ARE mysterious plaits in horse manes the work of pagans or thieves?

Or are they occurring naturally as the long hair gets twisted and intertwined by the wind?

Police in Hampshire and Dorset have dismissed the idea the plaits are being put in place to mark animals worth stealing.

“It’s happened on a few occasions in Dorset, but none of the horses have ever been stolen,” said a police spokesman, who thought it could be linked to pagan activity.

“There’s nothing to suggest you should be too concerned. It’s a ritual that’s not exactly commonplace. People know of it more than it’s actually happening because of the reporting of it.”

He had heard of incidents in Verwood, Gillingham, Bridport and Lyme Regis.

West Dorset officer PC Tim Poole investigated the pagan angle and told Paranormal Magazine: “This is part of a white magic ritual and is to do with ‘knot magick’.

“It would appear that for people of this belief, ‘knot magick’ is used when they want to cast a spell.

“Some of the gods they worship have a strong connection to horses so if they have a particular request, plaiting this knot in a horse’s mane lends strength to that request.

“The fact that this plaiting coincides with one of their ceremonial times of year [the winter solstice] adds weight to the theory.”

In the New Forest, Sharon Leane from Fordingbridge has found ponies’ manes plaited twice this year and there was a similar incident at Damer-ham a week yesterday.

The following day, at Crow, distressed Audrey Scott-Hopkins found a plait and a rubber plaiting band in the mane of one of her Shetland ponies.

Hampshire Police’s New Forest equine officer PC Alison Tilbury said the plaits “could be caused naturally with a long or thick mane”.

She added: “This is the first time that a rubber plaiting band is reported to have been used in this way.

“I would reiterate that the police have no evidence that horses or ponies are stolen as a result of these plaits.”

Similar incidents should be reported to police.