Because many horse boarding facilities are often located in fairly remote or rural areas, stable managers and horse owners have often felt it unnecessary to keep their equines and tack under lock and key. Keeping a barn unlocked also makes it more convenient for boarders, farriers, veterinarians, trainers and others to enter the grounds and conduct business. In the past, the faith that all would be well has been rewarded, and barn owners and boarders have returned to their barns to find their horses and tack in their expected locations. Unfortunately, times are changing and a growing number of tack thefts and -- even more alarming -- horse thefts have been occurring across the country. And some of these horse thefts have resulted in very gruesome endings.
For example, in October 2015, an expensive show horse in Florida was stolen and then brutally butchered near its barn. And this horse was not the first, nor the last to lose its life to criminals seeking free horse meat. In 2009, at least 17 other horses were stolen and found butchered in the Miami-Dade County area. In other parts of the country, horses are stolen and then sold to new owners or even taken to Mexico or to Canadian slaughterhouses.
And then there are the saddles and bridles -- each worth hundreds of dollars each -- that can be found in a stable's tack room. While many barns feel comfortable leaving their tack rooms open 24/7, it is not uncommon for thieves to steal the entire contents of one in a single night. And, of course, with the Internet today, it is very easy for these criminals to unload their stolen goods online.
Protecting Your Valuables
You've probably heard the saying, "Don't lock the barn door after the horse has been stolen." It makes sense, right? But, too often, horse owners don't listen to this sage advice. There are various reasons why they don't, including ease of access for boarders and the fear that horses might be trapped in a locked barn if a fire should occur. But in these days and times, it only makes sense to protect your equines and tack by installing locks strategically across the property.
So what should be your first barrier? If possible, consider installing a gate at the entrance of your property that can be locked at night. You should also have locks professionally installed on your tack room(s) as well as to the doors on your barn.
In addition, you should also:
- Demand keys back from workers when their employment has ended. If an employee claims that they can't find the key(s) or refuses to return them, you would be wise to have the locks on your property re-keyed by a professional locksmith.
- Install cameras in key locations on your property. Having security cameras watch your front gate and barn entrance could discourage criminals. You should also make sure to post signs alerting visitors that there are security cameras on your property.
- Remove halters from horses and from stall pegs. It is never a good idea to leave a halter on a horse. For one thing, it is a safety issue, as a horse could catch it on an object and injure itself. But, secondly, leaving halters on horses or on stall pegs makes it easier for thieves to catch and lead your horses away.
- Permanently mark your horse. Freeze branding or microchipping your horse will make it easier to get your equine returned to you if it is stolen.
While your horse may be your beloved mount and pet, to some it only has monetary value or is something to eat. So to protect your horse -- and your tack -- from criminals, it's always better to be safe than sorry.