BRAZEN thieves are taking horse rugs off the back of the animals, risking being seriously hurt and making the horses sick.

West Mercia Police are now warning horse owners to be alert to the thefts and for any witnesses to come forward after a string of thefts in fields on the edge of Worcester and in Droitwich.

One theft happened between 7pm on Sunday, March 30 and 3pmon Monday, March 31 at a farm in Newland Road, Droitwich. An unknown offender or offenders entered the field across the road to remove and steal the rug from the horse. It had been secured and had not fallen off. A local search was made. The victim heard a commotion in the opposite field between 10pm and 10.30pm

and noted that the horse had been spooked and was galloping around in the dark. Later, during daylight hours, the horse was seen in the field, minus the rug. Police believe it is possible that the theft has occurred around the time of the initial 'commotion'. A light and dark blue 'Shire' horse rug was stolen.

A Weatherbeater horse rug was taken between 10pm on Wednesday, April 2 and 7am the following day in a field off the A38 at Martin Hussingtree, near Worcester.

A further theft happened in Broadgreen, Broadwas between 4.30pm on Saturday, January 4 and 9am on Sunday, January 5. Entry was gained inside the stable by damaging the padlock securing the stable (the screws have been unscrewed) and two lightweight rugs, a knife (used to chop apples), two plastic feed bins containing horse feed have been stolen. It is believed that offenders(s) also tried to remove a rug from a 'roaming horse' on the yard, as the neck cover was undone.

Two light blue lightweight rugs with the initials 'n h ' on them were taken. A fourth theft happened at Ladywood Road, Martin Hussingtree, near Worcester between 6pm on Monday, April 7 and 7am the following day. Two New Zealand rugs were taken from two horses in a field about 100 ft from a farmhouse. The rugs have been taken off the horses whilst they were both in the field.

Inspector Janet Heritage, Wychavon Safer Neighbourhood inspector, said: "This could have caused the horses to become ill. It is an unusual crime and can be quite upsetting for the horses and their owners. There is also the potential of those responsible being seriously hurt by one of the horses."

Those with information about the thefts should call police on 101 or or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.