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Windt im Wald Farm
Geauga County, Northeast Ohio
since 1995


Essay by Ashley Maragas

Presented at the 2003 Ohio State Fair as a 4H Project by Ashley Maragas, who won a fifth place ribbon for her efforts. Congratulations, Ashley!

HORSE THEFT ......... To a horse owner it is a horrifying act: the stealing of a family member, your best friend, your beloved pet. It conjures up the feeling of total loss, of aching pain that haunts you for life. According to Net Posse and Stolen Horse International as many as 55,000 horses are stolen annually, and that number only reflects only those that were reported. Horses are stolen anywhere horse activities take place, be it a horse show, a trail ride, your barn, or a leased boarding facility for horses or even out at pasture-anywhere. If a horse thief sees horses and the opportunity to take them he will. Why does someone take a horse that does not belong to them? The answer may vary from debt collection, revenge, a planned or random theft, but the main motives are profit and the thief's opportunity to steal!

You may ask is it legal to take a horse? No, it is not legal to take anyone's property, e it by an animal rescue or by theft. The law sees our horses as personal property; even animal rescues must follow legal protocol if they want to rescue an alleged abused or neglected animal. This legal process that must be followed is called DUE PROCESS; there are legal steps that the animal rescues and the sheriff department with the local courts must follow to take anyone's property. If due process is not followed, the animal rescue along with other any entity will face law suits and even jail time.

Horse theft is categorized by the law on the horse's monetary value. A stolen horse that is worth $28,000 will be categorized GRAND THEFT with a higher criminal penalty than a horse that is stolen and worth $500, which is PETTY THEFT. Your love for this horse has no influence here in the legal arena only property value. Some people in the horse communities are trying to change the legal classification of horses from live stock to pets; this they feel will increase the protection of our horses under the law.

When you are facing horse theft you must remember that the 1st 24-48 hours are critical in getting your horse back quickly, and there are some things a horse owner can do to prevent the theft of their horses. This info will help you be prepared and save you precious time if someone steals your horse; it could mean the difference between getting your horse back quickly versus spending months, even years looking for your horse and possibly never finding him. Keep a note book of the following information close at hand. In the front of the note book keep up dated records of all contact information with phone numbers and addresses for state & local veterinarians, farriers, trainers, local & state auction houses, slaughter facilities, state livestock investigator, local & state riding clubs, state & local law enforcement, animal control, state horse council, local 4-h and local fire and rescue organizations. By having this info, you will save hours when you need to notify people about your stolen horse. Next, have copies of registration papers for each horse along with medical histories for each horse. Know your horse; this means know all your horse's identifiable marks. Remember a picture speaks a thousand words so have pictures of each horse from front, back and both sides. take the pictures in both summer and winter. Take pictures of any identifiable marks your horse has, make a body chart of your horse note all markings - including scars and injuries, brands, size, shape, location. Is your horse tattooed? Know numbers, size, shape, and location. Note any hoof corrections or problems and on which hoof. Is your horse micro chipped? Include any weird habits or tricks your horse does, know location of hair swirls and take pictures of them, know your horse's blood type and have a copy of his DNA.

Check on your horse regularly; this will remind you that you need to check on your horse in the barn and while at pasture - check on your horse at odd times - do not be predictable; that is what a horse thief is watching for when he is watching you - he is waiting to see when he can make his move to steal your horse. Be aware of any changes; those changes may be a thief feeding your horse to gain its trust so he can steal it. Maintain your property; make it hard for the horse thief to steal. Ask yourself, can your horse be seen from the road? Consider landscaping to block the view; create a hedge row. Keep fences and gates in good repair consider fencing that is harder to penetrate like wood or field fence rather than electrical tape or single wire. Post warning signs and no trespassing signs, use padlocks and heavy chain on gates, have gate pins hinges set so gate can't be removed. Have security system with alarms put in. Also install spot lights with motion sensors also keep a barking dog on the property. Install a security system and check it regularly. Make sure the security system is working and not tampered with. Make sure tapes are working and recording. Start a farm neighborhood watch.

Remove all your horses' halters while they are in their stalls and while at pasture; keep the halters and other tack stored away from the horses. It takes time to find the halters and even more time to put it on the horse, and a horse thief does not have time. Don't leave your horse trailer parked near your horses. Keep the hitch locked so that your trailer cannot be used by the horse thief to steal your horses. Report all suspicious vehicles around the neighborhood to the proper authorities. Get license plate numbers, take pictures of the driver. Law enforcement sees a picture as solid evidence when developing a case against the thief.

The things we went over today are as follows:
    1) keep up dated records
    2) know your horse
    3) check on your horse regularly
    4) maintain your property
    5) install a security system
    6) start a farm neighborhood watch
    7) make it tough to steal your horse


Ashley Maragas




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