Disaster Preparedness For Horses

Disaster Preparedness For Horses

With these tips for proper preparation, you can help protect your horse from natural disasters.

generic horse and owner at sunset (Credit: Journal)

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Natural- and weather-related disasters are becoming more and more common across the globe. Depending on where you live, several natural disasters could be a potential threat to your horse. Tornadoes, wildfires, flooding and hurricanes may seem like hopeless situations, but taking precautions ahead of time can help protect your horse from natural disasters. To reduce the stress on you, during an already stressful situation, to make the best decisions for your family and horse(s) during a disaster, the key is to be prepared. Specifically, prepare for all different types of disasters, as there are different responses based on the type of emergency; evacuate your horses vs. keep them safe in the barn or field.

Always Have an Equine Evacuation Plan 

For all situations, you will want to make sure you have a good evacuation plan. Sit down with family long before any sign of trouble and prepare an equine emergency evacuation plan. This consists of where you can take your horses in an emergency situation. Make arrangements with a friend or another horse owner to stable your horse outside of the region at risk. You can also reach out to your local animal care and control agency/emergency management authorities for information about shelters in your area. Then, you’ll want to make sure that you share this evacuation plan with your friend, neighbors, employees, and post it in the barn, in the event that you are not able to evacuate your horses yourself, others may move forward with the evacuation in the event of an emergency. 

Wildfire Preparation and Evacuation Tips for Horses

  • Follow evacuation plan. 
  • Prepare a “go bag." Include a copy of papers, medication, an extra halter and lead rope, basic grooming supplies, a picture of you and your horse together, and basic first-aid supplies.
  • Plan more than one route out of your property. Unless you’re at the end of a dead-end street, plan how you will get out if main exits are closed. 
  • Establish evacuation locations. Getting out is only half the feat. It's also important to have a few safe locations to escape to where you can feed, water and assess your horse’s condition.
  • Practice trailer loading well in advance. Having a horse that will load right up when time is limited could make the difference between evacuating … and not. Also, fuel up the truck and trailer and make sure it’s in working order. Even if you do not use your trailer regularly, take the time to make sure it is inspected regularly and tire pressure is checked frequently.
  • Practice fire prevention. Clear weeds and vegetation from the fence line and up to 100 feet away from structures and consider a sprinkler system for the horse barn.

Hurricane Preparation and Evacuation Tips for Horses

  • Heed the advance warnings. No one wants to be stuck on the road with a truck, trailer, and horses in-tow with hurricane-force winds. 
  • Prepare to travel across state lines. Make sure vaccinations, Coggins and health certificates are up to date. All horses should receive West Nile and Eastern and Western encephalitis vaccinations at the beginning of hurricane season, due to increased mosquito populations. 
  • Arrange a week’s worth of food and water, if possible. Consider that there may not be access to water or that you'll be able to purchase feed for a while. You will need roughly 12-20 gallons of water per day per horse. You'll also need hay, feed and medications for several days. 
  • Identify horses with waterproof IDs, possibly braided into their tails or sealed in a Ziploc bag and duct-taped to a leather halter.

Tornado Preparation and Evacuation Tips for Horses

  • Outside may be the best option. The fast and unpredictable nature of tornadoes makes it difficult to devise a sure-fire plan, but horses left outside will instinctively find natural cover and do what they can to survive. A horse left inside the barn may be more protected from flying debris, but a large storm can wipe out virtually any structure. 
  • Some horse owners have tornado safe rooms for horses, which are rated to withstand an F5 tornado. 
  • If there’s time, evacuate. But again, beware of being caught in high winds with a horse trailer

Insuring Your Animals 

When disaster hits, everything does not always go as planned and, sadly, casualties happen. With this in mind, it is important to be prepared and insure your horse, farm and/or business. As an AQHA corporate partner, Markel is an equine insurance carrier that is passionate about horses, where the associates are horse people first and insurance people second. Protect your equestrian lifestyle with Markel, whether you have one horse or a full stable, ride for business or pleasure. AQHA members get a 10% association credit, contact Markel today!