With Tropical Storm Isaac intensifying as it approaches the Gulf Coast, Laura Cox reminds us of the extra precautions horse owners must take to safeguard their steeds.
Top photo: The Weather Channel
You may be prepared for bad weather, but are your horses?
Advanced warning systems from the National Weather Service are far superior to those in the past; when heeded immediately, outcomes are far more desirable for proper preparation for the storms. While warnings for a tornado on the ground can be a matter of minutes, sometimes less, the conditions for a storm are often known in upwards of a day in advance. Weather patterns have been studied enough to provide us with enough warning to prepare not only ourselves for a day of active weather, but our horses has well.
Hurricane warnings can be predicted fairly accurately with warnings of up to a week out. What we do with those warnings and how we prepare for disaster can determine how positive or negative our outcome can be.
Heed evacuation warnings. Water can rise at a rapid rate and roads can quickly become impassible like this one during the May 2010 flood in Nashville, Tn.
Until I was 17, the biggest concerns I had for my horses regarding weather related threats were lightening and tornadoes. Living in east Tennessee, my sister and I pasture boarded our horses with plenty of tree coverage, hills, and valleys serving as natural shelters from the external elements. With vast pastures and the wild-like lifestyle they were provided, I had very little to fear even in the worst of storms as they had plenty room to put natural instinct into effect.
After a brief stint in Alabama, my family packed up, horses and all and made the long trek down to the very southwest corner of Georgia, brushing the Florida border. Not only did I find myself on the southern edge of Dixie Alley, but I was also much closer to the Gulf of Mexico and the subsequent hurricanes and tornadoes that come with living there. Our horses were also now living on far less pasture space in comparison to the large boarding facility they were once accustomed to.
Our first major event was a tropical storm that made land fall two weeks after our move. I hate to admit it, but it caught us off guard. While it was mainly a rain and wind event, it was a wake-up call that we needed to be prepared for the next one, because the outcome could have been worse. I was fortunate to learn my lesson on being prepared before having to experience anything worse. My goal is to help jump start your own preparedness plan.
If you do not have an emergency plan for yourself or your horses, I highly recommend making one sooner than later. To help you get started, I am going to highlight some important features your horse’s plan should include. As always, feel free to tweak the plan in accordance to your situation.
- The first step is determining what weather elements require plans, be it hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, or even earthquakes.
- Determine if you need to evacuate your horse(s) (primarily for hurricanes or flooding events)
- Have a prearranged evacuation point
- Plan route and alternate route to evacuation point
- Have a map of area
- Share your plan with others so that everyone is in the loop with what needs to be accomplished before, during, and after the storm.
- In the event someone else is caring for your horse, making sure they know what to do ahead of time will prevent confusion and loss of valuable time to prepare your horse for the storm
- Have an emergency preparedness kit in your trailer for horse(s) to include, but not limited to:
- Fresh water (you can buy 5-6 gallon cans specifically made for water)
- Enough feed for at least a week
- All supplements and/or medications
- Health certificate and coggins
- Equine First Aid Kit (you can buy these already compiled with basic first aid equipment)
A bright colored duct tape can draw attention to the emergency information attached to your horse’s halter.
- In the event you are not evacuating, have leather or breakaway halters with emergency contact information duct taped on them in the event they escape the property. Strong storms have the capability of blowing trees over or even snapping the chains on your gate leading to a convenient exit for your horse. The emergency information should include the following:
- Horse’s barn name
- Farm address
- Your name and phone numbero Primary veterinarian and their phone number
- Local emergency contact
- Distant emergency contact
- Any medical conditions your horse may suffer from and treatments they require
Strong storms have the capability of blowing trees over which can lead to damaged fences and a great escape for panic stricken horses.
***Always have this information updated and on hand in a watertight bag, such as a heavy duty Ziploc sandwich or freezer bag. When the time comes to use it, all you will have to do is secure it to the halter with some duct tape.
A Mare ID Neck Strap on the market is often used in hurricane areas which can be used as an alternative to the halter, but should contain pertinent information nonetheless.
The Weather Channel has a Family Preparedness Plan available here, should you need assistance developing one for your family. One thing I suggest adding to your family’s kit: copies of your horse’s paperwork as well as detailed photographs of your horse(s) in the event you are separated. This can aid rescue workers in properly identifying your horse.
Now that you have the tools and a template, start creating your own Equine Emergency Preparedness Plan so that you are not caught off guard in the event Mother Nature strikes.