If you're a horse owner, hurricane preparedness includes preparing to keep your horses safe. It is important to have evacuation plans sorted out well in advance, along with having sufficient back-up measures if you are not able to evacuate the horses in time. There are quite a few things to consider, so prepare well ahead of hurricane season and do a few drills for practice.
Method 1 of 4:Making Evacuation Plans
1Make an evacuation plan. This is the preferred option to keep your horses safe, although always realize that it may be hard to carry out your plan if there are obstacles in the way of catching scared horses and getting them out in time. Having an evacuation plan in place will help to ensure that it runs smoothly if you are able to go through with it.
Write your plan down and post it in the barn. Give copies to anyone else who might be involved in caring for your horses and go over it with them so everyone is clear on how to help.
2Choose a location to travel to. It must be well away from any coastal areas and in an area known to be safe from hurricanes. When choosing the place, consider the following:
Do you have the means to evacuate the horses the distance required? This includes having the appropriate transportation and horse trailer(s).
If you have more than 2 horses, do you have other people who will be able to transport out the remaining horses? If so, are they aware that this will be expected of them?
Is the location you've chosen horse-friendly? Can you be assured of keeping your horses there safely, and feeding and exercising them as required? For example, can you go to the farm of a family member or friend? Or is it a known evacuation place suitable for horses? Large animal shelters may be able to accept your horses, but you'll need to know and confirm this well before an actual emergency situation ever occurs. Get their agreement in writing if possible.
What are the costs involved in transporting your horses there? Do you have an emergency fund set up to cover these costs?
What are the insurance implications of evacuating (or not evacuating) your horses?
3Decide when you'll put an evacuation plan into action. It is no good leaving as the hurricane descends. To get your horses to safety, you'll need to leave at least 72 hours before the hurricane is set to arrive in your location.
4Inform your neighbors of your evacuation plans. They may wish to join your plan if they have horses or they may simply appreciate knowing what you intend to do and offer to look out for your house and ranch if you do have to go away.
If your neighbors have horses, you might like to plan a shared group transportation fleet to help get all of the horses out in time.
5Do a trial run of preparing to evacuate. This will help you to catch things that you haven't planned properly for, as well as giving you a sense of the timing involved and what sorts of things you must watch out for under pressure.
Time the evacuation drill to see how much time it takes to do everything.
Obviously, don't drive the horses off your property during a drill; do as much as possible in the drill up to the leaving stage. You can't replicate the conditions of being on the road during an emergency event, so it's not worth the effort and expense.
Method 2 of 4:Preparing the Horses and Gear
1Pack an emergency gear pack for evacuation. In this pack, include all of the needs for your traveling horses, including medicines, first aid items (bandages, etc.), and food and water. Halters, saddles and any other gear you know you'll need should be easily locatable, or spares placed near the emergency gear pack. Pack whatever you can pack ahead of time in an easily identifiable bag or series of bags, including spare horse gear.
Write a legible list of what to grab in the event of an evacuation and place it in an accessible location. This will cover items you can't add to an emergency pack because they're in everyday use, such as saddles, bridles, blankets, etc. Having a list can help calm any sense of panic, and allows you to refer to it methodically as you prepare to leave.
Keep a record of the local authorities and businesses you might need to contact, including the police, animal control, stock feed suppliers and your local veterinary clinics (not just your own, but all of them). Put this list in your emergency pack and make sure everyone involved in your plan has a copy.
Mark packed emergency gear clearly. In some cases, you may need to send someone else to grab this gear and you'll need to be able to direct them to the precise items you need.
2Ensure that all of your horses are properly identified. This means having some form of permanent identification (microchip, tattoo, etc.) and something less permanent, such as a tag or spray paint. You can buy an emergency ID tag that you can quickly and easily clip into the horse's tail or mane.
3Have each of your horses properly up to date with vaccinations. Tetanus and encephalitis vaccinations should be current, along with any other relevant vaccinations pertinent to your location.
Make it easy for people to locate you if they happen to end up with your lost horse. Add your cell phone number, email address, pager number, and, if possible, social media information.
Keep copies of the microchip numbers and other relevant digital information in the cloud, so that it is easily retrievable. For example, email yourself a copy or upload it to your form of cloud storage, such as a permanent online account. Also keep physical copies, because it is very possible to lose access to those files, and you need to be able to retrieve your horse.
Have digital images of your horses stored as well. If your horses do go missing, images can be very helpful, especially for people more inclined to look for patterns and colors than for microchip data or tags.
4Have all of your usual emergency farm, ranch and household supplies sorted out well in advance. This includes tools, generators, fuel, food and water, medications, etc. Prepare whatever is needed for all persons remaining on the property.
Have sufficient lighting (flashlights, etc.), batteries, and a battery-powered radio as part of your household emergency kit.
Method 3 of 4:Making Plans to Stay
1Keep the farm, ranch and yard areas clear of debris throughout the year. In particular, ensure that items that might present a danger during a hurricane are appropriately stored away or tied down during the hurricane season. Doing this can help to reduce the amount of debris flying or floating around during the storm.
2Decide where the horses are likely to be the safest. Will this be in a barn, in a particular field, or in some building not usually designated for the horses? If you aren't sure, ask people who do know to help you scout out the best locations to keep horses on your property during the emergency event.
If your horses are used to staying in a stall or barn, look for a secure outdoor location for them. Putting your horses in an unfamiliar location or new type of housing can be extra stressful for them.
If your property is likely to be flooded, do not keep the horses in a building. They will be more likely to survive if they can run to higher ground of their own accord.
If using a barn or building, remove all hanging items and anything that could cause a threat to the scared horses. Keep the area as clear as possible. Keep the barn in a safe condition; replace anything loose or broken immediately upon discovery––regular maintenance is essential when living in an environment where emergency events are always possible.
3Keep a supply of additional food for the horses if you're planning to stay. It is advisable to always have an additional 3 weeks of food stored for emergencies, as that may be the length of time before help can be obtained for your livestock and horses, whose needs are often ranked more lowly than those of people.
When storing food, choose a dry, high, and safe location to keep it. Do a regular check to ensure that it is not being enjoyed by rats or other animals during storage and replace it every few months with a fresh batch of food, so that no food ever goes to waste.
4Keep water supplies. Have emergency water tanks installed and only use these when necessary. Arrange several large plastic garbage cans with secure lids for filling with water in the event of an emergency. These can be slowly drawn on as the horse's water supply if needed. Always secure the lid carefully to ensure that no water is lost if the can accidentally tips over.
5Develop a telephone tree for calling and texting neighbors when remaining in place. Realize that texting is a good option as it is less likely to overload the phone systems and is less drain on your phone's battery. Texts also tend to eventually get through, even if there are initial delays. By staying in touch, neighbors can help each other during and after the emergency event.
Method 4 of 4:Knowing What to Do after a Storm
1Find your horses if they have weathered the storm outside. This may require doing some asking around with your neighbors if your horses have taken off anywhere––use that cellphone tree you'd already set up as a way to keep an eye out for each other's livestock and horses.
2Clean up your property. As soon as it is safe to do so, clear away debris and start making the property safe for your horses and for people as soon as possible. Use appropriate caution around anything electric and if any item on your property has been submerged, take great care until you know what is under the water. Do not touch anything if you do not know it's safe––wait for the professionals to come and asses it.
Water-damaged items are likely to need replacement and/or removal, so be prepared for this.
Get your insurance documents out and ready for processing.
3Keep your horses safe during recovery. Try to avoid keeping your horses in wet, damp, or moldy environments after the storm. These environments are unhealthy and could be the source of infections or diseases that stressed horses may be more susceptible to. If possible, rig a dry temporary shelter for them until their usual places have dried out. In terms of planning, it might be useful to store some wood for a temporary shelter in a high-up place.