In Florida, weather can change drastically and it’s best to always be prepared in case of any disaster. In any event make sure your horses are used to using different exits of the barn/property, able to load into a trailer, and that there is a plan for fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and evacuation. Get in touch with your neighbors and community of places you can take your horses if your property can no longer house them due to an emergency.
No matter the emergency:
- Keep extra halters and lead ropes.
- Keep an emergency first aid kit.
- Keep vaccinations, coggins, and health certificates handy.
- Keep a list of emergency contacts within view at your barn.
- Have fellow horse community members in contact if you need help.
- Consistently work with your horses so they are easy to handle in situations.
Ex: Trailering, new environments, desensitized to new items, etc.
- Have plenty of hay and feed to last the duration, if you are expecting a hurricane, try to have enough for at least one week in-case roads are closed or stores are out of stock. Some people state that hurricanes cause changes in the atmosphere that can increase chances of colic, speak to your vet on their suggestions for your specific horse.
- Save water, sometimes the water will be turned off in the event of a hurricane, many barn owners will take large water troughs and fill them up to store water. If horses refuse to drink the water, some owners will add electrolytes.
- Keep yard clutter/debris to a minimum at all times, do not wait for the last-minute to trim branches that you anticipate breaking – often times waste management gets too overwhelmed and it can take months for them to pick up debris. It is best to take care of your yard before you expect any hurricane. With that being said, do not leave trash or items in your yard that can cause damage if it were to hit anything.
- Keep a first aid kit handy, sometimes roads get blocked from fallen trees and stores will be closed. Discuss with your vet what they suggest medication wise. Experienced horse owners have pain medication and sedatives if needed.
- Phones and internet may not work, let others know where you will be staying and how many animals are with you. Some people will make signs that can be seen from the road that have a status of “We are Ok” or “We need help.”
- Make sure your horse is identifiable, some owners will apply animal safe paint on the coat with the address or phone number, some braid cloth (or dog tags) with important information into the horse’s mane or tail, others paint the hooves. You can ask your vet about using a microchip. Some horse owners are hesitant on keeping halters (or fly masks) on horses in case it were to get caught on anything that could harm the horse. Keep pictures and the horse’s coggins with you in the event your horse goes missing.
- There is often a debate on keeping the horses turned out in the pasture or stalled in a barn during a hurricane. Many experts advise you to weigh the options on how sturdy your barn is, risk of trees falling on the barn, or risk of debris hurting your horse in the pasture. If a wind storm will blow your barn over, keep the horse turned out.
- Do not forget basic safety, keeping a fire extinguisher close by and think of fire prevention (and plan if there is one). During a hurricane, emergency services may not be to help when wind speeds exceed a certain limit, it’s unfortunate but some people have to handle emergencies on their own. Make sure there is an emergency exit if all the windows are closed up.
- Avoid standing in water in-case there are downed power lines. Expect to lose power. Some people advise keeping the electricity turned off in the barn during a storm in-case the roof flies off so that power lines do not shock the horses.
- P.S. If you use a generator, make sure the exhaust goes outside, do not use it in a closed room.
- If you are evacuating due to a hurricane, try to find places more inland and up north if possible. Many stables that host large shows will open their doors in the time of an emergency, check Facebook groups for actively accepting barns or here.
- If going a far distance, try to leave before the general public does to avoid sitting in traffic for a long period of time.
- Health Certificates are required to transport horses out of state and can take 1-2 weeks to obtain.
- Be in the habit of checking your horse trailer regularly in-case of emergent need.
- Remember: Most barns will only accept safe horses and those who can present a coggins/health certificate. Try to keep these items up to date at all times and keep your horse’s training consistent to handle new environments and situations.
- Most barns do not accept stallions, if you own one, set up an emergency list of barns that do in case you need them.
- Many people panic when they need to get their horses evacuated, to the point of purchasing any truck or trailer that will transport their horses – keep in mind, insurance agencies might turn down new purchases when mandatory evacuation is ordered. Try to make purchases before the “rush” sets in.