Get a posse? Police investigating theft of three horses

Apr. 19—A 19th-century crime from America's Wild West is under investigation in the 21st century by Meadville Police Department — horse theft.

Three horses went missing in mid-February from a farm on North Watson Run Road in Vernon Township. However, they now are believed to have been stolen, Meadville Police Department Chief Michael Stefanucci said Thursday. The farm is located about 7 miles west of Meadville.

The three horses — a black gelding, a brown gelding and a black mare — were reported as missing to city police around 11:30 a.m. Monday.

"They've been gone for some time obviously," Stefanucci said. "The owner wasn't sure (initially) if they had gotten loose or if they'd been taken. There had been no sightings of them in the area."

Though equine thievery is a rare crime, it's not surprising that it could happen, according to the chief, who has been a horse owner himself for about the past four years.

The three horses' total estimated value was $12,000, Stefanucci said. Two of them were valued at $5,000 each as they were broken, or able to be ridden, and one was unbroken, valued at $2,000.

The animals were in their early teens and used for pleasure riding by the owners, Stefanucci said. They are considered relatively young as the average lifespan of a horse is 25 to 30 years.

There were no sightings of any of the three horses by neighbors nor were there any signs of damage to fencing where the horses were kept.

It's not uncommon for horses to break free, according to Stefanucci.

"Horses, typically when they get loose, they seek out other horses," he said. "A lot of times when they get loose, they are found out next to a fence where other horses are kept.

"These animals were out in a field. If someone was able to load them up in a trailer and pull away, they could drive over to Ohio and resell them," he said.

The missing horses had no identifier such as a brand mark or tattoo on their skin, nor were they microchipped.

A microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice and contains identification information, may be planted in the nuchal ligament in the horse. The nuchal ligament helps support the weight of a horse's head.

"Lots of times, nowadays, there's not a lot of branding" of horses, Stefanucci said. "(Micro)chipping and tattoos aren't a common practice for the average horse person."

Anyone who has information on the whereabouts of the horses or the incident is asked to call the Meadville Police Department at (814) 724-6100 or submit a tip through

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at