Equipment theft puts stop to MJC horse classes

etracy@modbee.comAugust 2, 2013 

One of Modesto Junior College's most popular courses is at risk of being canceled because someone stole more than $10,000 worth of equipment from its animal science department.

Bridles, bits, lead ropes, helmets, wheelbarrows, brushes and saddles that can cost more than $500 each were burglarized from Modesto Junior College's West Campus on Blue Gum Avenue on July 21; the extent of the theft was not discovered and reported to police until Monday.

The equipment is used for the college's class on introduction to colt training, which teaches students the basics of owning a horse, from saddling it and eventually riding to caring for one, according to instructor Julie Haynes.

The class is unique because it provides students not only all of the equipment, but the horses as well. The horses are sold at the end of each unit to sustain the program and cover equipment costs. Much of the equipment was purchased with a grant when the program was started in 2007.

Without it, the class, scheduled to begin Aug. 27, will be canceled for the 25 students enrolled, Haynes said.

At the time of the crime, a campus security guard caught a man using a department wheelbarrow to take equipment, but the suspect ran away before the guard could get a good look at him.

Haynes said the security guard found four wheelbarrows full of equipment and thought he'd thwarted the theft. But when Haynes returned from vacation Monday and took inventory of the equipment, she discovered about 90 percent of it missing.

Haynes said generous people in the agriculture community already have donated some items, including two saddles, but she still needs much of the equipment before the start of the fall semester.

"It doesn't matter if it's old or dirty, as long as it's functional and safe," she said.

To donate to the program, contact Haynes at (209) 575-6200 or haynesj@mjc.edu.

Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at etracy@modbee.com or (209)578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.

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