Is Your Horse Facility Prepared for an Emergency?
Posted: October 19, 2011
This season, our neighbors in eastern PA recently experience extensive flooding. Many of us were holding our breath, anticipating we too could experience the raft of Mother Nature’s fury. Areas that were spared large scale flooding may have experienced low drainage flooding and basement water, but not anything compared to what others on the Eastern seacoast experienced.
I thought it would be helpful to share with horse owners suggestions one should consider when experiencing an emergency situation. Every situation could pose the need for different solutions, but basic preparedness could be extremely valuable. Make plans to have a responsible capable person who is willing to care for your horses if you are unavailable. This person needs to have visited your farm during normal daily activities so that they are familiar with the horses, the layout and rituals required to care for your horses.
It would be helpful to post an emergency plan in your barn that is in a location that you have shared with the caretaker. Basic information on routines, types and amounts of feed for each horse, which horse goes in what stall, turn out schedules, or any special considerations such as medicines or supplements would be helpful. Include an emergency number of a veterinarian(s) who can be reached in an emergency. Remember to discuss this with your veterinarian so he/she is aware of what services you would approve of in an emergency. Describe each horse, including their name and vital information, to enable identification for the caretaker. Halters with name tags are helpful, but only if the caretaker knows and recognizes each horse. Any documentation of the normal daily horse routine will make the caretaker’s job easier.
If you need to evacuate your horse, do you have a method of transportation and a place to re-locate the horse to? Make plans with someone who could take on this responsibility and provide that same information for care and description of each horse as you have prepared for that person who would be taking care of your horse in your own stable. An agreed fee before the emergency event will certainly lead to less confusion and potential hard feelings.
In the case that you are able to keep your horse at your own location, consider buying a generator to keep well water and electric available or you will need to be equipped to handle large amounts of water needed for water intake? Often in the case of power shortages utilization of well water in rural areas will be unavailable. Each horse requires 5 to 10 gallons of water daily, so this can become a problem quickly in a crisis. Prior notice that a storm is coming, whether winter or summer time, fill each horse’s bucket full and have one bucket per horse set aside as a spare. If the temperature is not below freezing, I make sure that my water tub is full. If there is snow laying on the ground I can anticipate that I have the possibility of melting snow to obtain drinking water. I have the resources at my facility of being able to store large quantities of hay and grain therefore; I do not have a fear of lack of feed. If I did not have these abilities, I would plan to make a practice of having in advance, at least one week of food available per horse.
Whether in an emergency or not, there is always the dreaded reality of having a horse injured severely enough that euthanizing must be considered. Take the time to discuss this with your caretaker or veterinarian and grant the authority to make a decision if you are unable to be reached and the horse is suffering. Include in your plans what to do if a veterinarian cannot be reached and the horse requires euthanizing. If this unfortunate situation arises, plans for burial and disposal of the remains are necessary. Check the area where you live and know the requirements for burying a horse on your property. Have a list and phone numbers of four or five potential back hoe operators who could perform the service. List those numbers on your emergency record in your barn. Know if your area has capabilities for carcass disposal if you are unable to bury the horse on your premise.
It would be impossible to plan for every situation, but some simple planning can make the caring of your horse in an emergency simplified. Other situations to consider are barn fires, stolen, lost or displaced horses. If you have questions concerning the care of a horse in an emergency situation contact your local extension office or the Penn State University Department of Dairy and Animal Science Equine Program.