Owners of small ponies are being warned to be extra vigilant following a recent spate of thefts.

“About 20 small ponies have been stolen nationwide over the past three months,” said Helen Evans, Thames Valley Horsewatch co-ordinator.

In late September, two miniature horses were taken overnight from a field in Crowhurst, Surrey, and in a separate incident two Welsh ponies were taken from a field near Farringdon in Oxfordshire. The miniatures were found last weekend, but the owners of the Welsh ponies are still offering a substantial reward for the return of their ponies and conviction of the perpetrators.

Crowhurst-based Hazel Evans, who bought her two miniatures just three weeks before they were stolen, said: “We put a lot of posters up and I’ve since found out small pony theft is rife at this time of year. A lot of the thefts seem opportunistic, but these people must walk the fields at night.”

As H&H went to press on Monday, Hazel found her ponies. She received an anonymous call and found them “in an out of the way place”.

Maryoth Goodwin from Oakfield Riding School near Farringdon has not been so lucky. She owns one of the Welsh ponies stolen last month.

“Jade is about 25 — she doesn’t need that kind of trauma,” she said. “The gates were locked, so whoever took them cut the wire at the end of the paddock, dragged them through a ditch and cut another wire fence.”

Horsewatch co-ordinator Helen Evans explained why small ponies are such a target.

“Little ponies are not freezemarked because vets advise against it, and they are very easy to pinch. Someone goes past the field, comes back later when it’s quiet, lifts the pony over the fence and into the back of a car.

“The cars in these cases are often untraceable,” she said, adding: “If people have small ponies we tell them to get neighbours to keep an eye out; and keep up-to-date identity details.”

But Evans and Hampshire police equine liaison office Colin Pickworth are hugely enthusiastic about the current flow of information between police forces and Horsewatch.

“A lot of other forces are letting us know what’s going on,” said PC Pickworth. “Police work by gaining intelligence from the public — the more information we get, the better. We see crimes in Hampshire with the same modus operandi as those in Surrey — and it’s possible the same gangs are doing it.”

To get involved with Horsewatch, ask your local police station or visit www.horsewatch.org, and if you have information about the Welsh ponies stolen, call Crimestoppers (tel: 0800 555111).

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