So I am planner and preparer, I always have been. I am not an official anything when it comes to emergency equine management, but I have had some life experience with hurricanes and other natural disasters so below are some helpful tips to make sure that you and your horse are ready for a storm. This is of course inspired by the fact that Hurricane Matthew is currently heading towards Florida. One thing that I just want to say before I start this post is to make sure that your horse is always up to date on vaccinations and worm free with records of both. This way if you have to evacuate (before, during or after the storm) you can prove that your horse is not a health risk to other equines. I highly recommend you keeping a copy of you latest coggins, receipt from your wormer and bill from vaccinations in a ziplock bag in your tack trunk or trailer. Gen cannot safely be trailered, so I would not be able to evacuate him, so below are the tips for sheltering in place with horses during a Hurricane.
1) Have 5 days of Fresh, Clean Water on Hand – No, I am not kidding. You should have 60 gallons a horse minimum on hand. This sounds like a lot of water, but think about all of the spare buckets you have lying around the barn and how much can fit in your horses outside water troughs. I also have two of the water cooler containers (https://www.amazon.com/Bluewave-Gallon-BPA-Free-Water-Bottle/dp/B000ZHMVM8/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1475758852&sr=8-8&keywords=water+cooler+container) that I got at Walmart (for way less than what Amazon wants) so when a storm comes I take these containers that normally live in my trailer and just fill them up and leave them at the barn in case they are needed (and they have been). Last horse show I went to I saw several people with these more affordable 5 gallon containers what worked just as well. https://www.amazon.com/Coleman-Water-Carrier-5-Gallon-Blue/dp/B00168PI4S/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475758779&sr=8-1&keywords=water+cooler+container. Your outside troughs should be filled up to a few inches from the top (rain will likely top them off) and should be in an area that you can access easily in case you need to fill barn buckets.
2) Have Enough Grain and Hay for 2 weeks – You should assume that you may not be able to turn your horses out, or that the ground could be compromised, so you need to have enough hay on hand for that to be the main forage for your horses for at least week. You should also have grain on hand in case the roads are closed and supply trucks cannot get through. We all know how sensitive a horses tummy is, so making sure you have enough of what they are used to can save your horse from getting stressed about what they eat. You should store everything in an area that will stay dry. A large plastic container with a lid (like a trash can) can be an easy way to store spare bags of grain so they do not get wet. You can also see if you can get some wooden pallets for your hay to keep it a few inches off the ground. Even just putting a tarp on the ground, putting the hay over it and then tying the tarp over the hay can help to keep it moisture free.
3) Have Basic Medical Supplies on Site – I know that most of us keep handy a salve for cuts or a spare thing of Bute, but if a storm is coming you should go through your horsey first aid kit and make sure it is current. I typically have tons of medication that expires in my trunk (and I am not complaining about it!) If a storm is coming, I will check the dates on my medications and make sure that it is all still useable. Here is a link to a post I wrote about a basic first aid kit https://onthebit.wordpress.com/2008/11/11/first-aid-kit-for-horses/ and in addition to that I recommend that you have a pain killer, an antibiotic, a sedative and an anti-inflammatory on hand. You should also check to see if your vet is riding out the storm, and if not, who you can call if there is an emergency.
4) Have an Enclosed Shelter for Your Horses that Does Not Flood – This can be tricky because not everyone has a standing barn structure, and even some people that do know that it will flood. You want somewhere for your horses to be able to get out of the wind and rain if needed. If you know that in your barn there is one stall that floods or a place that has a leak in the roof, see what else you can use to provide your horse a dry place. One solution I have seen in a farm with no real barn is to have gates put up against a run-in shed. These horse owners never restricted their horse’s movement, so it would have been more stressful locking their horses up. Instead, they allowed their horses to be free, but had gates they attached to either side of the run-in so if they needed to contain them, they should round them up and close them in. During one hurricane a few years back the barn I was at knew that the two end stalls were likely to flood so they created two fake stalls in the aisle of the barn for those horses.
5) Have Extra Shavings/Blankets/Coolers/Towels on Hand – It is October, not exactly blanket weather, especially not in Florida. That being said, it is important to try and keep horses coats and feet dry without over heating them. Think about how much shavings/pellets that you use in a normal 24 hour period when you horse is in. Multiply that by 7 days and then add in a few extra bags just to be safe. You should also have towels and coolers on hand just in case one of your horses get wet. Fungus and other moisture loving problems can happen fast, so you want to be prepared to prevent them instead of spending weeks trying to cure them!
6) Write Your Name and Phone Number on Your Horses Hoof – Okay, I wouldn’t do this any time a big weather event comes around, but with a category 4 Hurricane I would do this as a precaution. Just grab any old Sharpe marker (metallic for black hoof) and put your thumb up to the coronet band, and write right below that (about half an inch down). Sharpe’s are water proof and once you get the all clear it would literally take 2 swipes from a sanding block to erase the writing. You should write your name (or your horse’s name), address of the barn, and phone number you can be reached at. That way if they get out or need to be rescued, they at least have some identifying information.
7) Trim Any Branches or Trees that are Near Where Your Horses are Sheltered – I know trees are beautiful, and they are great at providing shade, but Hurricanes can take down even the healthiest of trees. You may not be able to avoid a tree or branch from coming down, but you can at least take a look near the shelter and see how the trees are looking. If one is not looking healthy or there is a low hanging branch, you can take care of it before hurricane force winds do!
8) Have Two Halters on Hand for Each Horse – I know this sounds crazy, but trust me on this one. You want to keep one halter close to each horse, if they are turned out in a small field you should think about putting a halter on them during the storm. In addition to that, you should have an extra halter for each horse in a central location. That location may be a rubber container with a lid inside the house or it may be in a trailer, tack room or fence post. If there is a problem with the shelter or your horse gets out the last thing you need to do is go hunting for a halter. I would also have lead ropes rolled up in the same area as the halters.
9) Keep Extra Fence Boards and Posts on Hand – Sounds silly right? Well, after Hurricane Sandy I couldn’t get to the barn because of road closures. That also meant that the barn owners where I board couldn’t get out. There were a ton of fences and fence posts down so even after the hurricane cleared up, the horses were stuck inside waiting their turn to go out for an hour or two in the one undamaged field. Even better? The fence place opened the day after the hurricane and SOLD OUT of fence posts and boards within 2 hours. By lunch time that day the Facebook boards were going crazy because there wasn’t a single fence post to be found in the state. They were all sold out until another shipment could get through…10 days later! Luckily for Gen, I live close to a fencing company so even though phones were down, I got an e-mail from the barn owners asking if I could run over in person. I could, and it was lucky I did (and that their credit card was on file) because I was able to buy the fencing and have it waiting for as soon as the barn owners could get down. If we hadn’t gotten lucky we would have had some very unhappy ponies!
10) Be Ready for the Storm Yourself – Make sure you have an emergency radio, flashlights, food, water, shelter and anything else you may need for the storm. You need to be okay in order to take care of anything else!
Anyone out there have any other tips? I would love to know if I am missing anything from my preparedness plan! I board Gen, so many of these tips do not apply to me, but as a boarder I can do things like help with water supply, make sure Gen’s records are available and try and make sure all of Gen’s supplies are in working order and easy to locate. Good luck to all my readers out there who are likely going to get impacted. My thoughts are with you!
I found some great resources online for those of you getting ready for Hurricane Matthew! See the links below