Natural disasters are never easy to deal with and are made more complicated when you’re a horse owner. Not only do you need to protect your family, you need to protect your animals. There are times when you need to either evacuate or hunker down to ride out the storm.
If you plan to evacuate, try to take your horse with you. Horse trailers get blown about as easily as campers and trucks once wind gusts exceed 40 mph, so make sure you’re not caught in high winds. Plan to leave at least 48 hours before the storm is due to strike. Please note: if a hurricane watch is in effect, you might not be permitted to evacuate large animals so make sure to check with your local authorities.
Make sure you have called ahead to make stabling arrangements in a safe location. State Horse Councils should be able to assist you in locating facilities for emergency housing.
Implement appropriate bio security measures by using only the buckets and equipment you bring with you. The stress of travelling and then being housed with unfamiliar horses may adversely affect your horses immune system. Keep your horse from nose-to-nose contact with other horses.
Where should you leave your horses when the storm hits and you’re unable to evacuate them? That depends upon property conditions – the barn, trees, power lines and such. If you keep your horse in your barn, make sure to do the following before the storm arrives:
- Remove or secure all movable objects, even if you think they’re too heavy to be blown.
- Have at least a 2-week feed supply stored in the highest and driest place in the barn. Make sure it is all covered beneath a waterproof tarp.
- Water and hay should be supplied in each stall – enough to last a while because you might not be able to reach the barn immediately after the storm ends. If you do not have multiple water buckets to hang, you might want to consider a garbage can secured so it wouldn’t tip over. Remember, a horse drinks 15-20 gallons of water a day – one bucket will not be enough.
- Store additional water in toughs or lined 55-gallon drums. You can also line garbage cans to use for more water storage.
- Secure a generator and fuel (enough to last at least 3 days) with tie-downs to run your water pumps in case the power is out for several days.
- Turn off circuit breakers in case of a power surge which might cause sparks and a fire.
- Place emergency barn kit in a secure location. (See Part 1: Identification & Vaccinations for what to include in the emergency barn kit.)
- Place emergency horse care kit in a secure location. (See Part 1: Identification & Vaccinations for what to include in the horse care kit.)
- Make sure all horses have identification on them (See Part 1: Identification # Vaccinations on how to mark your horse with identification).
- Notify your horse community that the horses are remaining in the barn.
- Create two signs where one side says “Have Animals, Need Help” and the other side says “Have Animals, All OK” so you could display the appropriate sign after the storm. (Why two signs? Read Part 3: Storm Aftermath)
- Do Not Stay In The Barn With Your Horse During The Storm.
If you have a pasture with sturdy fencing and limited trees, it might be better to leave them outside. While well constructed barns may provide safety from flying debris, horse may become trapped if the roof collapses. If you decide to release them, make sure there are
- no power lines nearby
- shallow rooted trees
- no poisonous trees (such as Red Maple) near the pasture boundary
- non-barbed wire or electrical fencing
- pasture not in danger of becoming flooded
- no fire ants or snake nests
- no critters such as opossums, raccoon, coyotes, or other vermin living in the immediate area
- no poisonous plants.
No matter which option you decided for your horse, keep a break-away halter on them so they are easier to catch. No plan is fool-proof but it’s worth your time and effort to devise suitable care for your horse. They rely on you to care for them.
* The information provided here is intended to be a brief summary. Please contact Star H Equine Insurance and/or review your policy for more detailed information.
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