Hurricane season officially begins on June 1st each year but North Carolina tends to see most of our storms in the next few months. We may have our homes and families prepared for a hurricane, but it is also important to have a disaster plan for our horses. Below are some tips and reminders from NC State's Extension Specialists Alaina Cross and Mike Yoder.
Before the Storm
Vaccinations: All horses should have a tetanus toxoid vaccine within the last year. Due to the increase in mosquitoes after massive rainfall, all horses should also receive West Nile Virus and Eastern/Western Encephalitis vaccines at the beginning of the hurricane season.
Coggins Test: A negative Coggins will be necessary if the horse needs to be evacuated to a community shelter or across state lines.
Health Certificate: A health certificate is required to cross the state line. This may be necessary if you live in a region that is near the SC/VA borders. A health certificate is valid for 30 days.
Identification: Each horse should have at least 2 forms of identification (in case one is lost). Have proof of ownership, including recent photos of the horse including any identifying marks/scars/coloration, ready in the event that you need to claim a loose horse. Examples of possible identifying methods include:
- A well fitted breakaway halter (a regular halter can trap a horse and possibly strangle them!) with contact information (can be in the form of a luggage tag, a metal ID tag, a zip lock bag secured with duct tape to the halter)
- A luggage tag with ID braided into the mane or tail (make sure it is water proof).
- Livestock marker – write your phone number on the horses’s hindquarters with a waterproof livestock marker
- ID bands that go around the horse’s neck
- Determine two evacuation centers (in opposite directions). For a list of evacuation centers in NC near you, click here: http://www.ncagr.gov/markets/livestock/horse/EquineDisasterResponseAlliancePartners.htm Ensure that your truck and horse trailer are ready for travel (tires in good condition, etc.).
- Ensure that the vehicle is full of gas.
Feed: Store a minimum of 72 hours of feed and hay (seven days is best) per horse. It is very possible that roads will be closed because of down power lines and trees and that you will not have access to feed for a period of time after the storm. Cover hay with water proof tarps and store on pallets. Keep grain in water tight containers in the event of flooding.
Farm Preparation: Secure all moveable objects. Remove all items from hallways. Secure jumps, lawn furniture, etc. in a secure place. Place all large vehicles/tractors/trailers in an open field where trees cannot fall on them. Turn off electrical power to the barn to avoid any potential fire hazards with power surges or lightning strikes. Secure all gates. Ensure that all emergency tools are working properly and readily available. These include:
- Chain saw (and fuel!)
- Fence repair materials
- Wire cutters/tool box/pry bar
- Fire extinguisher
- Duct tape
- Fuel for generator/tractor
- Bandages (leg wraps and quilts)
- Antiseptics Scissors/knife
- Topical antibiotic ointments
- Pain relievers (bute, banamine, etc.)
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Extra halters/lead ropes
- Clean towels
- Fly spray/swat
In or Out? Should horses be left in the pasture or in the barn? Recommendations from the American Association of Equine Practitioners say that if the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave 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. If you have a sturdy shelter with access to a small, safe paddock, this would be ideal. A horse could escape the building if needed into a safe area.
- Keep horses out of pastures and areas with electrical lines. If these come down, they can electrocute the animals nearby.
- Trees with shallow roots will fall easily under hurricane force winds and can injure horses or destroy fencing.
- Do not keep horses in areas secured by barbed wire, electrical wire, or high tensile wire during a hurricane.
- Fire ants and snakes will search for high ground during flooding. Keep this in mind when selecting an area to keep your horses if they are to remain in pasture.
- For NC Animal Disaster Sheltering Resources click here: https://www.ncagr.gov/markets/livestock/horse/EquineDisasterResponseAlliancePartners.htm
Inspect Animals: Carefully inspect all horses for injuries, focusing particularly on the eyes and limbs.
Inspect Property: Look for down power lines, fence damage, and misc. debris. Take photos of storm damage to present to insurance companies.
Missing Horse?: If your horse is missing, contact your local county animal control, sheriff’s department, or local disaster response team.