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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Recent events in my personal life have confirmed how important security and privacy are. I think we all know what we *should* be doing to stay safe, even if we chose not to follow the guidelines all the time.

However, when it comes to our horses, I’ve noticed is that even the most security conscious among us don’t apply some basic, common sense security measures! We may have a loud barking dog in our yard, or carry our car keys as daggers on the way to the truck, or lock our front door EVERY time, but leave our barns and paddocks wide open….

One of the best things about boarding at a privately owned stable is the opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes. To date, nothing serious involving the actual horses has ever happened. However, a string of more minor incidents - halters stolen off of fences, buckets stolen from paddocks, hotwire boxes removed (a $200 value!) – has opened my eyes to what could happen.

It’s not wise to detail all your security measures online – Let’s share information and suggestions but please don’t share particulars!

Halters on fences – most security measures have tradeoffs, and where you keep your halters is no exception. The pros of keeping a halter on a fence or gate? - every day convenience, and insurance in the case of an emergency. The cons? – stolen halters and convenience for horse thieves. My compromise is to stash halters in places like my truck, horse trailer, tack room, and in a feed barrel that is located close to the main house and removed from the horse area. In an emergency evacuation it may cost me precious minutes to grab a halter, but at least I’m not inviting thieves to lead my horse away.

Too much information – Sure, you want to brag on your special mount and your accomplishments together, but I’m not sure posting your ribbons etc. on the horse’s paddock is wise. Why point out that your horse is the most special horse in the barn? If thieves ever come through my stable, I hoping they skip right past the unadorned paddock with the small brown horse and grab the flashy paint with the personalized sign and blue ribbons hanging from the gate! I don’t post my name or my horse’s name on the paddock – I would consider posting “Owner’s cell: xxx-xxx-xxxx” but don’t currently. That way if someone is specifically targeting me or my horses – they better have d*mn good information. There are a lot of brown arabs that are boarded around Farley and I’m not going to point them in the right direction.

Fencing – Giving horse’s access to the edge of the property is a risk, depending on what is on the other side of your fence line. If I was in a rural area, with fences not easily cut or breached, I wouldn’t worry about it. But, I’m not, and I have to consider that if Farley is in certain pens, one or more of her paddock fences is also the property fence. Aside from the security risk – consider the health risk to your horse. I see people stopping all the time on the side of the road and hopping out to get a closer look at the horses. What might they potentially be feeding to your horse? Ideally I like the idea of a 10 foot (or more) buffer zone between my horses and perimeter fencing if I’m in a not-so-rural area. With maybe some loud barking dogs in that buffer zone.

Fencing part 2 – while we are on the subject of fencing, let’s talk about fencing integrity. Some types of fencing are going to hold up better than others to tampering. No climb wire fencing with board reinforcements? Not such an easy target. Electric tape fencing? Easy to breach and create a gate anywhere along it. Not to mention when someone steals your electrical box you may have a free-roaming horse disaster!

Gates – another security tradeoff. You can lock your gates and risk you or emergency personnel not having access when needed. You can minimize gates leading out of the property and risk getting stuck in an emergency inside the property. I think a good compromise is to have one main gate and several (number to depend on the amount of horses on the property and how the property is situated) back up gates. All gates should have sufficient lighting and be free of trees and any other “concealment”. Another strategy would be to “camoflauge” the gate, but I like the idea of visibility better). Heavy chains and locks would complete ensemble. I might even consider something high-tech like a motion detector for the gates that would set off an alarm in the house if I was in a “problem” area and didn’t have a good dog.

Other considerations – there are many other things you can do to secure your horse property – motion lights, solar lights (so you don’t spend $$ on lighting), dogs, cameras, and signs notifying potential thieves of some of the measures you’ve taken (area is monitored by camera) or that your horse’s are permanently ID’ed. At a recent incident, I had a 5 gallon bucket stolen that I kept by the paddock that I used to soak feed. The bucket was probably taken to carry the “goods” taken from people around me – expensive supplements, halters, and feed pans.

My ideal property – assuming that my (future) property is not ideally located and I need to take precautions, I think this is what I would do (in general, and assuming I had the $$).
  • My barns and paddocks would be located centrally on the property.
  • Any pastures that were on the property would have a 10 foot buffer between the pasture and perimeter fencing.
  • The area around the barns and paddocks would be as open as possible.
  • I would have large barking dogs
  • Any auxiliary gates would be chained, padlocked, and be sturdy. No bushes or trees, and lighted if possible.
  • Perimeter fencing to be tall, no climb type, with board reinforcements. Removed or non visible pastures to have “permanent” type fencing.
  • Halters not left out.
  • Large signs that say things like “all horses on this property permanently ID’ed”.
  • Grain locked away (should be done in case a horse gets out anyways….but again, one less tool available for unsavory characters).
  • Large buckets and carts put away so that they are not in plain sight.

Most people will probably never have a security issue with their horses. Hopefully, most of you live in an area where you don’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately in California it’s becoming more and more difficult to find affordable horse property that is protected by virtue of location. I refuse to live my life in daily fear, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take simple precautions to protect my horse – if a casual habit increases my risk, why not do things differently? The truth is that is someone wants to hurt you or your horse bad enough, they will find a way, however we can easily limit temptation to the casual criminal.


  1. Well, let' see:

    Our pasture gate is inside our backyard, so somebody would have to come past the house and down to the pasture to get to where the horses and goats are. There is a solar/motion-activated light on the driveway gate, which is kept SHUT but not LOCKED. We also have a sign on the front gate reading: "Bad Dogs - Keep Gate Closed", which actually refers to my dumb dogs' tendancy to walk down the middle of the road if they get out of the yard, but that's obviously not how most people read the sign! Also, I have neighbors uphill who are retired, and VERY vigilent--they will call the sheriff if they see something that oughtn't be happening.

    The barn isn't built yet but when it is, the tackroom will have a locking/locked door. Currently our saddles & tack are stored in the horse trailer tack, which is kept locked. The halters on the gate are cheap $10 feedstore halters and cheap $8 leads.

    Our perimeter fences are mesh field fencing, which is a b*tch to cut except with bolt cutters, and there are 3 strands of electric on it too. The fence charger is inside the "fencing closet" at the back side of the haybarn, not out in the open. Our property is bordered by neighboring property, not a road.

    Also, we have Fiddle. Fiddle doesn't like most people and she will NOT cooperate with strangers unless somebody she knows is also present to mediate--therefore, she can be handled easily by vets if there's a person on her "fly list" standing by. Good luck stealing her, or even stealing Hana while Fee is standing guard!

    We have ID photos of both horses on file in the house (and also ether-stored in case our computers crash or go astray), and their brand inspection certificates document their identifying marks also: Fiddle has a freezemark emblazoned on her neck, so her registration # can be read from at least 20 feet away and Hana's chrome is very, very distinctive. When I had a plain brown horse (lip tattoo was illegible), I worried a lot more.

  2. You just need a rescue pony like mine! He wont come up to strangers at all and he absolutely wont take food of treats from strangers.

    On the other hand he has a bad habit of taking down his own fences so he can have freedom when he is bored so I need to leave a halter ON HIM while he is out.

    I am sorry that someone stole your stuff. I feel lucky to be in a safe area from tack thieves for the most part. About 2 years ago two teenagers stole 3 saddles from a barn about an hour from where my horse is. That was BIG news when it happened.

    We do keep the tack room locked just in case, but I feel pretty safe where we are.

  3. Well....Phebes has a "reputation" which is unfortunate, but it is pretty certain none of the local yahoos would want her. The talk is "that horse is crazy." The more miles I get on her the crazier I make her sound too. I consider it insurance against horse theft. That doesn't protect me against the unknown horse thief, but I don't think she'd let them halter her. She is also very territorial and would likely chase a stranger out of the pasture unless they were terribly confident. Depending on her cycle, it could be a lesser or greater threat.

    As for my gear, it is usually locked up. I don't think it would too attractive to a thief since I took the hacksaw and cut the horn off my saddle. It is UGLY. I cover the wound with vet wrap :)

    I wish I could have more theft proof type fencing but I just can't. I'll have to depend on my "watch horse" to kick up a fuss and keep it from happening. I live very isolated which is also not good as my neighbors can't see what is happening on the place, and if they did they'd likely tip back another beer and mind their own business.

    Now if someone did take her, they'd be kicking theirselves if the went for a test ride.

  4. As someone who works in the security industry I have become more aware how easy it really is to remove anything from someones property. A few years ago a friend of mine had a horse "stolen" from her property. He was in training for almost a year when the owners showed up pulled him from the feild and took off with out telling anyone or paying thier bill. We had also had numerous cases of loose horses due to gates not being properly secured and our "barn ghost" opening stall doors.

    Slowly but surely we added fences and gates to prevent our bad warmbloods from running through the neighbours crops. We also added security cameras to the main driveways and inside the barn.

    After a long and drawn out story... We won't go there... Tack room locks got stronger and security stepped up one more notch... I put my security uniform on and patrol the property when ever I'm out to visit. Our neighbors (mennoities) are very good as well. They keep an eye out for us crazy horse people and pick up the phone when ever a strange car or horse trailer pulls in and no one is around. Thank g-d for nosey neighbors!!!

  5. I'm sorry that you even have to think about this at all.

    I'm in a rural area, but have really alert and aware neighbors. They let me know anytime somebody is in the neighborhood that doesn't belong here.

    We go out and take down license plates and take photos of strangers!


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