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Horse owners around the country are being urged to act following nearly 40 tack-related thefts in the Warwickshire area during the past six months, leading to the loss of more than £180,000 worth of saddlery.

The police believe that many horse owners are not taking the necessary precautions to discourage thieves from stealing tack, such as security marking, which can also help officers return recovered property to its rightful owner.

PC Mick Reynolds of Warwickshire Police says: “Unfortunately unless tack is identifiable by serial number, postcode, microchip or other visual method, it is unlikely to be recovered.”

In some cases the police are forced to return suspected stolen tack to the thief as, without unique identifying marks, the police cannot confirm that the items have been stolen.

Preventing theft

Contacting your local crime prevention or community safety teams, including your local UK Horsewatch co-ordinator, is a good place to start and will enable you to find out if there are any local initiatives in your area.

Mr Reynolds says: “We urge owners to keep their tack in buildings with substantial doors and hinges and good quality locks. The room should be alarmed and have outside security lighting. If you leave the yard, to ride for example, the door should be locked while you are away, even if you will only be away for a short while.

“If you have a large collection of tack don’t keep it all together, as this makes it more likely for the whole lot to be taken in a burglery. Keep an eye open for strangers in the area and make a note of the registration number of strange cars on or near your land.

“By marking property, and displaying a sign to say your property is marked, you may deter burglars. You also increase the likelihood of getting your property back if your property is recovered after you are burgled.”

Security marking

There are several ways of marking your tack, depending on what sort of material it is made from. Some methods cost very little, while teaming up with friends can help share the cost of more expensive options.

Owners use a range of techniques to mark saddlery with postcode and house or flat number. For example if a person lived at 7 West Albion Street, Notown, NT42 9WA they would mark their tack NT42 9WA 7.

Tack can be marked using:

  • Permanent marker pen on the undersides of saddles and bridles
  • Paint on metal items such as clippers.
  • Engraving or etching on hard surfaces using an engraving tool
  • Die-stamping individual pieces of bridles etc. Die stamps are available through hardware stores and are relatively inexpensive
  • Embroidering your name on saddlecloths and rugs. This can be unpicked, although thieves are unlikely to bother if it is heavily embroidered
  • Hot irons to brand leather with your postcode. These can be purchased from websites such as www.equibrand.co.uk and cost around £110.

Invisible security marking methods include:

SmartWater, a unique water-based solution containing a blend of water-based chemicals which leaves a ‘DNA type’ mark on items.

Micro-chips, a micro chip is inserted into the saddle and shows up a code when a scanner is passed over it. Visit www.saddlesafe.co.uk or www.tacktagg.com

If an item is in any way unusual, you could also keep a record by photographing each item, preferably in colour, paying special attention to any distinguishing marks which may be used to identify the item. Take the photograph against a plain background and it may help to include a ruler to give an idea of size.

Keep a list of the items you have marked and where the marks are. Giving a second copy of the list to a trusted friend is also a good idea. Keep your own list safe at all times.

  • For further advice about horse and riding equipment security visit: www.ukhorsewatch.org.uk