We talk a lot about preparing our homes and families for natural disasters, but let's not forget our horses!
The truth is, disaster preparation for horses requires a special set of considerations. We put together the ultimate guide to making sure your horse is as prepared as you are when Mother Nature throws a curveball.
How to Pack a Horse Emergency Kit
Much like you'd pack an emergency kit for yourself, your horse needs one too. Here's what to include in your equine evacuation kit:
- Horse Feed: A 3-7 day supply of horse feed, stored in airtight containers, should be a priority.
- Water: Horses drink a lot more water than you'd think. Store at least 20 gallons for each day you expect to be without a clean water supply.
- Horse Blankets: For colder weather or to help a horse in shock.
- First Aid Kit: Containing antiseptics, wound dressings, cotton bandages, scissors, and tweezers.
- Probiotics: Probiotics, like Equine Probiotic Paste, can help your horse’s body manage stress.
- Documentation: Keep copies of all identification papers, medical records, and a recent photo of your horse.
- Basic Tools: Think hoof pick, a sharp knife, and wire cutters.
Identifying Your Horse
In the midst of a natural disaster, the possibility of your horse getting lost or separated from you is unfortunately very real. Proper identification can be a game-changer in ensuring a swift and safe reunion. Microchipping is the most permanent and reliable form of identification, and it's a good idea to have this done by your vet if you haven't already.
Consider attaching a sturdy, waterproof tag to your horse's halter that includes your contact information and any special medical needs your horse may have. For an extra layer of precaution, you can also use livestock-safe paint to mark your phone number on your horse’s body or braid a temporary ID tag into their mane.
Keep updated photographs that clearly show any unique markings, brands, or tattoos your horse may have. Store these photos digitally in a place you can easily access them, and keep physical copies in your emergency kit. These multiple forms of identification can be invaluable in helping authorities or good Samaritans return your horse to you in the chaos that often follows a natural disaster.
When it comes to natural disasters, having a well-thought-out evacuation plan for your horse is crucial. Start by identifying several potential safe locations you can take your horse to, ranging from local stables or fairgrounds to friends' or family's properties that are out of the risk zone. Keep an updated list of these places, complete with addresses and contact information.
Next, ensure you have a reliable horse trailer that your horse is comfortable entering and exiting. Regularly practice loading and unloading so that your horse is accustomed to the process, which will help reduce stress during an actual emergency.
Plan multiple escape routes to each safe location, taking into consideration the type of disaster you're most likely to face. For example, flood-prone areas may require higher ground, while wildfires may necessitate routes away from wooded areas.
Keep an emergency kit for your horse easily accessible, and always maintain a full tank of gas in your towing vehicle. Most importantly, don't wait for the last minute—evacuate as early as possible to avoid congested roads and heightened stress for both you and your equine friend.
When Evacuation Isn’t an Option
Sometimes, leaving just isn't possible, but you still need to prepare. First, the place where your horse will ride out the storm has to be secure. Conduct a thorough check of the barn or stable to ensure its structural integrity. Look for things like loose boards, unstable roofing, and signs of decay that could weaken the overall structure.
Make sure all doors and windows are secure; in high winds or floods, these could either get torn open or slammed shut, potentially injuring your horse. If there are any repairs needed, make them as soon as possible.
Remove any loose or hanging items that could become projectiles or fall and injure your horse. Also, scan the environment for objects like nails, broken glass, or loose wires that may not usually be a threat but could become one in a disaster scenario.
During the natural disaster, keep as close an eye on your horse as is safely possible. Ensure that they have everything they need and are not showing signs of undue stress or injury.
Why To Provide Some Freedom During a Natural Disaster
Keeping your horse fenced in but not closed off during a natural disaster strikes a delicate but crucial balance between safety and freedom. A well-enclosed paddock or pasture area provides boundaries that prevent your horse from wandering off into potentially more hazardous areas, like roads or other properties where dangers like downed power lines or flooding may exist.
By not confining your horse to a small, enclosed space like a stable or barn, you allow them the freedom to use their natural instincts to find the safest place within those boundaries to ride out the storm. Horses are quite adept at seeking out natural shelters like overhangs, or placing themselves in a position relative to the wind and elements that offers the most protection.
Smaller enclosures like stables can sometimes become dangerous in themselves, due to the risk of structural collapse or flying debris. By keeping your horse fenced in but not closed off, you provide them the safety of a defined area while also allowing them the liberty to exercise their natural survival instincts.
After the Disaster
In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, your horse will likely be stressed, potentially disoriented, and at risk for injuries or health issues. The first step is to conduct a thorough but gentle physical examination to check for injuries, signs of dehydration, or symptoms of shock.
Prioritize a vet check-up as soon as feasible. Offer clean, fresh water to keep your horse hydrated, but be cautious with feeding; a sudden large meal can be harmful if your horse has gone a period without eating. Gradually reintroduce feed to avoid digestive issues.
Assess the safety of your barn, paddock, or pasture to ensure there are no hazards like downed power lines, sharp debris, or insecure fencing. Take photos of any damage for insurance purposes. Re-establish a sense of routine as quickly as possible to help your horse adjust back to normal life; familiar routines can help alleviate stress.
Monitoring your horse's behavior and health closely for the next few days is crucial, as some issues may not present themselves immediately. In this stressful time, your calm presence can also be a source of comfort to your horse, so try to spend some quality time together as you both recover.
→Highly Recommended: Equine Probiotic Paste can help restore the microbiome after periods of stress. Make sure you have 2-3 tubes in your equine disaster preparedness kit.←