Disaster Planning for Horse Farms
Have a plan before disaster strikes your barn.
By Dr. Dana N. Zimmel, University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, for the American Association of Equine Practitioners | November 2, 2011
Hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and fire are the most common natural disasters in the state of Florida.
Large animals were killed during 1992’s Hurricane Andrew by collapsing barns, electrocution, kidney failure secondary to dehydration and being hit and killed on roadways or tangled in barbed wire after escaping from their pasture.
Each farm should have a written disaster plan to optimize safety and survival of all animals.
Learn all of the approved American Quarter Horse colors and the infinite possibilities for your future foals with AQHA’s FREE Coat Color Genetics report.
Before the Storm
- Coggins test: A negative Coggins test is necessary if the horse needs to be evacuated to a community shelter or cross the state line.
- Health certificate: A health certificate is required to cross the state line. This may be necessary for evacuation of coastal areas.
- Identification: Each horse should be identified with at least one, if not all, of the following: A leather halter with name/farm information in a zip lock bag secured to the halter with duct tape.
- A luggage tag with the horse/farm name and phone number braided into the tail. (Make sure this is waterproof).
- Photos of each horse as proof of ownership highlighting obvious identifying marks.
Evacuation of flood planes and coastal areas is recommended. Evacuation must occur 48 hours before hurricane-force winds occur in the area. Transportation of horses when wind gusts exceed 40 mph is dangerous. Contact the Emergency Evacuation Relocation List at The Sunshine State Horse Council Inc. or call (941) 731-2999 for more information.
Should horses be left in the pasture or placed in the barn?
If the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave the horses outside. Well-constructed pole barns or concrete-block barns may provide safety from flying debris, but the horses may become trapped if wind collapses the building.
- Electrical lines: Keep horses out of pastures with power lines.
- Trees with shallow roots will fall easily under hurricane-force winds and can injure the horse or destroy the fencing.
- Fencing: Do not keep horses in barbed wire or electric fencing during a storm.
- Fire ants and snakes will search for high ground during flooding. Carefully look over the premises and feed for these potential dangers.
- Each horse should have 12 to 20 gallons per day stored.
- Fill garbage cans with plastic liners and fill all water troughs.
- Have a generator to run the well if you have large numbers of horses.
- Keep chlorine bleach on hand to add to contaminated water, if necessary. To purify water, add two drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes.
Store a minimum of 72 hours of feed and hay (seven days is best). It is very possible that roads will be closed because of downed power lines and trees, limiting access to feed stores. Cover hay with waterproof tarps and place it on pallets. Keep grain in water-tight containers.
- Secure all movable objects.
- Remove all items from hallways.
- Jumps and lawn furniture should be secured in a safe place.
- Place large vehicles, tractors and trailers in an open field where trees cannot fall on them.
- Turn off electrical power to barn.
The AQHA’s FREEE Coat Color Genetics report is helpful when determining a new foal’s color, and it’s great for science projects and school reports.
Emergency first-aid kit
- Bandages (leg wraps and quilts)
- Topical antibiotic ointments
- Pain relievers (phenylbutazone or Banamine)
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Extra halters and lead ropes
- Clean towels
- Chain saw and fuel
- Hammer and nails
- Fence repair materials
- Wire cutters, tool box, pry bar
- Fire extinguisher
- Duct tape
After the Storm
Carefully inspect each horse for injury to eyes and limbs.
Walk the pasture to remove debris. Make sure that no red maple tree braches fell in the pasture. Just a few wilted leaves are very toxic to horses. Clinical signs of red maple toxicity are dark-chocolate-colored gums, anorexia and red urine.
Inspect the property for downed power lines.
Take pictures of storm damage.
If your horse is missing, contact the local animal control or disaster response team.
For more information regarding general emergency management in the state of Florida, click here.
You can also find additional emergency information here.