With Hurricane Ian in our past, many horses were displaced along the coast of Florida. As hurricane season is upon us, it is time to start thinking about how to prepare and develop a plan to keep you and your livestock safe in the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane. Catastrophic weather events like fire and storms can have a terrible outcome for horses and owners if a plan is not in place. In the Southeast, we need to be prepared for tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, thunderstorms, ice, and fire. These all seem like unimaginable right now during fair weather, but some time and planning ahead of time can save you and your horse’s life. The ultimate goal is to reduce stress during the ultimate stressful situation of trying to ensure you and your animals are safe. You can reach out to your local animal control or even the UGA Extension offices to find evacuation options as well as help with devising a plan for your barn if you need to keep animals safe at the barn or pasture.
Our equine partners are family, but they are still animals and will have a vastly different reaction to handling under the stress of an imminent storm or pressing fire. Be sure that you have a practiced plan in place that will allow you to remain calm and keep your horses stress free while implementing the plan.
Have an evacuation route in place and know where you can house your horses outside of the danger zone. Share your evacuation plan with friends and family as well. Discuss with your family and team how you will transport, load and what you will need to take. Do not wait until the last minute to evacuate or try to create a plan. Plan more than one route of evacuation from your barn. Ensure your horses all load easily and are easy to catch in the pasture. Ensure your truck and trailer are in good working condition and are fueled up. Heed warnings from weather officials and evacuate early. Be sure to turn off the circuit breaker in your barn if you evacuate. Power surges could cause a fire.
If you plan to evacuate without the animals, they must have access to the stockpiled hay. Have at least a week’s worth of feed and hay in a dry area in case of floods or power outages. Remember to remove the hay string or nets before you leave. Also consider storing water. You will need 12-20 gallons of water per day per horse. There is potential for water lines to break, become contaminated or for the power to be out for pumps.
All horses should receive West Nile and Eastern and Western encephalitis vaccinations at the beginning of hurricane season, due to increased mosquito populations. Keeping an emergency first aid kit is a great plan. This kit should include medications like Banamine and phenylbutazone, salves and other first aid items discussed in Volume I of The Leading Rein. Other items to have on hand include a generator for power, a chainsaw and fuel, emergency fencing materials, flashlights, and batteries, as well as other tools for quick emergency repairs of stalls and fencing.
To stall or turnout?
Many people ask me if it is better to put the horses out or keep them in the barn. I usually say, “It depends.” Be sure to use common sense when making the decision. Consider the barn structure, trees, and powerlines in the vicinity, lightening potential, and flood potential. Will your barn be able to withstand high winds? If not, then consider turning them out. Are there
trees or powerlines that could fall on the barn and start a fire? If there is potential for lightning to strike your horses, consider keeping them up. However, if the flood potential is greater, turning them out Is the safest so they can get to higher ground. In the case of a tornado, out may be the best option. With the unpredictability of a tornado, horses left outside will instinctively find cover and survive. If there is time, evacuate out of the storm’s path, but beware of being caught traveling with a trailer and high winds.
Documentation and Identification
You need to take quality photos of your horses from all sides, also with you and your horse. Put them in a binder with all the horse’s information like age, breed, sex, and color and markings. You will also need registration papers, Coggins tests, health certificates if you are crossing state lines, medical history, and emergency telephone numbers. If your horses were to go missing or escape, you will have documents to show proof of ownership once they are found. You can use halters with luggage tags, neck collars, leg bands, or livestock marking sticks to write your phone number on in case you must leave the horses out. You can also
fill out the card below and stick it in a Ziploc bag then duct tape the information to a non-nylon halter.
Casualties, unfortunately, can happen in the event of a natural disaster. Consider options for insurance policies on your animals with this in mind. Protect your equine and your lifestyle with insurance. In the next issue, we will dive deeper into insurance and all the terminology that goes with the different policy options.
Be sure to carefully assess your horses for injuries or dehydration. Walk the fence line before turning horses out to repair any broken areas. Be sure to remove any and all Red Maple limbs or leaves that may have fallen. These leaves are extremely toxic to horses in even small amounts. If your horse is missing, contact the local animal control and make a post on social media to share.
University of Kentucky: Equine Emergency and Disaster Preparedness
University of Tennessee Extension: Equine Disaster Preparation and Response
University of Minnesota Extension: Preparing for a barn disaster
Ashley Best, Newton County Extension Coordinator & Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent