Missing Oklahoma Horses at Center of Theft Investigation

Ten horses reported missing from their Oklahoma pasture earlier this month are now at the center of a theft investigation involving several states and a federal agency.

Lincoln County, Oklahoma, Sheriff's Department investigator Larry Stover said the horses' owners Timmi and James Baker reported the horses were missing from their pasture in Meeker on Aug. 11. The missing horses are valued at a total of $40,000, Stover said.

Timmi Brown said all the missing horses were born on the couple's property. Some were used for barrel racing, while others were used for riding lessons, she said. At the time of their disappearance, some of the horses were just getting started under saddle and others had extensive training, Timmi Brown said.

“From the beginning there was no doubt in my mind that they were stolen,” she said.

Brown believes the missing animals were sold though an Oklahoma auction. Though one horse was recovered though that auction, Brown thinks the remaining horses could have been sold and shipped to a Texas feed lot.

Lincoln County Sheriff Charlie Dougherty said the investigation seems to involve more than just horse theft. He said his department is probing a possible theft ring that involves horses, equestrian equipment, and cattle; so far the states of Texas, Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma are all involved in the case, as well as the Oklahoma Brand Inspectors and Agricultural Police, he said. Meanwhile, The Federal Bureau of Investigation Cyber Task Force is probing a possible prescription drug connection to the case, he said.

“I honestly don't know where this case is going to end up,” Dougherty said.

On Aug. 25, Dougherty said he had three suspects in the case. One suspect surrendered on an unrelated charge and is free on bond, he said.

“We're making arrangements with his lawyer to interview him,” Dougherty said.

The investigation remains ongoing, Dougherty said.

While the investigation continues, Debi Metcalfe, founder of Stolen Horse International, estimates that 40,000 horses go missing every year; some are stolen while others are taken in connection with divorce and civil disputes. However, there are steps owners can take to thwart potential thieves, Metcalf said.

Metcalfe recommends posting no trespassing and security signs on the property where horses reside, and near barns and paddocks. Meanwhile, security lighting can make barns hard targets for thieves, she said.

Owners should also be prepared to identify stolen or missing horses when they are recovered, Metcalf said. She recommends that whenever possible, owners should record their horses' identification with state and national registries. She also suggests photographing a horse in two seasons: once when the animal is dirty and another when the horse is clean. Make sure other photographs clearly show the horse's specific markings, Metcalfe said. Owners can prove ownership by photographing themselves standing alongside the horse. All photographs should be kept current, Metcalfe said.

Finally, Metcalfe recommends keeping all horse-related information—including signed and dated bills of sale, Coggins tests, veterinary and other health-related documents, breed registry information, and up-to-date photographs—in an easy-to-find file.

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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