By Joscelyn Richards.
Hurricane – a word that is synonymous with Florida – during my time living in FL (pretty much my whole life), I’ve encountered numerous hurricanes.
Just a year ago, Hurricane Hermine hit Tallahassee, which is where I currently live for college. I also keep my horse, Ariel, in this area. Even though the Hurricane was only a Cat. 1, Tallahassee suffered serious damage in some parts, and many were without power for over a week.
As Hurricane Irma, now a Cat. 5, looms in the Atlantic Ocean, I urge horse owners to start taking action sooner rather than later. While the direct path is still uncertain, a state of emergency has been declared by Governor Rick Scott for the entire state of Florida as of yesterday, Sept. 4, 2017. For the most recent hurricane advisory check the NOAA website here.
Hurricane Irma as of 8am Photo Credit; NOAA.
For those of us with equine partners, hurricanes are even more stressful. I have compiled a concise but thorough hurricane preparedness plan as a guide for equine owners in the event that a hurricane does hit.
(Important Disclaimer: This is just a guide, and The Legal Equestrian and its staff cannot be held liable for any action or inaction taken because of this guide.)
Finding a safe, hurricane-proof barn for your horse is a crucial thing to do. Or, you can evacuate your horse(s) from the hurricane, to higher ground, if needed. Most haulers won’t ship within 48 hours of a hurricane making landfall, so make preparations and arrangements as soon as you can. Check local equine Facebook groups, contact local officials, or even ask friends for references of places to which you can evacuate your horse. Here is a Google Doc containing some places or transportation companies for evacuation use. Remember if you plan to leave the area, too, one of the worst things you can do is leaving your pet(s) behind in your home.
In the event that the looming hurricane destroys the barn at which your horse is staying, your horse gets lose, or the area gets flooded, it is vital that your horses have proper identification on them. A lot of horse owners now have their horses microchipped now because of the new USEF rules. But, without proper tools, the microchip can’t be read by a rescuer. As an alternative, many equine owners will use luggage tags attached to the horses mane, halter, or even bridle, with the horse’s name, barn address, owner(‘s/s’) name with multiple phone numbers, vet information, and any other special requirements that the horse may have. As a FL resident that has to deal with hurricane threats often, I recently discovered I.C.E. horse products. The company makes mane and tail tags, halters, and clips. One note: Do not keep a Coggins test with your horse because there are some dishonest people out there who may try to steal your horse. As an alternative, make sure to keep all your horse’s/s’ identification papers such as bill of sale, Coggins, microchip information, pictures, etc. in a safe place.
Preparing your Barn for a hurricane
Even if your barn is hurricane-proof, there are still major hazards that could cause damage to your barn and severely injure your horses. As a precaution, store all outdoor items such as jumps and poles in a safe place, preferably indoors. Secure trailers, campers, and any other vehicles that could possibly be blown away. Make sure to remove items from the barn aisle, because they can easily turn into dangerous debris in the air. Additionally, flashlights should be available and should contain fresh batteries. Battery back-ups should be kept somewhere easily accessible yet safe, too. You should also have a battery-operated radio and turn off circuit breakers as to avoid a fire if there is a power surge. A good item to have is a generator. If you can get one to run electricity to your barn though, make sure you have plenty of fuel for it.
Preparing your horse(s) for a hurricane
As mentioned earlier try your absolute best to have your horse(s) in a hurricane-proof barn if you decide not to evacuate. Make sure you have up to a two-week supply of grain and hay for each horse in the barn. The food should be stored in a dry and safe place. The reason for two-weeks is because you really do not know exactly how bad the damage can be after the hurricane makes landfall and leaves. You don’t know how long it will be staying. As a result, you will be unsure where and when you can next get food either for yourself or your horse(s). Additionally, have between 12 and 20 gallons of drinking water per horse. The water should be stored away in the event that the water supply becomes undrinkable or cannot be retrieved safely/properly/at all due to power loss. Be on the lookout for water advisories after the hurricane for more exact details on if the water is safe, You should also make an emergency horse supply kit for each horse which includes all possible medication, ointments, and vet supplies that might be needed. Finally, put extra bedding in your horse(s’) stall so they will feel comfortable, and they can lay down if needed.
During the hurricane
During the storm make sure the horses have hay and at least two (2) full water buckets (also known as 10 gallons) to drink from. This is because you do not know when you’ll be able to go to the barn next. DO NOT stay in the barn with the horses during the storm, as tempting as it may be. You, or someone else who wants to stay, could get severely injured or even killed. Nowadays, many barns have video surveillance. If your barn has this perk, you can monitor the horses that way. Also remember that horses have a natural survival instinct that will kick in, when necessary, so if you are the midst of worrying, the horses most likely know what to do and have done it.
After the hurricane has passed
After the hurricane has passed over the area there will most likely be downed trees and power lines. There will probably also be major flooding. Wait until you know that it is safe before going to the barn to check on the horses. (Side note: If you are a boarder, make sure to stay in contact with your barn manager/owner. The last thing they need is 20 worried horse owners/boarders showing up to the barn after a hurricane.) Also, if there is major flooding, do not drive through it as this is how most people end up dying after a natural disaster where major flooding is involved. When at the barn after the storm, be on the lookout for dangerous wild animals that might have sought refuge at the barn. Since it is Florida, we can include alligators as well as snakes. Avoid live electrical wires, and also avoid standing water. Make sure that all your horses (and others) are okay, check for and tend to any injuries, and assess if there are any immediate emergencies. You can and should also remove debris to clear a direct path to the barn from the road, if safe and possible.
In all the chaos of getting your horse ready for the hurricane, don’t forget to prepare yourself for the hurricane and take your own precautions as well! Remember price gouging is ILLEGAL, report it to your local authorities if you find any cases of this.
The best thing you can do is follow your own hurricane plan and stay safe.
Additional Resources for reference
ps. We are doing a silent auction to raise money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey which hit the Houston area last week. The auction runs until September 12th at 11:59 p.m. Please go here to check out the amazing items we have to offer and to make your bid to benefit organizations working to help those in need. Fifty percent of the profits will be going to the Houston Food Bank, and the other 50 percent will be going to the ASPCA.