Theft is something we prefer not to think about—until it happens. But the right time to safeguard your gear is before thieves come calling. Here are the precautions you should consider in order to keep your stuff safe. (To protect your horse, see the note at the end of this article.)
Mark your tack. Your best bet is to engrave, die stamp, or emboss your driver’s license number onto all your valuable gear. Place the mark where it’s not unsightly but where law enforcement can easily find it. The markings create a significant deterrent to thieves, plus make it easier for items to be returned if they are stolen and then recovered by investigators.
Inventory it, too. Maintain a detailed list of your gear, and take identifying photos. File the list and photos along with purchase receipts in a safe deposit box. This is especially important for saddles and other expensive items. Update the list whenever you add to your collection. Ideally, keep two sets of everything—one for your insurance company (see box) and one for law enforcement. (Sheriff’s detectives can make good use of photos, especially, when trying to track down stolen items.) A video of your tack room, updated periodically, is a great backup to your written list.
Keep tack under wraps. At home, keep your equipment in a locked tack room (ideally one without windows, or add bars to the windows). Control who has access to that room. At shows or other events, keep tack rooms and your trailer locked. Even when you’re around, don’t leave expensive gear out where thieves can size it up. It only takes a moment’s inattention for something to disappear. Or thieves can come back later, knowing a little snooping or even a break-in is worthwhile based on what they’ve already seen. On trail rides, don’t leave valuable items visible in your trailer or vehicle; lock them unseen inside the tack compartment.
Keep track of strangers. Take note of unfamiliar vehicles in places where you wouldn’t ordinarily see them around your barn. If yours is a busy place with a lot of traffic (for lessons, horse-shopping, etc.), consider a sign-in sheet requesting in/out times and license-plate numbers.
Use deterrents. A watchful dog is best, as burglars hate noise. Floodlights or motion-detecting lights are also helpful, though the latter can result in false alarms. Barn security systems work well, and even a dummy video recorder can be effective—mount it up high where criminals can’t tell it’s not real, and be sure to post the warning signs that go with it.
Supervise your trailer. Thieves can hit rigs parked in out-of-the-way locations when you make brief rest or purchasing stops along the road. If you must park your rig out of view, have someone keep an eye on it if possible while you’re away.
Be savvy about ‘buyers.’ Barns get cased when would-be thieves respond to sale ads for horses, gear, or property. Be extra vigilant any time strangers have been to your place for any reason.