Keeping Your Horse Safe When Disaster Strikes

Minutes before the devastating May 1999 tornadoes slammed into her town, Sandra Keating of Newcastle, Okla., heard the sirens and ran to a shelter with her husband and two children.

"We barely had time to get ourselves to safety, so we had to leave our horse behind and just hope the barn would be sturdy enough to protect him," she recalls. "Little did we know the tornado would rip the barn apart and literally blow our horse away. Three days later, when a rescue group found him, he still seemed petrified, like he wondered if whatever hit him would soon be back."

Depending on where you live, you may have to deal with earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, brush fires or mudslides. When confronted with such situations you want your horse to stay safe, to be able to escape if necessary, and to handle the stress as well as possible. Here are some things you can do before, during and after a disaster to protect the equine members of your family:

Before Disaster Strikes

During a Disaster

When you hear the emergency sirens, or the authorities knock at your door and order you to evacuate, you usually will have to act fast. "Early and complete evacuation will result in saving the lives of the horses and will decrease the number of people trying to re-enter dangerous areas in order to attempt to save their horses," Lovern says.

Before you turn your horses loose make sure they are properly identified. Equine identification methods include: tattoos, ear tags, halter tags, leg bands, mane clips and permanent marker on hooves.

After Disaster Hits

Granted, natural disasters are not pleasant to think about, but carefully preparing for them could save lives – human and equine. "You should assume it's going to happen to you and be prepared for the worst," adds Hamilton.