Hurricane preparedness is not an event that happens in the week before a hurricane; it is an ongoing and long-term activity. This is especially true for people who own horses. Seeing Harvey’s devastation and with Irma looming and Jose following along, it is time for horse owners to take action.
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Why I am off Topic
This was not the article I intended to write today. My normal topics are all about fun: camping, trail riding, kayaking, and hiking. You get the picture. So why am talking about such a somber subject, you ask? I am seeing panicked people wondering how they are going to evacuate their horse if Irma hits. People are posting questions on Facebook asking the public on the internet if they think Florida will let their horse out without a health certificate because it is an emergency.
It is important to have a plan and not a meltdown. Though this advice is almost too late for Irma: make a plan while the weather is good so that your actions are methodical instead of reactive. This article intends to help you make that plan.
Make a folder of all the information that you could need for an emergency and keep it in a place where you have easy access. While an electronic version of this information is wonderful, make sure you print out a hard copy in the event you do not have electronic access. The following lists are not exhaustive, but they are a good start.
- A Family Communication Plan (fill this out, print it, and distribute to family members)
- Emergency Management Offices
- County Law Enforcement
- County Public Safety Fire/Rescue
- American Red Cross
- TV Stations
- Radio Stations
- Insurance Agents’ Information and Policies
- Evacuation Routes
- Your Doctor’s Information
- Copies of Insurance Cards
- Personal Emergency Contacts (your phone may not work)
- Proof of Address
- Deed or Lease to Your Home
- Registration Papers
- Bill of Sale or Other Proof of Ownership
- Health Certificate
- Brand Inspection (if required)
- Your Vet’s Information
- Your Farrier’s Information
- Vet Information for Intended Evacuation Location
- Farrier Information for Intended Evacuation Location
Put Together a Supply Kit
From the human perspective, if you are a camper, you already have most of the supplies you need for an extended stay away from home or at home with no electricity and water. We all knew that gear would come in really handy. Yeah, that is our excuse for spending all that money to live like we’re homeless.
It is just as important to put together a supply kit for your horse as it is for humans. There are special considerations for horses. For instance, horses do not cope well with sudden feed changes. Traveling and changes in the atmosphere can bring on a case of colic. It is a good idea to get extra medications from your vet for an emergency kit. Make sure you have extras of your horse’s feed and hay. Consider buying hydration hay for the road. If you are not evacuating, make sure you have enough water for your horse to last at least three days. Keep enough feed on hand or two weeks; your feed store could be closed for an extended period of time.
A best practice to ensure you have all the items necessary to care for your horse away from home is to keep duplicate items in your horse trailer, when possible. Horse Supplies such as brushes, hoof picks, first aid items, and extra halters and leads are relatively inexpensive to replicate. Make a checklist of what you will need to care for your horse at another location.
Click here for a list of human supplies. Consider using dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. A water filtration system will keep you from standing in line for water. Solar Lanterns are a great alternative to flashlights and need no batteries (other than the built-in, solar storage). Keep fuel for your camp stove on hand.
Emergency Identification and Contact for Your Horse
Even if you intend to evacuate, mark your horse with your contact information. You never know when your horse could get loose at an evacuation site. You can do this by:
- freeze branding
- braiding luggage tags or streamers into the mane
- writing your phone number on the horse with a cattle marker
- writing your phone number on hooves with a sharpie or nail polish
- using fetlock bracelets
My preferred method is using a cattle marker to write your phone number in “a large font” on both sides and on top of the horse’s back. Someone has to be able to catch your horse to read tags or scan for a microchip. A freeze brand is great for identification, but not for contacting you. You also have to assume your horse will allow someone to catch it or that the person that finds it is not afraid to catch it. Even a horse that is easy to catch may not allow a person to approach them once spooked by the storm. A large phone number can be seen from a distance. A phone number along the horse’s back can be seen from a helicopter. Your chances of someone contacting you about a found horse are much greater with a large number written all over them. And while we are at it, please make sure your print is legible and you use a marker color that contrasts with your horse’s coat color.
What Actions Should I Take?
The largest decision you are going to have to make is whether to evacuate or ride it out. Please let local evacuation plans and your best judgement dictate this decision. If an evacuation is ordered, follow it. If there is no evacuation ordered, please do it anyway if you feel it may be in your best interest. Stay safe at all cost.
If you choose to ride it out, remove objects that could be caught by wind, mark your horse with your contact information, use breakaway halters and house your horse as safely as possible. It has long been considered to be more safe for horses to be turned out rather than trapped in a collapsing barn. The horses usually circle up with heads in the center and butts to the wind. Store enough water to last your horse for at least three days.
If you choose to evacuate, do it sooner rather than later. You do not want your horse to be trapped in a hot trailer in an evacuation traffic jam. Make sure you know where you are going. You can find many places to stay on www.horsemotel.com. Another good resource is social media, such as Facebook groups, where people around the country offer their property as a haven.
Make sure your horse will load on a trailer in any situation. If you do not have a trailer, invest the money in paying a friend to bring their trailer over for a training session. Hire a professional trainer, if you do not have the required skill set. Just make sure your horse is going to get on a trailer if there is an emergency.
While we are on the subject of training, make sure your horse is trained to be caught and I do not mean with a bucket of grain. Your horse should willing allow a person to approach and halter them. Ideally, you horse should come when called.
Make a health certificate part of your routine vet appointments for vaccinations and apply for a six month passport. At worst, your horse’s life may depend on it; at best, you can have a lot of fun exploring new trails or attending new shows in other states. It is a small price to pay for an “insurance policy” that you can leave the state suddenly, if needed. In particular, Florida may allow you to leave the state without a health certificate when it is under a state of emergency, but they are not going to let you back in once the hurricane has passed. Make sure you have an active health certificate; vets will be backed up with requests once a hurricane watch starts.
Lastly, all of this applies to wildfires as much as it does hurricanes. Be safe and I am wishing you the best.
See Disaster Victims Can Learn from Campers for more information.
Florida has lifted the health certificate requirement for hurricane Irma. You must stop at the Agricultural station to receive a voucher to re-enter the state.