Tips On Building Emergency Plans
For Your Horses
From Colorado Horsecare Foodbank

In 2013, the Colorado Horsecare Foodbank team saw the need for emergency plans for horses first-hand after deploying emergency hay to the Black Forest area near Colorado Springs after a wildfire swept through and burned homes, barns, and hay stockpiles. Later that year, we again saw the need for emergency plans for horses after biblical floods put much of northern Colorado under water in September of 2013.

Flood PhotoRegardless of the type of emergency or natural disaster, it’s critical that you develop an emergency plan for your horses before disaster strikes. With that in mind, Colorado Horsecare Foodbank has prepared recommendations for disaster preparedness for your horses. The following is a checklist of suggested items to have in place to make sure you can safely evacuate your horses if a natural disaster strikes your area.

“Go-bag” Supplies Preparation:

If you have to leave fast, you won’t have time to gather supplies for your horse. So take the time in advance and prepare “Go-bag” Supplies for your horses that are already set aside and earmarked for a disaster and/or evacuation. Items to include in your horse’s “Go-bag” Supplies include:

Information In A Watertight Plastic Bag or Envelope, including:

  • Owner’s name, address & contact information
  • Horse’s age, sex, breed, color
  • Identifying scars or special markings on your horse
  • Several photographs of your horse from the front and side
  • Medical history, allergies, and any special medical needs
  • Feeding instructions
  • Veterinary Records, including Vaccination and de-worming records, and Proof of negative Coggins test (This would be needed in case you wanted to cross state lines in an evacuation)
  • Special Note: While it’s important for you to have proof of a negative Coggins test, do NOT put the Coggins test information with your horse; it is an invitation for horse thieves to steal your horse and take it out of state.

Microchip Your Horse In Advance:
Consider micro-chipping your horse in advance of a disaster. But also make sure you have paper information on your horse. If power’s out and everyone’s in disaster response mode, a microchip scanner may not be available. Make sure you also have paper-based information on your horse, preferably in laminated plastic so it survives inclement weather.

Lead Ropes with Halters With ID Attached:
On each halter, write the name of each horse on the head band, and attach a luggage tag to the halter with your name, email address, cell phone for calling or texting, and an emergency number of someone you trust in case you can’t be reached.

Leg Bands:
Leg bands with your contact information are another low-tech way to provide identification for your horse in case you get separated. To find leg band identification, simply Google: Leg band identification for horses, and you’ll find options. However, these leg bands should only be considered as temporary identifiers for your horse. There is some information on the Internet that states that leg bands can be uncomfortable for horses. If this concerns you, use other methods of identifying your horses.

White Ribbons & Permanent Sharpie Marker:
Yet another low-tech way to make sure your horse can be identified is to write your name, address, cell phone & email on white ribbons that you braid into your horse’s mane and/or tail.

If your horse is on any medications or supplements, stash a week’s supply of what you need.

Heavy-duty Lawn & Leaf Plastic Bags:
Have a box of the heaviest lawn & leaf bags you can find. These bags will have many uses.

Horse Feed & Supplements:
Pre-package enough feed and supplements for at least three days, in individual zip-lock plastic bags.

Waterproof Horse Blankets:
Depending on the time of year of the disaster, you might need lightweight blankets, or heavy duty blankets particularly if temperatures drop overnight.

Old Towels:
Package some old towels in a waterproof container. If there’s heavy rain or snow, and you get your horse to a place of safety, plan to towel them dry before you blanket them.

Grooming Brushes:
Evacuating your horses to a strange, new place is stressful for everybody. Be sure to include a couple of soft grooming brushes in your “Go Bag.” While you’re waiting out the storm or disaster at the fairgrounds, or some other location, being able to take some time and simply groom your horse will help it relax (and you, too).

Set aside at least 3 days worth of hay that can be put in a waterproof container or wrapped in a tarp. Protect individual bales of hay from the elements with heavy-duty lawn and leaf bags.

Basic Horse First Aid Kit:
Include bandages, disinfectant, tape, etc.

You won’t know if you’ll have to leave during the day, or in the middle of the night or in bad weather with low visibility. With that in mind, invest in some waterproof LED flashlights and periodically check them. LED flashlights require less batteries than traditional flashlights and LED flashlights throw out a lot of light. Also bring extra batteries in a watertight container.

Mini Tool Set In Waterproof Container:
You never know when you’ll need a set of wire cutters, pliers, or ascrewdriver. Set aside wire cutters, pliers, a flathead screwdriver, a Phillips head screwdriver, a hammer, heavy-duty scissors, and duct tape. Put it in a waterproof container labeled with your name on it.[/su_spoiler]

Area Maps:
There’s no guarantee that cell towers will be working in a disaster which would keep you from being able to use GPS technology. Keep paper area maps in every vehicle so you can plot an alternative route if a bridge is out, or roads are flooded.

Pre-Evacuation Tips

Practice Trailer Loading:
Make sure your horses are comfortable loading onto a trailer. Whether or not you trailer your horses regularly, PRACTICE loading them into trailers.

Know Emergency Horse Stabling Locations:
Typically, the nearest horse show facilities or fairgrounds are used for stabling horses in natural disasters. Research the nearest facilities and visit them so that you know where they’re located.

Print Out Emergency Information Contacts:
Develop a printout, preferably laminated in plastic, with all the phone numbers of local animal care, animal control, and emergency management agencies, so you can call to find locations for emergency stabling. Keep copies in your vehicles and trailer.

Know Your Main Evacuation Route:
Knowing your evacuation route is great. But, also have a Plan B route, in case the main route is closed.

Pre-plan A Specific Rendezvous Location With Family & Friends If You Get Separated:
It’s always recommended that families & friends have an advance plan for how they are going to find each other in a natural disaster. Determine that in advance and make sure everyone knows to go to the pre-specified meeting location. (And keep in mind that, depending on the nature and size of the disaster, you may not always be able to meet up at your designated location.)

Evacuation Tips

Evacuate When The Evacuation Order Comes:
If you have more than 2 horses, evacuate when you get the evacuation order rather than waiting. It takes time to evacuate large animals. If you wait too long, emergency management officials may show up to evacuate you and force you to leave your horses behind.

Catching and Haltering Frightened Horses:
Work in advance so that your horse trusts you and comes to you. Keep yourself calm so your horse doesn’t read your energies. Get help to catch the horses and load them.

If You Can’t Evacuate Your Horses:

  • Don’t leave your horses behind if you can possibly avoid doing so. A situation that’s dangerous for you will be dangerous for your horses.
  • If you must leave your horses behind, do not assume automatic watering systems will be working.
  • Also don’t assume they’ll be safer in the barn. Inside barns, there’s lots of debris that will be flying around, and there’s also the danger that the building might collapse.
  • If you leave your horses in a field, in high winds, they will typically stand with their butts facing the wind to protect their faces and their eyes from flying debris.
  • Leave at least 3 days of food and water if you have no choice but to leave them behind.

There’s a lot involved with preparing an emergency plan for your horses, and it takes time to put it in place. But if you have to evacuate your horses in the event of wildfires, floods, tornadoes, or some other natural disaster, you’ll be very grateful you had an emergency plan for your horses in place before the disaster hit.