How to prepare for your horse going missing
I am posting this to help prepare horse owners for the worst, and to help them recover their lost family member if the worst happens.
Reasons horses go missing:
Sometimes horses will just manage to get out of their pens. My horse has Houdini lips and can unlatch any lock to let himself out.
Other times horses will be stolen. This can happen at event’s when horses are left unattended, at boarding facilities where people are used to seeing people and horses coming and going, and even from people’s own homes, horses are stolen.
How to prevent horse escape or theft:
Make sure there is no pre existing damage to your fence that your horse can get through himself and make sure there is adequate fencing. If your paddocks are made up of nothing but wire topped off with electric fencing, horses will still find a way out of it. I have known horses who will lean on the fences to test to see if the electric wire is on, once it is off they will lean and lean and lean until the fence is broken! Wire fencing is also easier for thieves to cut and take horses from a field quietly. Your best bet is to invest in permanent wooden or vinyl paddocks because its harder for horses to get through and thieves would have to either make a lot of noise breaking though the fence or be forced to use the gate.
Some horses will constantly try to escape their current surroundings because they are simply not happy with what they have. Identify what makes your horse happy, if you must, expand his paddock, let him out in a pasture to eat more often and let him be socialized with other horses. Owners are not able to be with their horses 24/7 and this can make the horse increasingly bored and lonely, remember horses are social animals and seek stimulation of being with another, horses were also were meant to constantly graze small portions throughout the day, they are not meal eaters and will escape just to get into the hay barn because they are hungry.
Keep detailed information about your horse filed away. Take pictures of your horse, cleaned up and on level ground from all four sides making sure to take pictures of additional markings, scars and brandings, if you own an ex race horse check his inner lip for a barcode that is tattooed on many thoroughbreds. Make sure these are colored photos. Take photos of your horse with both his winter coat and his summer coat so he can be identified all seasons as well. Keep his papers all together, this includes vet bills, registration papers, proof of ownership papers and bills of sale.
Don’t make it easy for the thieves and leave a halter on your horse while in their paddocks! If you must, keep an emergency halter with you in your house but if possible keep halters locked in your tack shed.
Create a list of emergency contact numbers filed away including phone numbers, email, addresses, and fax. Compile a list of regional slaughter houses, equine auctions operating within a 500-600 mile radius of where the horse was stolen, animal shelters within the same radius, and helpful websites and organizations that specialize in the recovery of lost equines or pets.
Dont keep your horses far away from your house. your horses dont need paddocks right next to your house if you dont want, but you should keep your horses easily within a viewing distance from your house.
Observe suspicious people, record license plates and if possible take pictures of people who randomly show up at your barn especially if you have established private property and no trespassing signs. Many people will show up with a child as well under the guise of wanting to feed or pet the pretty ponies.
Create a natural privacy barrier and plant trees or shrubs at the front of the property so it would be harder for a potential thief to observe your horses.
Freeze mark or Microchip your horse, and/or consider registering your horse in the equine recovery act or equine protection registry.
What do thieves want with your horses?
Thieves steal horse for the reason. To sell. They can make a profit off selling horses at auction or online, or more easily selling them to slaughter. it does not matter if your horse is perfectly healthy, they are still accepted into slaughter houses. Wether your horse was a champion or not is irrelevant to the thieves.
Sometimes thieves are not out to steal an entire horse, but will cut horses tails and manes off in the night in order to sell the hair online this is another reason keeping your horses within your sight is important and why they should have a barn to go into at night.
Thieves also make an easy profit by stealing tack from tack sheds this is much less of a hassle than stealing an animal. Make sure your equipment is well protected and locked away. Most boarding places will provide you with your own tack locker. In this kind of environment where people are always walking around with tack, it would be easy for someone to non-chalantly steal equipment and walk away with it so make sure you lock it up when you leave. Same goes for equipment at events. make sure you always know where your equipment is and keep it in a safe place when you do not need it.
There are bite and kick marks on your horses gate, the fence appears to be knocked over or evidence of something climbing over. There is hay and grain spilled everywhere in your hay barn.
If your horse has let himself out of the paddock you must begin the search. Contact any neighbors who also own horses. Horses will seek out other horses and when they get out of their pens they may as well be at your neighbors house harassing their horses.
Begin making lost horse flyers and putting them up.
Contact your local animal control and see if they have had any reports of a horse wandering around.
Take your halter and get out there and search for your horse!
Post a missing horse ad on craigslist and any social media website where people can share information regarding the lost horse.
Your fence has been cut, your halter and some tack is missing, there are tire tracks on your property, mysterious footprints around your horses paddock and no horse in sight.
Act swiftly and now. If you suspect your horse has been stolen you must act immediately.
Report the theft to local authorities immediately. Horse theft is not a high priority to many law enforcement so they may not come to your aid at least not immediately, especially if you have no pictures or descriptions of your horse for them to use. Make a report to the police anyway because you may need that police report later for insurance purposes, or court cases. Even if you think the police cannot help, calling in and filing a report is better than not calling at all.
Ask barn worker, family members and neighbors if they have seen any suspicious activity and when they might have seen it.
Get all of the information on your horse out and ready so that you may use it in your police report and begin to make missing horse flyers. Fax, email, or hand deliver these flyers to local auction and slaughter houses, racetrack and rodeo managers, send a flyer to the division of animal services, the state veterinarian, state cattleman’s association, breed association, state horse councils, equine veterinarians, neighbors, and private sales barns. Try to place ads in the local equine paper, tv and radio stations as well. Make a report to stolen horse international ( http://www.netposse.com/default.asp ) as well. This is a community that is always vigilant about helping families recover their horses and helps countless horses get back home.
Go to the auction houses and peek into trailers and holding pens for your horse.
Check craigslist and other websites.
Call the slaughterhouses daily asking for any horses that match your horses description. This is exceptionally easier to do if your horse is microchipped or has a brand or tattoo because you can request a scan or inspection of horses every day you call. They are more apt to look for an animal if it has identification. Saying your horse is chestnut with a white sock and a star, is not enough information. Saying your horse is a 15.3hh chestnut quarter horse mare, three solid colored feet with one white sock on right hind foot with a lighter colored or striped hoof, a star on forehead shaped like a crescent a 2 inch scar on chest, a branding from your family’s ranch on left hindquarter with a description of the brand, is much better information for them to use. They also possess scanners to be able to scan any microchipped horses, however they will only check horses when a report is being made of a missing horse. If there have been no missing horse reports made to the slaughter houses they probably would not bother scanning every horse they get for a microchip.
Be sure to report any found horses as well!
For more on what to do if your horse is stolen:
Dont lose heart, there are horses that have been returned to owner after many years!
Horse returning home after being stolen 10 years ago: