Keeping Your Horse Safe When Disaster Strikes

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  • Brush fires and floods. In the case of brush fires or floods, your best bet would be to turn your horses loose so they are not trapped in the barn. "From a pure survival standpoint it is amazing what livestock will do instinctively," Hamilton says. "They have an intuitive sense of how to go to safety and they're right a majority of the time."
  • Severe storms. In a severe storm, the safest place for horses is a large pasture with both low areas that provide shelter during a storm and higher areas that will not flood after the storm. Be sure they have access to food and clean water. Don't rely on automatic watering systems because power may be lost. If you have time, secure or remove all outdoor objects that could turn into dangerous flying debris. Shut off main electrical breakers and close gas and water valves.

    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

  • Survey your property. Look for dangerous materials, sharp objects, contaminated water, downed power lines and other hazards. Turn out your horses in safe and secure enclosures.
  • If your horse has been without food for several days reintroduce meals in small servings, working up to full portions.
  • Be patient with your horse. Give him plenty of time to rest and recover from the trauma. "After a disaster it is common for horses to be nervous and frightened," Hamilton says. "You quite often have to spend an inordinate amount of time, sometimes months, sort of erasing a bad memory."
  • If you notice any injuries or health problems consult a veterinarian. Gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea and other anxiety-related sicknesses are common in horses following natural disasters.
  • If your horse is missing, call your local animal control or disaster response team to see if someone found him, contact TV or radio stations that broadcast missing pet announcements, place newspaper ads and distribute posters.

    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.

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