‘You can’t just replace this stuff’: Rider’s devastation as tack room stripped

  • A dressage rider is asking people to keep a look out for stolen saddles, bridles and boots after thieves emptied his tackroom weeks before the national championships.

    Levi Hunt walked into a “nightmare” at his Cheltenham yard yesterday morning (August 18) when he found almost all his equipment had been taken.

    “They took everything from my five pairs of made to measure boots, to saddles and bridles, right down to headcollars and paperwork stored under the sink.

    “All they left was some gloves and bandages — they even took wheelbarrows and tools. We were mucking out 16 stables this morning with one rusty old wheelbarrow!” he said.

    “On the bright side, they did leave the kettle and an emergency bottle of liqueur we keep for bad days. We put some of that in the coffee and it made things a little better!”

    Levi said the break-in appeared to be a “professional” job, as the thieves broke into a factory unit nearby first to take heavy-duty tools required to get into the yard.

    Although the tackroom “looks like Guantanamo Bay” with a steel-caged roof, windows and doors, the burglars got in by angle-grinding off the locks.

    “We’ve got security lights, cameras and alarms but if they want to get in, it seems they get in,” Levi said. “We’ll be bumping up security now and trying to take every measure we can to learn from it.”

    The haul included 16 made-to-measure bridles, of makes including Fairfax, Albion, Schockemohle and Passier, and 16 dressage saddles made by Fairfax, Sue Carson, Equipe and Devoucoux.

    “I’ve worked 90-hour weeks to pay for those things, so to find them gone is gutting,” Levi said. “You can’t just walk into a tack shop and replace this stuff. A lot of the horses here are in rehab and we try our hardest to make everything fit so it is comfortable.

    “I was just saying a couple of weeks ago how we’ve had a few tricky horses coming good, and a lot of it is down to the fact we just don’t stick any old saddle on. The material loss is annoying but it’s the function [the tack] serves to get the best from those horses which makes the loss pretty devastating.”

    The equestrian community was quick to rally round, with neighbours lending lunge equipment so the horses could be exercised.

    “I’ve already had an overwhelming amount of offers for tack and I will get back to every single person,” said Levi, who is preparing for his first nationals next month.

    “For now it’s about getting the essentials back so we can keep horses ticking over. Everyone’s hopes are on the nationals and area festivals — two ladies who work for me are doing area festivals soon and their tack is gone.”

    Levi said his one consolation was that the horses seemed unperturbed by the night’s drama.

    “In fact we had to wake a few of them up!” he said. “The best thing was walking round the corner and seeing happy horses and thinking ‘it’s not that bad — at least they are happy and don’t know any different!’”

    A spokesman for Gloucestershire Constabulary said: “Unknown offenders gained entry between 9.30pm last night (17 August) and 7am this morning. Thousands of pounds worth of horse tack and clothing was stolen.

    “Anyone who has been offered horse tack for sale in suspicious circumstances, or who has any information about this incident, should call police on 101 and quote incident 75 of 18/8. You can also email 101@gloucestershire.police.uk and quote the same number.”

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