What you should do in the hours, days, and weeks after your trailer is stolen in order to increase the chances of recovery of the trailer and its contents and prosecution of the criminals involved.
When you realize something has been stolen, it’s natural to panic. Brains flood with cortisol and it can be hard to think clearly as we realize our property has been violated.
I remember this experience vividly from when my horse trailer was stolen while I was showing solo at the Kentucky Horse Park. In the hours after reporting my trailer missing, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. How, I wondered, could I get my property back? Get the word out? and most importantly- get my horse home!
Now, a few years out from that terrible experience of having my trailer stolen, I’ve put together this post for others. Using this guide, you can move swiftly on a plan that will increase the chances of recovering your stolen property and perhaps even up the odds of seeing the trailer thieves charged with a crime.
What to do Immediately if your Trailer is Stolen:
Call the police to report your trailer missing immediately.
(Avoid dialing 911, an internet search for “police non-emergency number + your location” will pull up a more appropriate contact method).
Police will come, ask questions, assign a Police Report ID and probably not do anything else. Police are, understandably, far more concerned with violent crime and finding violent offenders, so you probably aren’t going to be assigned a detective or an officer that will track leads.
Respect police process, but understand you may need to self-advocate if you have any hope of recovering your stolen tack or horse trailer. Trailer theft is so common at the Kentucky Horse Park that not only was there any indication that my trailer theft was investigated, my only contact was a call from a Sargent 6 months later asking “If I’d found it.”
Call your Insurance Company if Your Have Trailer Insurance
If your trailer was well insured, a copy of the police report is likely all you’ll need to do to begin the process of a claim with your insurance company that will end in a crisp check for the purchase of your replacement trailer. If, however, like me, your trailer was uninsured or under-insured, the loss of your trailer could potentially be a much bigger burden and worth doing a little bit of legwork in hopes of turning up clues to help police recover your trailer.
After the Police Report: Next Steps
The thieves of your tack or trailer will move quickly to hide, transport, or unload the stolen property. Move quickly and you might have a chance of getting ahead of them.
1. Fill out our Form Stolen Horse Trailer/Tack Flyer
Click here or the image below to download a .doc file that makes creating your stolen tack or trailer flyer FAST. Fill with your information and closely cropped images of your missing tack or trailer and a list of identifying features (be sure to include any scratches or damage)
Print a few for local sites near the theft and save the flyer as both a PDF and an image (JPG) for online sharing. You can convert a doc file to a JPG photo via this website.
Download A Printable Reward Poster
2. Raise an Internet Posse
The internet is the fastest way to make your stolen property worthless for the thieves to resell.
Using the flyer photo-images created by the doc-to-JPG conversion above, begin posting photos of the stolen items and your flyer on all the Craigslists within a 4-hour hour drive of the location of the trailer theft.
Use the internet to compile a list of tack shops, pawn shops, and (if it was a trailer stolen) trailer dealers and scrap yards, and email or fax your flyer of missing items to each of these businesses. Truck stops may also be willing to post your notices on their bulletin board. You can fax your flyer or even mail with a request to post, to get images of your trailer spread far up and down the interstate.
If you are part of an online horse community specific to your region, breed, or riding style, use them in your hunt. They may be able to post your flyer in boarding stables or local tack shops. While stolen horse trailers are often dismantled and turned to scrap metal within days, tack tends to remain in circulation via tack sales and auctions. Thieves may traffic saddles across the country or even to Canada or Mexico to sell them successfully, so if someone offers help posting flyers in their region- accept it!
3. Call around for potential surveillance video.
If your trailer was stolen from a privately owned business, surveillance footage might be available to you that would provide a plate number and truck make or model to pass along to police. Consider also asking nearby truckstops for access to the footage. It never hurts to ask, and this extra legwork is probably man-hours the police force won’t be able to spare.
4. Remain a Squeaky Wheel
Like many things, recovery of lost tack or trailer will most likely occur in the first 48-72 hours, if recovery is going to happen. Still, it’s worth staying persistent- and a bi-weekly craigslist post or call to the police officer who took your report may eventually pay off.
5. Small Consolations via Accouting
If you itemize your taxes, the IRS makes allowances for the deduction of loss that occurred as a result of theft. While not reimbursing you for theft, this allows you to deduct the loss of your trailer and/or equipment (with some adjusting calculations) from your taxable income for the year it was stolen. [*tax law has changed since our horse trailer was stolen. Consult with an accountant to determine if your loss qualifies as a deduction]
6. Live & Learn
Ultimately, the experience of having my trailer stolen left me a smarter, more theft-prevention savvy. After talking with the police at The Kentucky Horse Park who see trailer theft weekly and having many other conversations around tack and trailer theft through my then-career as a tack store owner, I’ve developed my own theft-prevention resources which you can read about on my post about…
How to Prevent Horse Tack & Horse Trailer Theft
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THIS SADDLE HAS BEEN STOLEN!
It is believed to be one of a kind. If you have seen this saddle please report to KY Horse Park Police at (859)-509-1450 or report via email while remaining anonymous, by visiting an anonymous public email server. Emails may be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org
This photo shows tooling on the skirt of a western saddle. The skirt part of a western saddle is the part that rests against the horse, under and behind the seat of the saddle. This particular saddle skirt shown is awaiting an application of saddle oil. Saddles appearing this light colored is a good indication the saddle needs oiled to maintain condition and appearance.