HORSE owners in Angus and Tayside are being warned to be on their guard after fears that animals are being targeted for theft.
Warnings have been put out across social networking site Facebook after the mane of a horse at a Perthshire stable was braided.
The incident prompted fears that the animal had been marked out to be stolen by a “spotter” for thieves.
There have been several similar incidents over the last few years in the Montrose area. One Marykirk horse-owner last year had to take the heartbreaking decision to have her pony destroyed after it became distressed due to continuing unwanted attention.
After a spate of incidents going back four or five years, Carol Murray’s 17-year-old pony, Saxo, had to be put down after stress-induced irreversible colic.
So far reported incidents have been confined to Perthshire but warnings are circulating through the equestrian community.
It is thought that previous cases of horse theft have been preceded by manes being braided or markers placed at fields so horses can be easily identified. The practise of mane and tail braiding has also been linked across the country to pagan rituals.
Horsewatch Scotland, which works with all Scottish police forces to combat equine crime, said this week that there is no evidence to link braiding directly with theft and said it could even be down to a natural occurrence.
Co-ordinator Fiona Stuart said: “These incidents are very common around the country, especially at this time of the year.
“They have been connected to horse thefts but we aren’t aware of any case where horses have been stolen as a result.
“It could be that they are wind tangles which look like pleats but occur naturally.
“They are also sometimes connected to the summer solstice which is coming up.”
She did warn owners to be on their guard and take necessary precautions such as staggering their visits to avoid their movements being monitored.
She added: “We to ask people to report anything that could be suspicious to the police and to Horsewatch on 01350 727116. They could move their horses to a different field and check their security and we recommend that all horses are freeze-marked and electronically chipped.”