Owners of tack worth £30,000 stolen from locked horsebox locker hope to help prevent other thefts

  • Two riders who between them lost tack worth about £30,000 in one of a series of thefts at the same show centre say they want to do all they can to prevent others suffering the same fate.

    Wayne Garrick and Ibi Whatley took six horses to Arena UK for a three-day British Showjumping show from 14-16 January. Their five saddles; two Voltaire Lexingtons, a Fairfax monoflap, a Stubben Phoenix and the only Aviar jump saddle in the country (pictured), were all taken, along with Voltaire, Stubben and Devocoux stud girths, a Fairfax girth and Freejump and Jin stirrups. This was one of a number of thefts of tack stolen from lorries at about the same time.

    Wayne told H&H he and Ibi found out their tack had been stolen on Saturday morning after they saw a post from another rider at the show whose bridles had been stolen.

    “I was tagged in this post, asking if I could help, so I asked Ibi to look in our bridle locker, and I just heard a shout,” he said. “They’d taken all our saddles; we just sat there, completely gobsmacked.”

    Wayne said he initially assumed the tack had been stolen overnight, but that this did not make sense.

    “Our neighbours on one side had been up and about at night as they’ve got a new baby and they heard nothing; I’m a light sleeper and sleep with the lorry window open and I heard nothing, and my dog didn’t react,” he said. “The straps to my tack locker are broken, so it would have given someone a clout or banged. I thought the only time I was away from the lorry was when I was watching the 1.20m and 1.30m classes.

    “I think we’d had eyes on us, and that makes more sense than everyone sleeping through it, and of course, someone loading tack in a wheelbarrow while a class is going on doesn’t look dodgy, like it would if they did it in the middle of the night.”

    Wayne thanked all those riders who offered to lend equipment, and Julie Masters of Custom Saddlery, who drove from Worcestershire to Lincolnshire to fit two saddles.

    And he now wants to help prevent similar thefts by raising awareness of certain issues.

    “We’ve learned so much from this,” he said. “I know the locker was locked because I’d been super careful, but I’ve found out many tack-locker keys are generic, which is a bit of a kick in the teeth — I’ve emailed some lorry companies since to say they need to put different locks on.

    “I’ve also found out my insurance doesn’t cover the tack when it’s at a show, and the horsebox contents insurance is £250, which is maybe a pair of stirrups. I feel so bad for my owners, and I want to share all these things I didn’t know with other people.”

    Wayne said he has been contacted by Josh Thompson of Classic Services Group to improve his lorry’s security, as he is now wary of staying away at shows.

    “They’re going to kit it out with alarms and a CCTV system, and if anyone does open the locker, they’ll get the shock of their life,” he said. “There’s an app too and I’ll get a notification if anyone opens the locker; I can’t wait for that to be a thing.”

    H&H reported that 14 saddles were stolen from lorries and lockers at the Keysoe Winter Classic show in November, including Equipe, Fairfax, Butet, Devoucoux, CWD and Amerigo. Tack was also stolen at Hickstead last summer.

    Wayne thinks there are similarities between the thefts, and that the thieves had been watching, and knew what they wanted.

    “They went shopping in one rider’s tack locker; they just took the expensive stuff,” he said. “I don’t want this to happen to anyone else; I don’t want anyone to have that realisation, or have to make the calls to their owners, when they open the door and realise all their stuff has gone.

    “A lot of people have said thank you for speaking up, and it was like no one was talking about it. But I’m going to. It feels like this has happened at four or five shows, and we all need to sort it out. I can’t afford for this to happen again, and I don’t want it to happen to someone else who thought locking their tack locker was enough.

    “Get your locks changed, by an independent locksmith, and get an alarm fitted that’s triggered when the locker’s opened.

    “I’ve had to have a sense of humour through this as I’m not going to let them take my life away, but on that Saturday, I had nothing left.”

    Wayne added: “If it’s fellow competitors doing this, what gets me is that they know about the seven-day weeks, the winter, how hard it is to do what we do. As a community, we need to make sure competitions are safe and secure. Thieves will thieve but we need to do what we can to deter them.”

    Arena UK managing director Lauren Fogg told H&H the team at the centre was “as devastated as [the riders] are”.

    “We treat every competitor who comes here as part of the Arena UK family and we’re gutted this happened,” she said. “Security is there, but we can’t be everywhere all the time, and we pride ourselves on the fact we’ve had nothing like this in probably two years.

    “We are stepping up security measures as much as we can.”

    A spokesman for Lincolnshire Police confirmed that stolen items also included boots and a hat.

    “This has caused a great deal of upset amongst those attending the event,” the spokesman said. “Horse riding equipment is expensive and the thefts will affect people significantly.

    “Alongside the thefts the owner has received threatening telephone calls. This is unacceptable and we have recorded an offence of harassment alongside the thefts.

    “We appeal to anyone, who has information about the stolen equipment, to contact us. Please refer to incident 170 of 15 January.

    “The equipment will be offered for sale somewhere and again, we appeal to anyone who may have any information on where this stolen equipment is being sold, to contact us.”

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