‘We must stick together to beat these scumbags’: horse world urged to unite against tack thieves

  • Riders who lost tack worth tens of thousands of pounds want the horse world to unite as a community to beat the “scumbag” thieves responsible.

    Ibi Whatley and Wayne Garrick’s five saddles, which with stud girths and stirrups were worth about £30,000, were stolen in one of a number of thefts from lorries at Arena UK last Friday or Saturday (14-15 January).

    H&H has reported that the riders want to alert others to issues such as the fact many tack-locker locks are generic, and insurance may not cover such thefts.

    Ibi is also collating evidence, to help the police with their investigation, but also to compile a list of stolen saddles, to try to thwart the thieves’ attempts to sell them on.

    “I don’t care who these people are, or how scary people think they are; you don’t steal,” Ibi told H&H. “Not from a 14-year-old child like my daughter, not from anyone. This has gone on too long.”

    Ibi is looking into start lists and other evidence to find out if any of the same people were at all the shows affected recently, including Keysoe in November and Hickstead last summer. She has been sent certain names, some a number of times, and intends to pass all the evidence on to police once it is clear.

    “I’ve also set up a Facebook group, where we can list all the tack that’s been stolen, so people can keep an eye out if they’re offered it,” she said. “I’ve been on the phone to my Voltaire rep; they’ve been amazing and my tack is on the worldwide stolen list so will come up stolen on their system, but I want that to be available to everyone.

    “I want people buying saddles to ask for the serial number beforehand, check with the Facebook group. Come on guys, we need to stick together on this, and if you’re being offered a Voltaire for £1,500, that’s probably not right. There’s a moral obligation to check.”

    The Facebook group is Stolen Saddles UK

    Ibi said by Tuesday (18 January) she had not yet read all the messages from people whose tack had been stolen at shows recently.

    “It’s been an amazing response,” she said. “You feel so helpless because the police don’t really seem to know what they’re dealing with. This isn’t just opportunists, it’s organised crime; they know what they’re going for and I’m sure we were being watched as everything of ours that was taken was nearly new.”

    Ibi added that no one can afford to lose their tack, but it is not just the money.

    “It’s an 18-week lead time to replace these saddles; that’s half the season gone,” she said. “There’s a reason we buy these brands; they fit our horses and riders, and it’s expensive enough, and horses are stressful enough, without this hanging over your head at a show. Will it be horses next? These people know we’ll have had to get new tack so will we be targeted again? I say no. They need to be stopped.”

    From conversations with people who have had tack stolen previously, Ibi wonders whether some of these saddles will be taken abroad and sold from lorries at shows in Europe. She is thinking of contacting foreign authorities to see what can be done, and has contacted the sport governing bodies to make suggestions.

    “Anything we can do to make things more difficult for the thieves, we will,” she said.

    “If we’re on to them, and they know it, and we’re not going to stop, it will hopefully prevent it happening so blatantly. I doubt we’ll get out tack back but if we can make it harder for the scumbags, it will almost be worth it — and there’s no way we’ll drop it.”

    Ibi said one positive was the “overwhelming support” from many areas of the equestrian community.

    “The showjumping world has really pulled together,” she said. “I’ve had someone who doesn’t even know me offer to lend her jump saddles as her horses are lame, another rider has offered me a saddle, others have offered me tack, and people were lending me saddles between their classes at the show so the girls could jump.

    “I think there might be some twitchy bums around as [the thieves] have realised we’re not to be messed with, and we will make them pay however we can, within the law because we’re not scum. We’ll just keep going and going.

    “We want people to be aware, and we’ve got to stick together. If we pull together as an equestrian unit and look out for each other at shows, it might help stop it for everyone.”

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