skewbalds and two chestnuts.
South Yorkshire Horsewatch reported a peak of 18 thefts in 2001, since when numbers dropped to a low of three in 2005.
But area equine liaison officer Joanne Kennedy reports six horses stolen this year, saying this may well increase before 2006 is out.
DI Collings cites only two incidents in the past year when ponies have been recovered. It is widely believed that horses are sold abroad — with coloured horses continuing to be popular in the US.
“They have to go somewhere, but there is no intelligence as to who’s doing the stealing and the receiving,” he said. “We are trying to encourage the community to be aware — because that’s the only way we’ll crack down on crime.”