By Deb Haines
The leading cause of death of large animals during past hurricanes included animals killed in collapsed barns, electrocution, kidney failure secondary to dehydration and animals hit and killed on roadways or tangled in barbed wire after escaping from their pasture. In more recent storms several horses died when trees fell and crushed the barn in which they were stabled. During many storms horses have died when left in the barns as flood waters entered the areas.
Prolonged power outages caused a water shortage on farms that did not have a generator to run their well. Each farm should have a written disaster plan to optimize safety and survival of all animals.
Before the Storm
Vaccination: All horses should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year. Due to the significant increase in mosquitoes after massive rainfall, all horses should receive West Nile virus and Eastern/ Western Encephalitis vaccinations at the beginning of hurricane season. If your horse has not been vaccinated in 4-6 months, they should receive a booster now.
Coggins test: A negative Coggins test is necessary if the horse needs to be evacuated to a community shelter or cross the state line. In more recent hurricanes the Commissioners of Agriculture has waived this requirement for exit from the state under evacuation circumstances. ( check to see if waived)
Health Certificate: A health certificate is required to cross the state line. This may be necessary for evacuation of coastal areas. Please check ahead of time.
Each horse should be identified with at least one, if not all of the following:
1) A leather halter with name/farm
2) Information in a zip lock bag secured to the halter with duct tape.
3) A luggage tag with the horse/farm name and phone number braided into tail. (Make sure this is water proof).
4) Photos of each horse as proof of ownership highlighting obvious identifying marks.
Evacuation: Evacuation of flood planes and coastal areas is recommended. Evacuation must occur 48 hours before hurricane force winds occur in the area. Transportation of horses when wind gusts exceed 40 mph is dangerous.
Should horses be left in the pasture or placed in the barn? If the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave the horses outside. Well constructed pole-barns or concrete block barns may provide safety from flying debris, but the horses may become trapped if the wind collapses the building.
Electrical lines: Keep horses out of pastures with power lines.
Trees : Trees with shallow roots will fall easily under hurricane force winds and can injure the horse or destroy the fencing.
Fencing: Do not keep horses in barbed wire or electric fencing during a storm.
NOTE…. Fire Ants and snakes will search for high ground during flooding. Carefully look over the premises and feed for these potential dangers.
Getting the Farm Prepared
Water: Each horse should have 12-20 gallons per day stored. Fill garbage cans with plastic liners and fill all water troughs.
Power: Have a generator to run the well if you have large numbers of horses.
Keep chlorine bleach on hand to add to contaminated water if necessary. To purify water add 2 drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes.
Store a minimum of 72 hours of feed and hay (7 days is best). It is very possible that roads will be closed because of down power lines and trees, limiting access to feed stores. Cover hay with water proof tarps and place it on palates. Keep grain in water tight containers.
Secure all movable objects
Remove all items from hallways.
Jumps and lawn furniture should be secured in a safe place.
Place large vehicles/ tractors/ trailers in an open field where trees cannot fall on them.
Turn off electrical power to barn
HVC Emergency First Aid Kit https://ruralveterinaryoutreach.org/2022/02/08/horse-first-aid-kit-supplies/
After the Storm
Carefully inspect each horse for injury to eyes and limbs.
Walk the pasture to remove debris Make sure that no Red Maple or cherry tree braches fell in the pasture. Just few wilted leaves are very toxic to horses.
Clinical signs of Red Maple toxicity are dark chocolate colored gums, anorexia and red urine.
Inspect the property for down power lines.
Take pictures of storm damage.
If your horse is missing, contact the local animal control or disaster response team.
Tips For Hurricane Season And Horse Owners
Disaster Planning (looking ahead for hurricanes and others):
Examples of how to identify your horse!
There are kiosks that can make dog tags in Walmart and other locations. These can be braided into the mane or tail. Be sure to include a phone number of someone OUTSIDE of the evacuation area as well as your own in case cell service goes down!!!
Take a CLEAR photo of YOU with your horse for proof of ownership. Coggins photos are nice (if you have digital Coggins) but are small and many horses look alike in a 2″x2″ pic.
If flooding is predicted in your area, halters and fly masks are not advised as they may catch branches or other objects and the horse may not be able to pull hard enough to break the breakaway link. Additionally, bell boots are controversial but if your horse always wears them due to overreaching, this may be ok.
Farm decontamination after a storm:
Here’s a video from Double Diamond Equine who took care of the severely affected horses in Louisiana’s flooding last year. River Rot treatment
Dr. Karie Vander Werf…. In case of emergency and no veterinarian available, humane euthanasia by gunshot is advised. Please have a skilled shooter do this. Watch for ricochet – bury the bullet into the animal’s neck or into the ground. If it is not your animal, document with video and get a vet on the phone at least if possible. Carry this card around to advise someone who is familiar with guns but not familiar with landmarks. Again – use only in extreme situations to prevent further suffering (broken legs most common).
Lacerations to the body, although horrific appearing, are very often survivable unless they enter the abdomen or chest. This would not be a reason for euthanasia immediately.
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