Catastrophes can happen anywhere and can take different forms, from the most common barn fires to hurricanes, floods and wildfires. During any emergency, the time you have to evacuate may be limited.
Most horse owners live in horse communities. Contact your neighbors long before hurricane season, and organize your own neighborhood disaster committee.
Schedule meetings at which horse owners discuss who has what in the way of equipment, concrete barns, flood areas, etc., and explore ways in which neighbors can help neighbors to accomplish a great deal.
Need Help? Contact your county animal disaster team and they will be glad to help you form such a committee.
After Hurricane Andrew, 80% of the horses found carried no identification. This made the job of reuniting animals and owners much more difficult. Veterans of that storm compiled a list of suggestions to help ensure that your animal can be identified in the confusion that follows a hurricane.
The following list includes a variety of alternatives from which you can choose:
The very first thing to do and in many ways the most important is make sure your horse is up-to-date with a tetanus booster and has had a vaccination for encephalitis, commonly known as sleeping sickness. This disease is carried by mosquitoes and the height of infection is July and August, just when storm, hurricane and flood season is at its height.
This disease can kill both humans and horses, and should not be taken lightly. Horses should be vaccinated at least every six months, but most large stables do this every four months. See your personal veterinarian for details.
If you plan to evacuate in the event of a storm, have your destination and routes thought out well in advance.
January, February and March would be good months to do this.
Plan to leave 48 hours before the arrival of the storm. The worst thing that can happen to you is to get stuck in traffic with a trailer full of horses and a hurricane or tornadoapproaching.
Hurricanes toss loaded trailers around like they are made of match sticks.
Again, check with local authorities. It is often illegal to evacuate with large animals once a hurricane or tornado watch is in effect.
The choice of keeping your horse in a barn or an open field is entirely up to you. Use common sense, taking into consideration barn structure, trees, power lines, and the condition of surrounding properties.
The safest place for large animals to weather a storm is in a large pasture. Assess your particular situation carefully. The pasture should meet as many of the following guidelines as possible:
Prepare an emergency animal care kit (waterproof) with all the items you normally use: medications, salves, ointments, vet wraps, bandages, tape, etc. Place the kit in a safe place where you can get to it after a storm.
After the storm has passed, roads will probably be blocked or flooded. Working in pairs, try to locate your nearest neighbor. Here are some other post-disaster pointers:
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Navigating Natural Disaster with Horses; by Heather Smith Thomas; The Horse magazine; March 2, 2015