Your Horse is Missing--What Now?

When our horse Idaho was stolen in September 1997, I turned to the Internet for help. I was unable to find any resources to help us in our search, so I started gathering e-mail addresses and web sites to contact about Idaho. Unknowingly this work started building a network of people willing to assist in the search for stolen horses; that network is now called Stolen Horse International (SHI). We recovered Idaho in September 1998 in Tennessee after her flyer was seen on a convenience store’s door.

The horses in this article are a few of the missing and stolen horses reported to SHI. Until recently, horse publications, breed associations, and the news media were not interested in reporting horse theft. Cases seemed isolated and few. Now, largely due to SHI’s efforts, that is changing.

When the report of a stolen/missing horse is confirmed, SHI and the NetPosse spring into action. An Idaho Alert, named for our Idaho, is a globally transmitted notice of the missing/stolen horse. When an Idaho Alert is received, the flyer, pictures of the horse, description, and key information that might help in recovery are available.

NetPosse volunteers post flyers, distribute them, attend horse events and auctions, and send encouraging messages to the victims. As the information travels, other people become aware of thefts and horses are often found. Frequently, people receiving an Idaho Alert aren’t official NetPosse members, but soon join. Others simply pass the information along out of kindness.

Sometimes You Know
Joe, a buckskin from Alabama, was missing from his pasture in November 2002. Days later, he was found. Someone saw his SHI flyer in a grocery store.

“I do get up sad every morning and angry too!” say Larry Hannum from Ohio. Joey and Lightening were stolen from their stalls in September 2003. Owner Larry Hannum immediately reported his horses as stolen. Valuable time was not wasted deciphering how they disappeared. Unfortunately, they have not been found.

There’s no doubt that Lacy from Florida was stolen in July 2003. The thief saddled her and rode through a cut fence; Lacy has not been seen since.

Dusty, a South Carolina pony, went missing in November 2002. A SHI flyer posted in the community prompted his recovery in just a few hours.

Sometimes You Never Know
When your horse just disappears, you’re unsure: Is he missing or stolen?

In Wisconsin, the owners of Spice, a 10-year old Appaloosa mare, still doesn’t know what happened to her. “We’re not positive she was stolen. We were out of town. Neighbors contacted my father and said our horses were in their yard. When he got there, they only had our two geldings; Spice wasn’t there,” John Omdoll says in his SHI report.

In September 2003, Skippy was last seen tied to a picket line in a Kentucky campground. His owner slept nearby. The next morning, Skippy was gone. His owner Dana McDonald didn’t know what to do. She says, “I filed a report with the sheriff after talking to Debi. If I hadn’t filed the report, I may not have recovered Skippy. It helped to have someone tell me what I needed to do.” Luckily, three days later and 12 miles away, Skippy was found.

Candy disappeared from her pasture in Texas in April 2003. The 3-year old bay mare is still missing. Her owner Cheryl Snyder says, “My husband and I are heartbroken. We’re still searching, sending emails, calling vets--whatever we can do. I have an idea just how devastated a parent is when their child is abducted.”

In Alabama, Susie Brookshire's Quarter Horse Santana went missing in August 2003.

“I heard a ruckus around 5 a.m. The dogs went nuts growling. It was the bad growling that you hear sometimes. I didn’t get up to check it out.” Susie says regretfully. “I should have! I went out to feed around 6 a.m. Santana didn’t come up. I searched the pasture. When I realized Santana wasn’t there, I felt like I had done something wrong--that I had failed him.”

Susie assumed Santana was safe. He was in a pasture at the back of her property, not visible from the road. She didn’t think anyone knew he was there. Surely no one would come that far onto her property to take him.

I hear this often when I speak to groups about theft. Santana is currently considered stolen.

Help For Victims
After she filed a report with the sheriff, Susie remembered reading an article about SHI in a magazine.

“I thought that I’d never need this information, but it was nice to know. I typed in the words ‘stolen horse’ and recognized the website right away,” she recalls. “I’m so thankful someone’s there to help.”

Recovery Tips
Once your horse is missing, time is of the essence! Here are a few tips to follow*.

  • Take action fast!
  • Check your enclosure carefully. Are there hazards like pits, sinkholes, cliffs, or mud bogs? Check them.
  • Check with neighbors. Maybe a horse is in their yard or they saw one pass by.
  • Once you’re sure the horse is gone, call authorities. Report your horse missing. If there’s evidence the horse has been stolen, report him stolen.
  • If there’s evidence that your horse was stolen (cut fencing, grain on the grass), stay away from the area. Do not tamper with any physical evidence.
  • Get a copy of the police report.
  • Keep a record of all calls and correspondence.
  • Work with law enforcement.
  • Treat your search like a business. Keep meticulous records.
  • Prepare a recovery package. Keep it with you at all times. Include any identification info you have, including:
    • Bill of sale;
    • Coggins papers;
    • Health certificate;
    • Veterinary records;
    • Breed registration/brand registrations;
    • Descriptions of scars or other distinguishing marks;
    • Pictures;
    • Travel diary;
    • Phone numbers;
    • Theft report, case number, and phone number to police agency; and
    • Flyers.
  • Call equine slaughter facilities immediately.
  • Visit horse auctions.
  • Tell the world through any news media you can find.
  • Contact friends and other associates:
    • Neighbors, farriers, veterinarians, postal carriers, horse owners;
    • State horse-related groups such as the horse council, Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Services, state veterinarian, breed associations, and cattleman’s associations;
    • Equine-related businesses: tack feed stores and apparel stores;
    • Fencing/barn manufacturers;
    • Post information at horse events: rodeos, shows, horse club meetings;
    • Post information on Internet web sites.

One of the most painful experiences a horse owner can suffer is discovering his/her horse is missing. The NetPosse theory is simple: Get people involved. Through them, more people learn about theft, and the recovery rate climbs.

You can make a difference. Take a moment to post a flyer in your community or pass the information on to your friends.

Missing and stolen horses are listed on SHI’s website All horses in this article are on SHI stolen and missing pages.

* Abbreviated Tips from Debi Metcalfe’s book Horse Theft, Been There--Done That.

About the Author

Debi Metcalfe

Debi Metcalfe of Shelby, N.C., established to help victims of horse and tack theft network and locate their stolen property. She has become a recognized authority on stolen horses, and has appeared on television and various radio programs, in newspaper and magazine articles, and addressed civic groups on the subject.

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