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Storm and Disaster Prepping For Horses
 By Winniefield Park   •   7th Oct 2017   •   929 views   •   0 comments


There probably isn’t a place in the world that isn’t affected by adverse weather or other natural disasters waiting to happen. Some of us must contend with ice and snow. Others live where fire is a hazard. Earthquakes are a reality in some locations. And, flooding, wind and other natural phenomena can wreak havoc. As a horse owner, it isn’t necessary to be prepared for every possible disaster situation, just the ones that are most likely to affect you and your horses. Although for some of us, it seems we’re having to learn something new whether we believe the science of climate change or not. Where I live, tornadoes were a rare event. But, over the last few summers, these seem to be more common. What to do with your horse during a tornado warning, and how to prepare your buildings and pastures are new things we seem to have to learn.

Hurricanes
Hurricanes have been devastating in many places. Horse owners are wise to have an evacuation plan in the event one is headed their way. Staying in place may not be a good idea, but if you do, or you would like something left of your stable when you return from an evacuation, your buildings must be built to withstand high winds and flooding. The aisles should be kept cleared and the building kept in good repair. In many areas, this means concrete block construction. But many people choose to keep their horses outdoors, believing it’s safer. It’s a hard call, but if you do, make sure your pastures are free from debris, are away from power lines, and safe from the likelihood of fences to be damaged by downed trees. Flooding is a major concern with hurricanes, as we’ve seen countless times, so stables or pastures need to be on high ground.

Earthquakes
It’s thought that horses can tell if an earthquake is imminent. That may or may not be true, but earthquakes are hard to predict and you’re not likely to get any warning beforehand. Unlike hurricane-prone areas, concrete block construction is not recommended in earthquake zones. Earthquake safe buildings take engineering so they can withstand the movement of the ground. Local bylaws in earthquake zones will take this into account. But the safest place for your horse is probably an open field with good fences. If your area is badly damaged by an earthquake, an evacuation plan needs to be in place.

Tornados
Whether you should keep your horse in or out during tornado warnings is another hard call. Inside, they could be hurt if the building they are in is hit. Outdoors, they are in danger of being hit by flying debris or escaping through damaged fences. It is possible to buy shelters for horses engineered to withstand F1 tornado winds. Most wood frame barns are quickly damaged by the strong winds of a tornado. Horses outdoors will need to be in a wide open space that is free of things that could fly up and hit them. Since tornados can come with heavy rainfall, either before or after, they should be on high ground too.

Hail
If hail is in the forecast, horses should be kept in. If they have access to a run-in shelter, they may not use it because of the noise the hard rain and hail can make on the roof. Some will head for treed areas. But most will just turn their rumps to the weather and withstand it. Thankfully, hail storms don’t last long.

Fire
Barns made of any material should be fireproofed. Some types of construction are better than others. Block, metal, and concrete are non-flammable materials. However, many of the materials used for stall construction, and the things stored in barns burn readily. If wildfire is a danger, you may have to turn your horses out, or evacuate, depending on what your options are in the emergency. So, having areas that are less fire prone on your property is a good idea.

This means keeping plant growth close to your barns lush and green and keeping pastures clear of dry brush and weeds that will catch fire easily. Leafy trees are less likely to burn than spruce and pine that have a lot of flammable resin in their needles and branches. And unlike flood-prone areas, barns and building should be placed on lower ground. Metal or wire fences are safer than wooden fences, that can burn and lead fire to your buildings. It’s also recommended to use non-flammable halters, and not to use blankets or fly masks which can catch fire.

Blizzards and Ice Storms
Barns can collapse due to snow or ice load, so they must be built so that they shed their load safely. This means steep or hip roofs that won’t hold the snow. Many horses are quite comfortable outside during heavy snowfall. But high winds and icy rain can quickly chill them down. They should either brought in or blanketed. Make sure your pastures are free of debris so that the snow doesn’t create hidden hazards. Icy footing can be combatted with manure paths or sand.

What weather or natural hazard do you and your horse have to deal with? How do you prepare?
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