Plaiting is not a marker for theft: police force dispel ‘urban myth’

A police force hopes to dispel “urban myths” about horses being plaited as a marker for theft.

The West Yorkshire Police wildlife and rural crime unit issued a statement after a call on 27 July from an owner who found her horse with a plait in its mane, believing it had been marked for theft.

“Over the last few years we have done a lot of research into this with many forces. There are no proven links between plaiting and horse theft,” said the statement.

Wildlife crime officer and Horsewatch co-ordinator Shaun Taylor told H&H the owner “jumped to the worst conclusion”.

“Over the last nine years I have spoken to most forces across the country and we can only link plaiting to one crime; a man who was going to steal hair because he didn’t want to pay for hair for a rocking horse – not theft,” he said.

“We ask owners to send us the photos of plaits and make decisions from there. You could travel miles as people are reporting these everywhere.”

Mr Taylor said in this case the plait was “more likely” to be a knot.

“I always advise people if you have concerns about theft or being watched move your horse if you can and try to change your routine. If you really are being watched, changing your routine will hopefully act as a deterrent,” he said.

Mr Taylor added that social media is often to blame for the circulation of “urban myths” such as those around plaiting.

“People post things online and then others believe it. I would love to see these rumours reduced, it’s one of the reasons we went into social media, to counter things like this,” he said.

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“There is a lot of inaccuracy on social media about the number of horse thefts there are – it’s much better to be honest about it. In West Yorkshire in the last nine years we’ve reduced horse theft from 63 per year to 18 in 2018.”

Mr Taylor said the force receives around one call per month about horse plaiting.

“Nine years ago we were getting three or four calls a week reporting plaits so we seem to be getting the message out there but we need to keep putting it out there,” he said.

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