Showjumping champions stole more than £50,000 pounds worth of horse riding equipment from other riders taking part in major equestrian competitions.
Former Horse of the Year show winner Kieran Quinn, 36, and his partner Jamie Aston, 32, stole saddles, stirrups, riding boots and other items as their owners waited to compete in international events on three separate occasions.
In one raid the pair drove hundreds of miles in a hire car and sneaked into stables in the dead of night to break into lockers whilst victims were asleep. They then travelled back home with their takings that same morning.
Both men were caught after victims – some of whom were Facebook friends – spotted the pair offering large quantities of horse tack for sale on equestrian social media pages.
Police also checked their mobile phone records and found the men were using their devices in the vicinity of the events, which took place at Bolesworth Castle in Cheshire, the Weston Lawns showground near Coventry, and the David Broome event centre near Chepstow, South Wales, on the days of the thefts.
One text message Quinn sent to Aston at 4.54am during the international horse show at Bolesworth said: “Take what you have. People are starting to wake up.’’
A later panic message from Aston to Quinn sent at 5.19am said: ‘‘There’s a groom walking down, help. She’s walked into the first block I stole from, help.’’ Quinn then replied: “Just leave – run.”
One rider, who had been expecting to win her contest, finished sixth after having to borrow a saddle to take part. Another was left feeling “anxious’’ about going to future horse events after being targeted by the thieves.
In a statement, victim Natassia Purnell who lost a dressage saddle, a show saddle, stirrups and boots worth £7,567 whilst attending one event with her five-year-old son said she had to put one of her two horses up for sale as a result of not being able to ride him.
“When I found out that my tack had been taken, I was devastated,’’ she said. “My son was unable to ride in his class and I missed my class and the entire weekend, which we had spent months preparing for, was ruined.
“I lost out on attending the British Eventing Championships and may never get the opportunity to compete at this again, all because of this incident.
“This was not an opportunist theft. This was meticulously planned. They knew exactly what they were stealing and how it would affect individuals. Mr Aston even had the audacity to try to befriend me on social media.”
At Manchester Crown Court, Quinn, a welding inspector who won the Search for a Star contest at the 2015 Horse of the Year show with his show hunter named Game of Thrones, and Aston, who live together in the village of Blaengwynfi, in south Wales, admitted theft and handling stolen goods.
Aston was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years and 120 hours of unpaid work whilst Quinn was sentenced to 14 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, along with 100 hours of unpaid work.
They admitted carrying out thefts at Bolesworth and “fencing” stolen tack from other events. The total haul stolen was worth £51,009. Both now face a Proceeds of Crime hearing.
Mr Paulinus Barnes, prosecuting said: “Isabelle George had gone to the event at Weston Lawns and was staying in her horsebox overnight. Her tack was stored in a metal locker about 100m away from the horsebox in the stables area. But on the morning of April 24 she discovered that her metal locker had been broken into and items stolen.
“Over the weeks that followed she became aware of items being sold on Facebook pages associated with showjumping and the items being sold were suspiciously similar to the items that had been stolen.
“The sellers were Quinn and Aston and she could see from Facebook that they had a connection. She used a different profile on Facebook to ask Kieran Quinn questions about the items he was selling to see if she could make sure they were her items. She took screen shots of the conversations, and of the items Jamie Aston was advertising.
“Later on July 3 2022 during an international horse show in the grounds of Bolesworth Castle, four of those taking part, riders Madeleine Gervais, Bryony Holloway, Scarlett Ward and Maddison McCrory, had items of tack stolen overnight including saddles, bridles, boots and helmets.
“Security staff were later to find some disturbance to the perimeter fence surrounding the area where the items had been stolen. Then at the David Broomes event centre near Chepstow, Natassia Purnell had a number of items of equipment stolen from her locker, including saddles, stirrups, boots and girths.
Police alerted by the victims raided the men’s home and recovered more than 20 items of horse riding kit from the house, their car and later a tack room at a nearby farm used by Aston. Cell site data showed the two men had travelled to the events on the days of the thefts whilst cameras captured their Vauxhall Corsa hire car.
Mr Barnes added: “Isabelle George describes the anxiety of fearing that she may be stolen from again and said she could not afford to buy more tack. She said some of the stolen tack was of sentimental value, and said she had been unable to work properly for four months whilst waiting for new saddles.
“The items she had stolen are two Voltaire Stuttgart saddles, worth £5,500 each, so total £11,000. Other equipment included girths, bridles, headcollars, breastplates. The total value was £14,590.
“At Bolesworth Castle, Madeline Gervais had two Bruno Delgrange saddles stolen, with stirrups, boots and a helmet. The total value of stolen items was 10,850 euros, approximately £9,300. She says that not all items were recovered.
“Bryony Holloway had a Devoucoux Chiberta saddle stolen, valued at £3,000. For Scarlett Ward, the items stolen were a Bruno Delgrange saddle, CWD Mademoiselle saddle, each of these were fitted with stirrup leathers and straps. Total value £10,108.