Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thieves steal therapeutic riding gear from Texas children with disabilities

From the Houston Chronicle:

Harris County sheriff's detectives are trying to figure out who stole an estimated $20,000 worth of saddles and bridles earlier this week from a Katy, Texas, nonprofit recreational horse riding program that serves special-needs children.

The break-in at the Halter, Inc. facilities at 17410 Clay Road marked the second time in three weeks that burglars have broken into the group's offices.

"They stole from a bunch of handicapped kids," said Halter, Inc. owner Maria Pinzon. "Whoever did this is going to have to really live with what they've done. If they have a change of heart and are willing to return it to us, we'd be very happy to get our stuff back.

"Our biggest fear is they're going to come back and steal our horses," Pinzon added. "That would be a monumental devastation to most of these children. I can replace a saddle, but I can't replace a best friend."

The latest burglary was discovered early Wednesday. Intruders cut through locks and chains to get into the facilities, then stole 16 western saddles and six bridles.

The loss is estimated at $20,000, Pinzon said. The stolen saddles included 10 horse saddles and six pony saddles.

Three weeks ago, intruders also cut through locks and chains to get inside and steal the group's stock trailer, which was used to take horses to Special Olympics and United Cerebral Palsy events, Pinzon said.

"It's just going to make it harder for us," she said today. "We can't do our riding lessons without saddles. We're a small nonprofit. We don't have much money."

About 100 children participate in the group's various programs each year, Pinzon said. Halter, Inc. offers educational and recreational riding programs in a therapeutic setting, she said. Because the group uses miniature horses, children as young as 1 year old are able to ride, she said.

Sheriff's detectives have no suspects, said Lt. John Legg. No fingerprints could be recovered because considerable condensation had accumulated by the time the latest break-in was discovered, he said.

"We believe the key to solving this crime is going to be the suspects attempting to sell the equipment that was stolen," Legg said. "We're really relying on any information from citizens who may run across individuals attempting to sell saddles or other equipment."

Among the items stolen this week was a black pony saddle studded with diamond-shape silver, Pinzon said.

After the break-ins drew attention from the media, donors gave three saddles and one bridle to the nonprofit group, she said.

Pinzon said she is at a loss to explain the burglaries to the children who ride the horses.

"I'm going to keep going on and I'm going to find a way to make sure it works out for the kids," she said. "That's what I've dedicated my life to."