Ten Things To Do If Your Horse Is Missing or Stolen
We are should be aware of the personal and emotional loss and devastation that can come from the theft of one’s horse. During those early moments of first discovery, the owner can hardly be expected to be at there full wits as their immediate worry and concern for their horse is mixed with the worry and anger creating an emotional assault on them. Planted within the midst of this emotional turmoil is a need to act with immediate and precise steps for time is of the essence. Preparing for a theft is not a task that is very often fully completed by most horse owners for it is something difficult for us to think about and we don’t want to even experience the thoughts. This may even be something easier to do as a “general plan” within a group of common horse owners who either board together or belong to a riding group. However it is worked out, there are certain steps to be taken and, the more preparation you make ahead of time, the quicker will be your response.
1. IMMEDIATELY NOTIFY THE FIRST PEOPLE AT HAND. The Barn Owner (which may be you), other boarders, riders, and people at hand. You will need help. Get everyone at hand involved to help you.
2. TRY TO RULE THEFT ‘IN OR OUT’ AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN: Look immediately missing tack, halters, lead ropes, or equipment (and, obviously, including trailers). Your horse did not decide to take these things upon leaving the barn and you are very likely dealing with a theft of your horse.
Quickly canvass people at the barn including the barn owner and barn staff. Who has visited the premises lately? Any (or anyone posing as) would be boarders or buyers? Were any comments made about your horse? Has anyone been fired recently? Has anyone seen anything strange or observed any activity--even someone asking for directions.
If you find any of these signs, immediately begin your NOTIFICATION PLAN. You have much to do and you will need help. The thieves may well have struck in the night and have hours head of a head start.
3. SEARCH THE PREMISES INCLUDING THE FENCE LINE: If you do not immediately see any other items missing, begin a premises search. You need to know if your horse is ina deep pasture corner, or down or injured. Go WITH SOMEONE and NOT ALONE if at all possible. You could discover the theft still in progress. Check all of your perimeter fencing for open gates or downed fencing. If you find a place where your horse could have escaped through fencing that does not immediately appear to be theft related, use your phone to direct the search and center your first search here. See if you can find any path made by the horse and hope that your horse will be found eating grass in an adjacent pasture.
Look at the same time for footprints and signs of vehicle traffic or human footprints. If you find any signs of cut fencing, locks, vehicle traffic near a fence, or other evidence that indicates theft, go immediately to your THEFT NOTIFICATION PLAN.
5.BEGIN AN OFF-PREMISES SEARCH: Use the immediate people at hand to begin this process and call your family and friends for help. Have people begin driving nearby roadways and lands surrounding your property looking for any signs of your horse. Try to set a wide perimeter and particularly in areas bordered by high vehicle traffic. Then work inwards from the perimeter. Make use of trucks, ATV’s, and even other horses if required.
Begin an immediate canvass of any nearby homes to see if anyone has seem your horse or noticed or heard anything unusual. Your horse could have broken free during a theft attempt. Let everyone you meet know to be on the lookout for a loose horse. Give them a contact number. You may even find additional people willing to join your search.
Be vigilant and look for families gathering in the yard or people moving horse trailers. If a horse trailer should pass within your premises, get the license tags and vehicle description. Someone may have received word about a horse and be headed to get it.
Continue this process with your help, but do not further delay official notification that your horse is missing and move to that step next.
6. BEGIN YOUR NOTIFICATION PROCESS: Without evidence of a theft, you must continue the search. However, do not delay over an hour beginning the formal notification process.
NOTE: This process should be prepared as much as necessary ahead of time and be at hand to speed everything along. Remember: Time is of the essence:
A. Notify the local police agency (likely the county sheriff) and make a verbal report. The police will send a deputy. Keep the number for the county police stored in your phone. If you have evidence of theft, let the police know immediately. You will likely have to make the report of theft as the horse owner. Don’t forget to notify the game wardens.
B. Have your horse, ownership papers, veterinarian information (including Coggins), breed registry information, and other relevant information, including tack identification markings. You should scan documents if necessary and e-mail this information to yourself for later retrieval anywhere you have Internet access.
C. Have photographs (front, side, and rear) of your horse, tack, and equipment including horse trailers at hand. Photograph your horse in two seasons, washed and unwashed, and make closer photographs of the location of all markings, brands (including close-ups of the brand), and any swirls in the horse’s coat.
D. Put identification markings on your tack and trailer. Have the License tag stored as well as a complete description. Unless your driver’s license number is also your SSN, mark your tack and trailer with your Driver’s License Number and State. Law enforcement agencies nationwide can access this readily available information while something like your initials and “secret code“ may not register or be recalled with law enforcement everywhere. However, if a police officer comes across an item of tack withan obvious Number designated as “TX DL #111222333,” he or she will know what to do with that information.
7. EXPAND YOUR NOTIFICATION PROCESS: Once the police reports have been made, searches of the premises concluded, and ongoing off-premises searches are being conducted, expand your Notification Process,
A. FACEBOOK: Post on Facebook and other social media. Let you friends began to share the information. Get the word as quickly and far and wide as you can. Someone you know does know how. Have someone create a Facebook page (“The Search for ’Star’”) and provide full information so the page can be shared easily across thousands of friends and connections. If you do not know how to do this, ASK. Someone you know can do this and it is important.
B. NET POSSE: Notify Internet stolen horse sites such as Net Posse:
C. THE MEDIA: Always contact the local media. Your story will necessarily compete with all the news for attention and a programming spot. This will not be guaranteed, but if successful, the story can reach huge numbers of people. Many radio stations have websites permitting local news follow-up online. Post links to your information and photos.
D. FAX and E-MAIL: Produce a Flyer with all relevant information and FAX or E-MAIL to horse businesses including: Feed stores, trailer sales, auction houses, veterinarians, farriers, farm supply friends and family. ASK FOR COPIES TO BE MADE AND POSTED throughout the area.
An agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is the Grain Inspectors, Packers, and Stockyards Administration known as GIPSA. GIPSA maintains a file on all licensed stockyards including horse sale locations with the U.S. You can view the file at
GIPSA PDF FILE.
Plan ahead and obtain phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and fax numbers and have this at hand for immediate notification. You can begin with immediate locations and expand outwards. Notify outwards of 500-600 miles at least.
E. VETERINARIANS: Notify veterinarians. Your horse may be sold and the thieves may have even had a buyer in mind. An innocent buyer may take your horse to the veterinarian for a pre or post purchase examination.
F. TOPIX: Use this news site. You can post in the Topix site for cities and communities across the U.S. Topix software and algorithms search hundreds of thousands of news source at any moment. Create your basic “news release” with contact information and use your friends to post in cities across your state and surrounding states. The more postings and links you produce, the better chance you have that local news organizations will also see the story and re-publish. Provide all links to further information and contact information within your posts. SEE:
8. REPEAT THE PROCESS: Keep your story front and center in the news. Call the police for updates. Re-contact the media. Continue to post. Search again and look for more clues. Canvass businesses again and cover all shifts.
If your horse was stolen, the odds are good that there was some type of surveillance ahead of time by the perpetrators. They may have waited until a certain hour for their deed to occur. Check nearby stores, gas stations, and truck stops. Determine if video exists--the police can obtain access to these videos.
9. DELEGATE: You cannot do this alone. Make use of your friends and others willing to help. When someone asks ’What can I do?’, tell them.
10. SAY YOUR PRAYERS.
If and when your horse is found, you may never know which thing you did was the most important--it will all flow together to bring about a good result.