Hurricane season this year runs from June 1st through Nov 30th with the height of the season hitting August through October.
This season has been considerably worse with an estimated 11 to 17 storms being named and 2 to 4 of those reaching a hurricane status of at least a category 3.
As we all know Hurricane Harvey devastated a path from the Houston area all the way into Louisiana in late August with Hurricane Irma smashing into Florida just days ago.
Those of us not in the direct paths of either are not out of the woods yet but we can learn a lot from the horse owners that have already been hit! The following suggestions come from survivors and specialists.
Use common sense and evaluate your property. Pay close attention to the structure and age of your barn, the number and health of the trees and where they are located, where powerlines are located, and what type of fencing is in your pastures. Base your plan off this information but go ahead and make an evacuation plan as well as a plan to stick it out.
Reach out to neighbours and emergency services personnel in your area. Knowing which neighbours have horses and what type of equipment, flood areas, horse trailers, and even the type of barn they have is good information to use when developing a plan.
Host an open house for emergency services personnel so they can familiarize themselves with the layout of your barn and property. Provide tips and/or hands on experience about how to handle your horses. If you have a regular horse nanny, now would be a good time to make sure they know exactly what would be expected for them to do during a natural disaster.
Record any permanent markings (tattoos, brands, microchips) that your horse may have and place this information along with Coggins papers, vet records, medical history, allergies, and emergency numbers in a water-tight envelope and store it in a safe place. Give a copy of all this information to friends or family that live in a different location or out of state.
Using a leather halter (for break-away purposes) attach a luggage tag to the halter. Include on the luggage tag the horse’s name, address, phone number, and the owner’s name. Braid a second luggage tag with same information written on it into the horse’s tail. Do NOT tie the tag around the horse’s tail as this could cut off circulation and cause permanent damage.
Check with your local supply store for permanent fetlock and/or neck identification band availability. Using a small, thin pair of clippers shave your phone number into the hair on your horse’s neck.
Vaccinate your horse for encephalitis and make sure they have had a recent tetanus booster.
If all your horses will not fit in your horse trailer make plans with someone to use their trailer or have them help you when the time comes. Practice loading your horses to ensure that everyone will quickly load when necessary.
Plan to leave 72 hours before the storm is scheduled to arrive. You do not want to be stuck in traffic with a trailer load of horses with a hurricane barreling towards you! Also, check with local authorities as it is often illegal to evacuate with large animals once a hurricane watch is in effect.
Thank you to all the survivors that put together their best advice to help save others the heartache of losing a horse during a natural disaster.
Christy lives in Arkansas and has a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science with an Equine Science minor. She has owned horses and worked in the horse industry most of her adult life and loves training horses, some of which have gone on to win barrels and poles at the Arkansas State Horse Show. Christy says she can’t imagine a life without horses. She also writes a blog for an Instagram account, @eqstyletheory