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Weekend Wellness: Protecting Your Horse During a Disaster

Equine wellness extends beyond routine care — it also means being prepared for when the unexpected occurs.

Horse ownership and care extends beyond being responsible for the horse’s well-being when your normal routine is in place — it also means looking out for your horse’s welfare during a disaster. Whether it’s extreme weather or another emergency, it’s important for horse owners to have a plan in place for when the unexpected occurs.

Photo by JPhilipson.

Here are some tips to help you protect your horse or horses in the case of emergencies:

  • Have a personal plan for your family including your animals and review and update the plan yearly. Saving the Whole Family, a useful guide from the American Veterinary Medical Association, offers a comprehensive list of what needs to be done to safeguard pets before, during and after a disaster.
  • Be sure your horse is up to date on all vaccines for tetanus and the encephalitis viruses (Rabies, Eastern, Western, and West Nile).
  • Utilize your local farm/horse-owning network by developing a plan to help one another in instances of disaster. Get to know your neighbors, plan a meeting, talk through different scenarios and identify the local resources for dealing with disaster situations. Be prepared to help each other.
  • Know the emergency managers and responders in your area! These are the folks in charge during a disaster — sheriff, animal control, veterinarians, etc. Similarly, you’ll want to find out what veterinarians in your area are equipped for emergency medical care after hours.
  • Be sure that your horse has two forms of identification:
    1. Permanent identification such as a microchip, tattoo or brand
    2. Luggage-style tags secured to the tail and break-away halter. Fetlock tags are useful and can be acquired on-line or from a local farm supply store or you can use a paint stick or non-toxic spray paint. Be sure to place your name, address and phone number (the phone number of someone out of the area/state is best in the event of phone outages) legibly on the tags.
  • Be sure to store the record for the microchip number (i.e., E.I.A. or Coggins form) in an accessible location. You should keep a second copy of this information with a family member or friend in a distant location but where it will be easily accessible.
  • If you think you may be in a situation where you need to evacuate (and you should plan for this if possible), have a destination and route(s) mapped out well in advance. Consider viable modes of transportation as well. If you live in an area where hurricanes are regular occurrences, arrange to leave a minimum of 72 hours before the arrival of the storm. The worst thing that can happen is to be stuck in traffic with a trailer full of horses and a storm approaching. Provide your neighbors with your evacuation contact information.
  • Prepare a waterproof emergency animal care kit with all the items you normally use, including medications, salves or ointments, vetwrap, bandages, tape, etc. Place the kit in a safe place where you can easily access it after a disaster.
  • Once the emergency has passed. work early to clean up your property and remove all debris that may be present. Be careful of down power lines that can be “live” and represent a danger to people and animals.
  • If you can not evacuate during a disaster, here are some general guidelines to follow:
    – The choice of keeping your horse in a barn or an open field is up to you. Use common sense, taking into consideration barn structure, trees, power lines, condition of surrounding properties and the likelihood of property and structure damage. Farms subject to storm surge, flash flooding, tornadoes or other situations in which a horse could be trapped should turn their horses out.
    – Remove all items from the barn aisle and walls, and store them in a safe place.
    – Have at least a two- to three-week supply of hay and feed. Both hay and feed should be stored in a manner to protect them from the elements. If you’re worried about flooding or water damage, have them wrapped in plastic/in plastic containers with duct taped seams to protect them.
    – If there’s a chance that potable water will be unavailable, fill clean plastic garbage cans with water, secure the tops and place them in the barn for use after the disaster.
    – Have an emergency barn kit containing a chain saw and fuel, hammer(s), saw, nails, screws and fencing materials. Place this kit in a secure area so that it is easily accessible during or after a disaster.
    – Be sure to have an ample supply of flashlights and batteries and other non-perishable items.
    – Listen to local radio stations in your area. If Internet access is available, access state-run websites that contain accurate status information (i.e., State Police, State University, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, etc.). Take all cautions/warning serious and act accordingly.

What else do you do to make sure you will be able to look out for your horses during a disaster? Share in the comment section.

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