With all of the flooding and fires that parts of the United States has experienced recently, it’s important for horse owners to revisit their checklists on what to do when natural disasters occur. No one likes to think about it, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
1) The main types of disasters are floods, hurricanes, tornados, and wildfires. Depending on what region you live in, you won’t have to worry too much about some of these catastrophic events, but it’s always smart to prepare yourself for anything. The first step to take to be prepared, is to make sure your horse trailer is serviced and fully usable. You do not want to be stuck with an out of service trailer when disaster strikes.
2) Always have first-aid supplies on hand, as well as contact information for important people, such as your veterinarian.
3) If you live along the coast, you’ll often have to keep a very close watch on weather reports. Hurricanes are typically reported in enough time for horse owners to make evacuation plans if necessary. If a particular hurricane looks bad, do not delay or wait last minute to transport your livestock to safer grounds.
4) Wildfires are an issue in many states, and can be highly dangerous, as fires can quickly spread. Again, as with hurricanes, warnings are usually issued in enough time to plan an evacuation. Fires are known to change paths, so stay very cautious when fires are in your area.
5) Tornadoes are harder to predict than hurricanes and fires. When dealing with tornadoes, the best tactic is to release your horse, as a horse has a much better chance of escaping a tornado by running free than waiting it out in a stall. Make sure your horse’s halter has your number on it, or can be identified in a different way, as will be discussed below.
6) There’s always the chance that you will become separated from your horse due to unfortunate events. If you live in an area that experiences a lot of natural disasters, it is wise to have your horse microchipped. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
7) Make sure your horses have received both core and elective vaccines. During an evacuation, your horse is likely to come in close proximity to other horses who have been evacuated, which is why it is so important to take necessary measures to prevent your horse from catching an infectious disease.
8) Regardless of where you’re evacuating from, there are many places in each state that will temporarily house horses. Fairgrounds often offer emergency housing for animals. Make sure you know the closest places out of harm’s way to relocate your horses to in plenty of advance.
9) If you’re traveling over state lines to get to safer land, you will need paperwork, such as a health certificate, and negative Coggins.
The bottom line? Make sure your horse is up to date on vaccinations, stay alert to weather forecasts, make sure your trailer and truck are always fully functional, keep a first aid kit handy, know where emergency housing is for horses, have ways of identifying your horse in the case that separation occurs, and ALWAYS play it safe.