Protect Your Horses with These Disaster Preparedness Tips

If you’re a horse owner or even a fan, the word disaster usually brings to mind catastrophic racetrack injuries to thoroughbreds like 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The horse shattered his leg and lost his subsequent battle with laminitis eight months later.

However, even horses in a field are subject to natural as well as everyday disasters due to carelessness. As a horse owner or staff member, there’s a lot you can to prepare for such events.

According to an article titled “Top 10 Disaster Readiness Tips for Horses” at the web site of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), here are the most important steps you can take:

Keep a clean, tight ship. This applies to stable areas, paddocks, and pastures. Make sure to remove any hazardous items, along with any that could catch fire. You should also clear any debris or equipment surrounding barn entrances, exits, and aisles. It won’t accumulate if you inspect the areas at regular intervals.

Be on the lookout for unstable ground. Unfortunately, horses accidentally falling through rotted or broken floors happens. Aging septic tanks can also be hazardous.

Ban smoking. Everyone coming to and going from the barn should be made aware that you have a no-smoking policy.

Keep an eye on appliances. There are a lot more hazards lurking in barns than faulty or exposed electrical wires that could cause a fire. Other no-no’s include unattended plastic buckets equipped with built-in heaters and dryers used for laundry. Since even everyday appliances like fans or power tools occasionally overheat, you should never use or leave an appliance turned on unless an adult remains in the barn to check on it.

Practice loading and unloading. The whole reason schools have fire drills is to familiarize the kids with what they would need to do during a disaster. Use the same principle with your horses. Don’t wait until a disaster to acclimate a horse to wearing a halter or to walking into or out of a trailer.

Keep the right equipment on hand. Inspect equipment frequently. This applies to more than tack. To be prepared, regularly inspect your horse trailer, any vehicles used to tow, and any other required equipment, such as tires, lights, and hitches. Also make sure to confirm the vehicle you plan to use to tow the trailer can actually pull its weight.

Let others handle your horse. In the event of a disaster, you don’t want a social recluse on your hands. Let your horses get used to other adults, especially any emergency personnel. Horses frequently become fearful when they smell smoke on firemen’s gear for the first time.

Explain the layout of your property. Invest some time showing emergency responders what’s located where on your place and introduce them to the horses you own.

Organize a telephone tree. Set one up to include nearby horse or farm owners. They’re experienced in handling animals and often able to share equipment or personnel in an emergency.

Safeguard essential documents. When a disaster occurs, it’s important to be able to grab medical records in a hurry. You should also keep a list of any vets, emergency service providers, utility companies, family members, and friends in a place where you can quickly reach it.

In addition to these 10 tips from the ASPCA, keep in mind that hunting season is right around the corner. According to horseman Scot Hansen, in “Hunting Season Approaches“, you should make plans now to make both you and your horse more visible to area hunters.

Hansen recommends wearing “hunter orange”, which remains highly visible during the fading light of both dawn and dusk. For the rider, the most useful pieces are a vest and a hat cover. You can buy them at any sports store that sells hunting supplies.

For your equine friend, Hansen suggests buying hunter orange cloth from a fabric store for polo wraps and a saddle blanket. You can also cover bridles and halters and purchase or make orange tail wraps.

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