Monday, August 8, 2022

Are you ready? Hurricane Season is Here!

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 
  • Microchip 
  • ID bands that go around the horse’s neck 
Evacuation Plan:  Hurricanes generally give us at least a day’s notice or two before coming into contact with land. Make sure that you have a written evacuation plan for your horses, especially if you are in a low-lying area, a flood plain, near water, or are near the coast. If you will be in the path of the hurricane, it is highly recommended to evacuate prior to the storm, as transportation with horses when wind gusts are over 40mph is hazardous. Decide at which point you will evacuate (for a category 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 storm?). Also prioritize NOW which horses will be evacuated in what order if you will have to make more than one trip. 

  • Determine two evacuation centers (in opposite directions). For a list of evacuation centers in NC near you, click here: Ensure that your truck and horse trailer are ready for travel (tires in good condition, etc.). 
  • Ensure that the vehicle is full of gas. 
Water:  Power loss often occurs with hurricanes, and many horse farms may find that they are unable to provide water to their horses. Each horse sould have 12-20 gallons of water stored per day. Fill all available water troughs. Be creative with your water resources! Line garbage cans and various storage bins or much buckets with plastic contractor bags and fill them with water. Consider 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 two drops of chlorine bleach per quart of water and let stand for 30 minutes. 

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!) 
  • Hammer/nails 
  • Fence repair materials 
  • Wire cutters/tool box/pry bar 
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Duct tape 
  • Fuel for generator/tractor 
Emergency First Aid Kit:  Make sure that you have an emergency first aid kit ready and accessible (and waterproof!). Have any medications that a horse will need easily accessible and ensure that you have enough to get you through the storm and the aftermath. Some items that should be included: 

  • Bandages (leg wraps and quilts) 
  • Antiseptics Scissors/knife 
  • Topical antibiotic ointments 
  • Tranquilizers 
  • Pain relievers (bute, banamine, etc.) 
  • Flashlight with extra batteries 
  • Extra halters/lead ropes 
  • Clean towels 
  • Fly spray/swat 
During the Storm 

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:
After the Storm 

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. 

Monday, August 1, 2022

Equine Feeds Explained


In a perfect world all the horses on a farm, from foals to broodmares to pasture puffs to horses in heavy work, would be fed the same feed out of the same bag. Unfortunately, the nutritional needs of horses vary tremendously based on life stage and workload. Thus, this makes it difficult to design a “one feed fits all.” With that being said, the basis of any equine diet should be forage. Any concentrate (sweet feed, pellet, or grain) and or fortified feed/supplement should compensate for deficiencies in the forage portion of the diet.

Start with feeding a high, quality grass forage (either grass and/or hay) at a minimum of 2% of body weight and expand from there. Just know that a forage-based diet may meet crude protein requirements, but often be deficient in essential amino acids minerals and vitamins. Furthermore, when working with a hard-working performance horse, a forage only diet can also be deficient in a substantial amount of energy. To simplify things, let’s group the main equine feed options into a few categories and discuss recommended feeding rates, human diet comparisons and good candidates for said feeds (extrapolated from Dr. Rachel Mottet, Legacy Equine Nutrition).

Ration Balancer and/or Forage Balancer

·                 Essentially a daily mineral & vitamin supplement often with added protein and/or essential amino acids
·         Minimum feeding rate: 1-2 lb or a few ounces per day
·         Forage balancers with feeding rates of only a few ounces per day do not contain significant protein and may not provide a complete mineral/vitamin package
·         Human food comparison: Daily vitamin & mineral plus a shot of protein and/or amino acids
·         Good candidates: Easy keeper/overweight horses, horses that thrive on forage alone

Complete Feeds

·                    Entire daily food intake including a forage/fiber buffet
·         Hay built into feed (often senior feeds)
·         Minimum feeding rate: 6+ lb per day
·         Option when quality forage is an issue, but $$$
·         Often lower fortification due to higher feeding rates
·         Human food comparison: Your entire daily food intake plus a salad buffet with balanced vitamins, minerals, protein plus roughage in the diet
·         Good candidates: Seniors, horses with compromised dentition or nutritional absorption issues, horses with limited access to quality forage, or alternative option for performance horses

All Around/Performance Feeds

·                 A feed which provides nutrients and fuel to fill in the gaps & to maintain ideal body condition and performance
·         Minimum feeding rate: 4-8 lb per day
·         Varying levels of fortification, starch & sugars
·         Human food comparison: A diet which provides nutrients and fuel needed to maintain normal body condition and/or athletic performance
·         Good candidates: Horses who need more than grass/hay alone; harder working horses

Today’s horse owners might find horse nutrition complicated, but hopefully this explanation of the most common feed categories helps to simplify things. As identifying the nutrients of most concern, the horse’s stage of production, age and/or activity level is critical in determining which is the most appropriate feed for the given situation.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Horse owner resources – Cooperative Extension and the NC Horse Council

Management of horses, farms and facilities can be very broad and complex.  Sometimes, it’s hard to know where to turn for support, information, and resources.  Fortunately in North Carolina, we have Cooperative Extension and the NC Horse Council, both dedicated to supporting our horse industry!


Did you know there are currently 36 equine publications available online through NC State Extension?  You can access these research based documents through any of our 101 Extension Centers in North Carolina, or online by visiting the NC State Extension website at  From this site, you can visit any of our Extension Centers or select “topics” in the top right toolbar and find more resources than you’d imagine!  Alternatively, go directly to our NC State Extension Publications page at and search for “equine”. 


While on the Cooperative Extension site, you can find your local county Extension Center and agricultural agents, who are a tremendous resource for your management questions, whether they are animal science related, land, farm and forage management, and otherwise.   For youth programs, our 4-H and livestock agents can help out.  Be sure to connect with your county Extension staff and let us know how we can assist.


The North Carolina Horse Council is another amazing resource for the horse industry.  Visit their website at: 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the NCHC, and they are celebrating by offering a lifetime membership to horse owners for $100.  Be sure to check out the many resources offered by this amazing organization, including but not limited to the following:


·      Equine Business Directory

·      Many resources and documents to download

·      Farm liability signs

·      Grant opportunities and scholarships for organizations and individuals

·      Trail resources through “Ride NC”

·      Liability insurance

·      Legislative support and representation

·      Emergency preparedness

·      Horse owner assistance vouchers (safety net, euthanasia, and gelding)