Making disaster plans for your horses is more important than ever

Amid the ongoing pandemic, the ASPCA advises horse caretakers to make disaster plans before disaster strikes!

With so many of us facing new challenges and uncertainty as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, it’s hard to fathom the idea of having to also endure a natural disaster. Sadly, many people across the country have had to face that reality already, whether impacted by the unrelenting wildfires on the West Coast, the quick-moving derecho in the Midwest, or Hurricane Laura in the Gulf Coast.

This National Preparedness Month, it’s more important than ever for horse caretakers to ensure they’re prepared if disaster strikes, especially amid the pandemic. Emergency management agencies and animal welfare organizations continue to work tirelessly to address the needs of community members impacted by natural disasters while ensuring they are practicing COVID-19 safety protocols, but the reality is that disaster relief is going to look different during a public health crisis of this magnitude. Resources people often rely on – like first responders to rescue horses left behind, or emergency facilities to provide temporary boarding– will likely be more limited.  Taking the time now to make a disaster plan for your family – including your horses and other animals – can be lifesaving.

The ASPCA advises horse caretakers to take the following steps to keep equines and other animals safe if disaster strikes:

1. Find safe haven

First responder capabilities may be more limited as agencies practice COVID-19 safety protocols, so it’s more important than ever to keep your animals with you or an emergency caregiver if you are forced to evacuate. In advance, identify the name and contact of a caregiver outside your immediate area (and therefore less likely to be impacted by the same disaster situation) willing to take in your animals in an emergency. Boarding facilities may be an option as well.

2. Collaborate

Given potential shortages of resources as the result of an emergency, consider teaming up with other horse caretakers in your area to pool your resources, including sharing trailer space and hay. Be sure to share your evacuation plans with your neighbors and practice driving that route in advance.

3. Create an emergency kit

If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan as if you may not be allowed to return for a week or more. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, gather the items below into an emergency kit for your horse:

  • Contact information for yourself and a confirmed emergency caretaker
  • At least 7–10 days’ worth of feed and medications
  • Feeding and care instructions including food quantity, approved treats and medication dosages, if necessary, along with clearly labeled food and medicine containers
  • Tack checklist
  • Paperwork proving your ownership of your horse (branding papers, microchip registration, photos)
  • Veterinary records, including a current Coggins
  • Equine first aid kit
  • While masks, gloves and hand sanitizer should also be included in personal go-bags, it’s a good idea to ensure your horses’ emergency kit has those items as well.

4. Ready your horses

Microchip your horse as a permanent form of identification – or if that’s not an option, identify your horse in some other way. In an emergency, you can place an ID clip or braid a luggage tag in his mane or tail or paint your phone number on his side with non-toxic paint. Ensure that microchip contact information is up to date, especially if you have recently moved or changed phone numbers. If the information is outdated or incorrect, it will be difficult to connect with your horse, especially during disasters.

Ensure your trailer is road ready and practice loading onto a trailer under calm conditions, at least once a week at different times of day, so horses are on autopilot should they need to relocate during an emergency. Evacuate as soon as possible as it may take additional time to load your horses, other animals and supplies. Remember, there’s no such thing as preparing your disaster plan too early!