Real life

The strange case of six missing horse rugs

16 November 2019

9:00 AM

16 November 2019

9:00 AM

The night after the fireworks display the barn was raided and our horse rugs were taken.

Good job I’ve watched a lot of Columbo because I was able to quickly rule out a reprisal attack for us disagreeing with the fireworks. I believe I can categorically prove it was nothing to do with that, although it is possible the actual culprit decided to pounce at this moment using the fireworks upset as a distraction.

We got through the dreaded event without injury in the end, me holding Darcy on the end of a lunge line as the rockets went off above her head. How horses cope with explosions like a battlefield, silver flashes that light the entire sky and bangs that ricochet around them I will never know. It made me think of horses in the first world war, God bless them.

We had moved her to a nearby stable beforehand, but as other displays began further away she became desperate. She was worse confined in a strange place, so we moved her back.

By the time the fireworks started next to us I needed Valium to keep me calm enough to hold her steady. But we survived, and I left the field around 9 p.m. The next morning at 8 a.m., I returned to find the barn ransacked.

Two of the other girls instantly suspected we had been hit in a revenge attack for complaining. But I was able to dismiss that. You see, when I say I’ve watched a lot of Columbo, I mean I’ve watched every episode so many times I can recite the lines. The detective in the raincoat is my kind of guy. I spend my life nitpicking at things that don’t add up. Like him, I believe the devil is in the detail.

As I set about surveying the crime scene, all I needed was a cigar in my mouth. I stood there scratching my head. It was so odd.

Six rugs were gone, two of which had been lying in a pile of hay. They were mended with bailing twine and used as spares. Two others taken were in such a bad state they were on top of a builders’ bag due to be taken to the tip. They were broken beyond use and all but disintegrating. No self-respecting horseware thief would think they were worth nicking.

Two other rugs in good condition were also taken, along with the lunge line I had used to hold Darcy, left in a recycling bin by my hay, and another broken lunge line lying on the floor — oh, and an old towel. Crucially, two wheelbarrows were gone: one plastic one with a slightly flat tyre and one ancient metal one with a completely flat tyre that didn’t move.

So the crime scene would initially have us believe that persons unknown filled two barrows with six rugs in varying states, two lunge lines and a towel and wheeled these relatively light items away. Perhaps, being unable to push the barrow with the flat tyre further than a few yards, they carried it instead of dumping it? But there was more that didn’t add up.

On the floor of the barn, neatly placed by a pallet, was a brand new 20kg pack of horse feed that had been in the plastic barrow. This suggested that the thief or thieves, not wanting this feed, but needing the barrow to take the rugs, lifted it out and put it down carefully. They didn’t just tip the barrow up and let the feed tumble.

They then wheeled one and either pushed or carried the other barrow away, passing two battery packs, which they left untouched.

I walked all the paths this strange team of careful yet incompetent thieves could have taken, laboriously pushing their oddly random booty in underperforming barrows, and there were no tracks leading anywhere that I could see.

Possibly, they had to lift the barrows over the main gate which was locked. Possibly they wheeled or carried them half a mile across fields to the nearest road the other way. No.

No one pushed or carried a broken barrow a long way. Someone drove to as near to the barn as they could get in a vehicle large enough to load up these particular items. They left the battery packs so that the fences remained on, perhaps because they cared about horses not breaking out and/or had an interest in the local area remaining safe. I’m guessing it’s a woman or women, because no man would use a barrow when the stuff taken would be easier carried in his arms.

So there it is. I’ve used everything Columbo has taught me to figure out the ‘what’ and a bit of the ‘who’. I cannot begin to figure out the ‘why’.

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