It’s a crime that’s left Riverina police shaking their heads, but the true loss is being felt in the wider Griffith and Leeton riding community after two Riding for the Disabled Association Australia (RDAA) horses disappeared from a paddock.
Without a single lead in the case, the call has gone out to the public nationwide in a bid to find the two missing steeds.
The horses – Sapphire and Victory – are believed to have been stolen from a property where they were being agisted eight kilometres from Griffith on Rankins Springs Road, Myall Park, between 6 pm Friday 14 January 2022 and 11 am Saturday 15 January 2022.
Victory is a microchipped, Dun Welsh pony gelding that stands around 13 hands in height. He is buckskin in colour with a white blaze and one white sock.
Sapphire is a Pinto (black and white) painted Stockhorse Welsh mare cross and stands around 15 hands in height.
The horses are used to help residents living with disabilities through therapy.
A Griffith Leeton Riding for Disabled spokesperson said they were irreplaceable.
“It takes many hours of training for these horses to be suitable to work with children and without them we will struggle to run our classes and some children will miss out on their riding therapy,” the spokesperson said.
The RDAA is asking the community to pitch in to help them find Victory and Sapphire, who both have medical conditions that need to be managed appropriately.
“We still hope they may be left in a safe place like the showgrounds, saleyards or a paddock and a message left so we know where to find them.”
Investigators from the Murrumbidgee Police District have been looking into the disappearance and NSW Police Rural Crime Investigators have now commenced inquiries.
Southern zone rural crime prevention team coordinator Detective Sergeant Damian Nott said the horses were housed in a paddock with three other horses when they disappeared.
“We have no idea how they’ve gone missing,” he said. “In terms of a crime scene, reportedly there was nothing indicating the method of theft – if indeed this was a theft – but we’ve checked the surrounding bushland, scoured it using drones, there are no fences down and there’s no sign of them having got in there or having left that area either.
“So the only thing we’re surmising is they’ve been lifted with a float and gone without too much of a trace.”
He said police had canvassed the area thoroughly to see if there was any suspicious activity on any CCTV footage.
“We’ve also gone through horse sales and there has been no sighting of the two horses,” he said.
Det Sgt Nott said the missing horses were smaller than others in the paddock, suggesting they were targeted by opportunists.
“Out of five horses, they’ve picked two Welsh ponies,” he said. “These are obviously horses in the twilight of their life, they’re small and quiet and proven, so they’ve either been taken for use as children’s horses or to be sold as children’s horses.
“This is a despicable crime … horses that are fit for purpose for RDAA are very difficult to source. That they would be targeted is an unnecessary setback not just for the organisation but the people who benefit from the program.
“At the end of the day this amounts to a livestock theft which is bad on any day but this is one we’re struggling to get forward momentum on the investigation and really need to appeal to the community’s sense of civic duty to help solve this one.
“We’re really urging anyone with even the slightest bit of information to contact us.”
Investigators urge anyone with information – including anyone who has seen the horses in the past three weeks or knows of their whereabouts – to call Murrumbidgee Rural Crime investigators on 02 6969 4299 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.