A showing judge has described how her “bucket list” dream was shattered when thieves stole her custom trailer and entire collection of rare carriages and harness.
Gillian Sebright, who turns 65 this week, had invested her retirement fund in the vehicles as she wanted to pursue her passion of competing her Shetland ponies and American miniature horses in private driving.
The multi-panel judge, who is also secretary of the Rare and Foreign Breeds Society, arrived at her secluded Leicestershire yard on the morning of Sunday, 23 February to find burglars had broken through 6ft metal palisade fencing and industrial gates to ransack the premises.
“I walked in and found the end of the world had occurred,” she said. “We are totally devastated, it’s ripped my heart out, and I am only thankful that the horses were OK — we have an mare due to foal soon and they dumped all the carriage covers in her stable.
“The horses were all very subdued and frightened at the back of their stables, but after a cuddle they were OK.”
Gillian said she had two things on her bucket list — judging at Royal Windsor, which she ticked off last year, and then competing this summer at the BDS Annual at Smith’s Lawn with her black Shetland mare in harness.
“Someone did offer to lend me a gig but I don’t think we are going to come back to competing again, it’s finished me,” Gillian said. “Aside from the fact we don’t have a stitch of harness, I don’t think financially or emotionally that we can pick ourselves back up.”
The burglary came almost a year after Gillian’s caravan was stolen from the yard, only to have been found and returned to her by Bedfordshire Police that week.
“I am convinced it’s the same people,” said Gillian. “I don’t allow other people on the yard and most people wouldn’t even know it was there.”
After the previous theft, Gillian had added motion-sensor cameras to her security measures, but the intruders ripped one of these down and stole the memory card.
Her dark brown Ifor Williams trailer, which had both horse and miniature partitions, also had two highest-insurance-rating, heavy-duty wheel locks and a hitch lock. The determined thieves bypassed them by removing the trailer’s A-frame and replacing it with one from an old caravan on the yard.
Gillian is hoping auction houses and carriage driving enthusiasts may be able to identify the carriages if they come to be sold, as vintage vehicles small enough for Shetlands and miniatures are rare.
The theft included a 1907 black Cox’s cart featuring leather-bound shafts that Gillian had recently had renovated, along with its original antique leather harness, as well as an Amish Meadowbrook cart, specially imported from the US for showing American miniatures, along with American show harness.
The other carriages included a burgundy Norfolk stick-back gig and a dark blue Bennington mini magnum exercise vehicle.
Gillian reported both thefts to police but said she had been disappointed with their response and had received a text within six minutes of reporting her caravan stolen to say the case was already closed.
Smarty’s owner has thanked all those who shared her appeal
The car was spotted some three miles away, going through red lights, but has not been seen since
A spokesman for Leicestershire Police confirmed the force had received a report of a burglary at a rural address in Stoney Stanton, and that the incident had taken place between the hours of 8.30pm on Saturday (22 February) and 7am the following morning.
“On 6 March 2019 we received a report of theft from the same address,” the spokesman said. “A caravan had been taken from a field between the hours of 6.30pm on 5 March and 10.30am the following morning.
“On both occasions a review of all viable lines of enquiry was undertaken with the victim and the incidents were closed pending new evidence coming to light. On Tuesday 18 February the caravan was found abandoned in Bedfordshire, the victim was updated and recovery of the vehicle was facilitated.”
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