September is National Preparedness Month, and given the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Irene, with the death toll on the rise, and the damage to properties reported in the billions, now is the time to re-evaluate your disaster plan for your horse.
Natural disasters often occur without warning, leaving little time to plan and execute emergency procedures for your equine family member. Do you know where the nearest hose is to your horses' stall? Who would you call to trailer out your horse if you were out of town or stuck somewhere else? If your horse escaped its pasture, would someone know how to get ahold of you if they caught him on the side of the road?
These are all very scary, but important, questions to ask yourself. Just like you have an evacuation route at work or school, or a fire extinguisher in your home, you must apply these precautions to your horse and your barn.
The best first step is to find or create a thorough check list of items that you would need in case emergency. Items like medications, water buckets, lead ropes, and a human first aid kit. It's also good idea to purchase Calm & Cool or a similar product in case your horse becomes frightened or overwhelmed. Put these items either in your trailer, your tack room, or tack trunk.
An excellent checklist can be found here.
A brochure from the Humane Society can be found here.
A barn disaster fact sheet from the University of Minnesota can be found here.
A second step would be to prepare your barn just like you would prepare your home. Install fire detectors, purchase a fire extinguisher, and have batteries, a flashlight, and any other tools you might need like a hammer or rope handy in your tack room or trailer. It is also important to make sure your tires on your trailer and truck are in good working order. A trailer with a flat is of no help in an emergency. Always try to keep your tank at least half-full or have a full gas can on hand.
The third step to take is to have an emergency contact at the barn. At larger barns it is possible to board your horse without having to interact with the other boarders. This is the perfect way to meet your horses' neighbors and create a plan if you or the other person is unable to get to the barn in an emergency. It is also a smart idea to have an emergency contact sheet on your horses' stall. Include all possible numbers you can be reached at, your email address, and your horses' veterinary info.
Another step would be to get familiar with your city's emergency website. Find out where your city evacuates large animals if you are unable to reach your horse. Be in the know if an evacuation has been ordered in case your horse lives at home.
This last step comes from personal experience. Growing up in Malibu where fires were a common occurrence, I experienced several equine evacuations. When I was about 9 or 10 there was a huge fire that was burning near a lot of horse properties. The horses were evacuated to the local equestrian center and volunteers had shown up to help hand-walk horses and re-fill water buckets. I noticed that a large majority of the horses' halters had name tags like a dog or cat would have with a name and number. I highly recommend this for all your horses' halters, lead ropes, bell boots, blankets, anything that he could be wearing at the time he would be evacuated. I also recommend taking high quality photos of your horse, especially of any significant markings, in case you need to claim your horse from a rescue organization or in the unfortunate event that he escaped or is lost in the chaos of evacuation.
Be prepared and be safe.
The Complete Equine Emergency Bible