By nature, horse facilities are tough places to secure. The open spaces, far-flung buildings and frequent comings and going can confound all but the most serious efforts at safeguarding your livestock. However, actions taken ahead of time can reduce the chances thieves will target your horses, as well as increase the odds of your getting them back should they be taken. Consider these tips:
Vary your schedule: Thieves often case a property to determine when people are most likely to be away. Be in the habit of going to the barn at unusual times, and if everyone at your home is away during the day, ask a neighbor to stop by occasionally. Also be wary of people who visit your property, possibly posing as delivery- or servicemen who ask unusual questions about your animals or your other property.
Install lights: Lights that stay on all night can actually make theft easier. Motion detector lights are better deterrents to thieves.
Invest in an alarm system: Electronic security systems can be expensive but effective. For a low-tech approach, consider acquiring animals--such as dogs, geese, guinea fowl or donkeys--with a reputation for vocalizing in response to intruders.
Cut off escape routes: Thieves prefer properties close to busy thoroughfares, where they can blend into traffic quickly and unnoticed. If that describes your property, pasture horses away from the road at night, block off any areas where a trailer could park along obscured parts of your fence, and gate off obvious routes to the interior of your farm. Wood fencing is a better deterrent than wire, which can be cut easily and quietly.
Guard your horse at shows: Many horses are taken when left unattended at trailers and stabling areas at shows. Enlist neighbors to help keep tabs on each other's horses, especially in more crowded venues.
Be sure you'll be able to identify your horses: Horses with visible brands can deter thieves and make it easier for law enforcement officers to spot and identify them. Less obtrusive methods, such as lip tattoos and microchips, can also help positively identify stolen horses. At the very least, assemble a collection of photographs showing you with your horse in different seasons as well as close-ups of every distinctive feature, such as whorls, markings or scars; remember that if your horse is found, you will have to prove ownership before you can reclaim him.
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