Stable Advice: Theft at the Boarding Stable


Editor’s Note: Horse Illustrated is introducing a new column for 2015. Stable Advice is a place for our readers to offer their advice on some of those uniquely equestrian problems. These aren’t the questions that you’d normally ask your vet or trainer. These are questions about horse life, like dealing with interpersonal struggles at the barn, juggling horse commitments and “real world” obligations, and generally navigating the challenges of living in the 21st-century horse world. Think of this as a place to share advice with a group of your best equestrian friends.

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Hay Theft


This month’s Stable Advice question:

There has been a problem recently with feed theft at our self-care boarding stable. Every boarder has their own feed stall, but they can’t be locked. No one seems to know who is doing it, and the barn owner is very lackadaisical about security. Most of us are very close, and we care for each other’s horses. I’m extremely offended that someone would steal from other boarders, considering how close everyone is. There are no other stables nearby for us. How should we address this, especially with hay?

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  1. This would really be a problem for someone who has to board. I not sure what to do, maybe call a meeting, and see if any ideas can be thought up. Trust is so important is such a group or boarding setting.

  2. My horse is at a co-op barn similar to this. We have never had an issue of feed getting stollen. I put out 7 days of labeled and measured feed in ziplock baggies and SmartPaks. In this readers case since the feed stall cannot be locked up I would then keep my extra feed locked up in a garbage can or a plastic trunk. We also keep extra hay in our feed stall, I have 7 slow feed haynets set up as well.

  3. First, call a meeting with all of the other boarders. Establish clear communication and make sure that there’s not simply miscommunication going on about who owns and feeds what. If you can, assign everyone that’s able different “shifts” for a week, with everyone coming out at different points throughout the day.
    That way, you have eyes continuously. If possible, look into splitting the cost of a few hunting cams. Those can catch the theivery in action.
    If the stalls cannot easily be locked, you may be able to get creative. Depending on their structure and the rules, you might be able to wrap a bicycle lock or padlock through the bars/walls/etc. If that’s not allowed, or somehow physically impossible, invest in some lockable tubs. Store your grain in one, and keep it locked between uses.
    I’m not sure what your hay and turnout set-up is, but perhaps go in with some of the other boarders and invest in some round bales, instead of square bales. It’s harder to steal those by hand! Definitely retie square bales up if you’re not feeding the entire thing at once.
    Finally, you don’t mention whether the stalls not being able to be locked is a rule, or a physical issue. If it’s a rule, I’d find another barn – even if it means a longer commute! If you’re not allowed to protect your expensive feed and hay, and the owner won’t do anything about it, it might be time to find somewhere else.

  4. I had this problem at our co-op barn and my friend and I had a good idea who was taking my feed. When there was an opportunity to have everyone together my friend brought this up casually, asking in front of everyone if I had any more feed go missing. The issue stopped immediately. No one was accused but it was brought out into the open and made aware to the person doing this that we knew. This was a “low stress” way to address the problem. No hard feelings were made but clearly stated that we knew about the theft.

  5. Why can’t you lock them? Maybe a chain with a padlock around the stall door (through the bars or something)? Either that or I would start bringing my feed and hay home with me every day (not easy but what else is there to do?). Or, to eliminate theft altogether, you could all agree on a feed and hay and purchase it together. That way, you are all feeding from the same pile, so to speak, so there’s nothing to steal. And if someone didn’t pay their part of the feed, you know who was stealing it in the first place.

  6. I would invest in lockable containers such as trunks or even those bear proof garbage can containers for your hay. At previous barns that I have boarding at we used the bear proof containers for hay and other lockable barrels and trunks to keep mice and other critters out of our feed and hay.

  7. I had a feed thief at a farm I used to lease. The thief leased the property over the fence and our mutual landlord didn’t want to get involved, so I got chains and padlocks to put on my feed cans. I fed round bales, so that was not an issue. I also found another place to board as the neighbors were ugly in other ways. I’d agree with the folks suggesting locking the stalls. Ultimately, it’ll be easy to find out who the thief is. I had my hay disappear at a self-care facility and noticed that another boarder’s three bales never diminished. That and the fact that she was going around bragging about it: “She’s such an airhead, she probably doesn’t even notice she’s missing the hay!” I confronted her with: “I’m not stupid, you’re a thief. These are your options: Pay me for the hay you stole, replace it, or I call the sheriff. Everyone you insulted me to is willing to talk.” I got my hay replaced a few days later. Good luck, I hope you can resolve this and not have to move.

  8. I’m not sure why things can’t be locked but what about a cheap security camera?
    And if most people are in agreement it seems you could work together to figure out the culprit.
    Even though there’s not a stable nearby the thief may be from outside. How about reporting this to the police? Theft is a crime and even if they can’t figure out who’s responsible it may scare them into stopping.

  9. Personally, I wouldn’t put up with any kind of drama in my happy place. If you are unhappy with anything and the people in charge are unwilling to help, then it’s time to move on to greener pastures before bigger issues arise.

  10. It might be hard to figure out who the thief is. Instead, protect your own feed. See if you can install a lock on your feed stall, with your stable manager’s permission, of course. If not, store your feed and hay in locked storage containers and smaller items in locked drawers. Tell other boarders to do the same. This will discourage any future thefts. Who knows, the thief may just be a hungry horse!

  11. It is a serious problem, but not serious enough to involve the police. It might be best to try and figure out what time the thefts are happening, and look at other’s horses to see if one might be plump or especially hot. Maybe team up with your fellow boarders to find a solution- but if one of them is thieving, maybe the best way would be to protect your food. Once yours is protected, either with a lock or other method, then you can go on to help the others. If one of them gets upset, just explain that you have to protect your own feed because it’s for your horse.

  12. Years ago I boarded my horse at a small stable, I was lucky that we did not have the type of issues that you describe. I have to wonder if one of the boarders is experiencing financial difficulties and may be embarrassed to ask for help. My suggestion would be to try as a group to determine if this is the situation and maybe as a group you can offer some advise and help. I have always found that “horse folk” in general are very helpful, caring people. I hate the idea of having to lock stuff up, it gives the immediate impression of being suspicious and non trusting, I like the honor system much more. Good luck to you

  13. If all the borders are as close as you say, try calling a barn meeting with everyone present, including the owner. There, everyone can voice their concerns about the thief, and anything else that has been weighing on their mind in a peaceful setting. Talk about the possibility of stronger security while everyone is there and how you could make it happen (with personal locks on feed, tools, etc.). You and your barn family will likely reach a happy conclusion and who knows, the their may even turn themselves in when they hear how badly they have affected people!

  14. You know this isn’t a small matter! I have gone through this at every barn! Every time! It doesn’t just hurt my wallet, it hurts my having to be suspicious of every one. Food is not cheap. My family is first! I have certain people around me oh you can’t lock your horse stuff up because periodically we need to search for drugs if that ain’t the most Cocken bull I’v ever heard. Listen I’m one of many horse people that help others, but don’t take from my family!!. A mother bear is one of the most protective of her cubs! Stealer’s beware!!

  15. When I read this month’s Stable Advice column, I felt I should respond because no one bothered to mention what I thought might be the reason for the theft: maybe the thief is having financial difficulties. It is not easy to admit to anyone (even close friends) that you have been fired or laid off from your job or are just having a tough time making ends meet. I am not saying it was right to steal what didn’t belong to them, but perhaps there is a compelling reason for this. I am concerned about the barn owner’s attitude about security. Does this person keep a horse on the property as well? No one can ever afford to be complacent about keeping horses and their owner’s equipment safe. Maybe it would be a good idea to try and find a different boarding facility.
    I too, have been a victim of barn theft ( I had a pair of reins stolen from our “tack shack”, even though there was a security alarm on the door. I knew right away that it had to be one of my fellow boarders. I never did find out who the guilty party was, but I can tell you that from then on I never kept my tack (or any other horse supplies for that matter) at this stable again, and, if fact, moved to a different location not long after the theft took place.


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