Hurricane Prep for Horse Owners

As the east coast braces for Hurricane Irene, horse and stable owners should be in full gear preparing. The National Hurricane Center says a Hurricane Watch, which indicates a possible hurricane within the next 48 hours, has been issued for New York and Boston.

Five states including New York and New Jersey have already issued state of emergencies. Officials say Irene could be the worst hurricane to ever hit the Northeast causing major flooding and damage.

The Hampton Classic Horse Show in Bridgehampton, New York postponed its opening day which was scheduled for Sunday, due to the hurricane. According to a press release, no horses should be shipped to the show grounds until Tuesday, August 30. The show is currently scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

So what should you be doing to get ready if you’re in the hit zone?

Evacuation

If your barn wasn’t built to withstand hurricanes, it may be smart to get on the road and out of the path of danger. Give yourself plenty of time, experts recommend at least 48 hours prior to the storm landing, especially when hauling horses. Prior to getting on the road, have your route planned which includes an alternate route.

Make sure you have secured stabling for the horses and know the paperwork requirements for where you are headed. Let the other farm know exactly what to expect in terms of the number of horses, and any special needs your horses may have to make everything less stressful on everyone involved. This would also be a good time to ask about feed stores in the area if you can’t transport enough for the time you’ll be gone.

Make sure to plan for your needs as well. As “horse people” we often tend to forget about ourselves, but make sure to book a hotel if needed, bring your medicine, bottled water, some food, and anything else you need.

If you have other pets you will also need to plan for them on the trip. If the horses are being moved, no other animals should be left behind on the property to fend for themselves.

Be sure to secure your property and possessions prior to leaving. It is also important to make sure your family and friends know where you are headed and how to reach you. You will want to have your book of important contacts with you including your insurance company for your property.

When evacuating, the following should be current and carried with you. Using a binder with clear pages for each horse can help keep things neat and easily accessible when needed.

– Health certifications for all animals being transported (don’t forget to ask your vet about requirements for dogs)

– Make sure all vaccinations are up to date

– Original negative coggins

– Proof of ownership documents

– Insurance information for horses

– Microchipping paperwork

Carrying an ample supply of fresh water and buckets on the trailer will be very important during the evacuation in case you are caught in traffic for any duration. You will want to be able to provide the horses water while waiting on the highway. A generous supply of hay and grain will also be necessary.[irp]

Plan to be in contact with a neighbor after the storm to access any damage and so you can determine when you can return.

If you want to evacuate locally, now is the time to start looking to see if local facilities or stadiums in your area are serving as horse shelters. Space will be limited and on a first come, first served basis for those with the proper documentation of shot records, coggins, etc. It is important if evacuating within the hurricane zone to make sure your horse is identified properly.

Staying

Boarding stable operators and horse trainers, dedicated to the care of others’ horses, may not have the option of transporting numerous horses out. For those staying where Irene will make land-fall, identification of your horses is essential.

Put together an identification package for each of your horses in a ziploc bag for easy access after the storm. Remember, if your horses get loose, you will want to be able to easily prove which horses are yours. Do not include original documents. Include a photo of you with your horse, a copy of coggins, papers, microchip / brand information, and any identifiable marks.

Get leather luggage tags and braid them into the main and tail. Experts caution not to tie the tag around the bone of the tail, however. Additionally, make sure your horse is wearing a leather halter (do not leave a nylon halter on your horse during the storm) and put in a 3X5 index card in a ziploc with your horse’s complete information including your name, and contact information. Then tape it on your horse’s leather halter. You can also purchase fetlock bands to put your contact information on and even shave your number into your horse’s coat if you wish with electric clippers. Spray paint works well too for putting phone numbers on horses.

Keeping horses in the barn or leaving them in pastures during the storm is a deeply personal decision. Consider the properties surrounding yours. Anything left outside, including debris, could become missiles which would easily puncture a horse’s delicate flesh. Think about power poles, trees, and anything else that could fall during the storm.

Make sure you have at least three weeks of hay and grain on hand and that it is stored high so that if your farm floods, it won’t be ruined. It may also need to be wrapped in plastic tarps. You will also want to prepare for not having a water supply by filling large cans with water. Make sure the can’s tops seal. Store these for after the storm.

Additionally, get a medical kit put together for horses and humans if you don’t already have one.