Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
Even though it seems like weather forecasters have the best jobs because they are the only people to get the forecast wrong and still get paid (we joke about it), truth is, mother nature is unpredictable. Storms can change their paths quickly and without much warning. Since we are responsible for our horses that can't do anything to protect themselves, we have to prepare for them.
Prepare for the Worst and Hope for the Best
The media does tend to exaggerate and make a big deal over things. A lot of times they do overdo it, but is it worth the chance? To me, it's not! Once the storm has begun, there is no safe way to do anything without putting your animals and yourself in harm's way. We need to take forecasters and warnings seriously and prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Anticipate Power Outages
Damaging winds can cause power outages. When power outages are widespread, it can take days to weeks to get power back. If possible, having a generator for the barn is a great idea. That way, you can run your well pump to get water for your horses.
Buying a generator when everyone is preparing for a storm is sometimes impossible. Whether you have a generator or not, you should make sure you have enough water to last your horses until the power gets back on. Fill all your water buckets and water troughs all the way up. If you have extras, fill them up too. Better to have too much than not enough.
Prepare for High Winds
With the wind that some of these storms bring, anything that is not attached to the ground becomes a projectile, either blowing away or blowing into things.
Store your jumps away; chairs, tables, anything around the barn that might pick up and blow away should be put away or fastened down.
Consider tree limbs that could fall and move horse trailers, tractors, and other equipment out from under them.
Identification on Horses
In the event of a storm with the possibility of buildings or fencing being damaged, identification should be put on your horses in case they would happen to get loose.
I have seen different ways of putting identification on horses, everything from luggage tags braided into their manes, to using duct tape and permanent markers to label their halters. Make sure it includes your phone number and address, maybe the name of your farm if it will fit.
We hope that we won't have to be out looking for them, but if it did happen, knowing that they had ID on them with your location and contact information will be of comfort to you.
Proof of Ownership
If the storm were to get bad enough that there was damage to the barn or fences and the horses get out, you want to have their records together on hand if you need to prove ownership to bring them home. We hope it doesn't get to this, but prepare for the worst, and hopefully, the worst won't happen.
If you have to evacuate, do you have anywhere you could take your horses to keep them safe, or will you have to leave them behind? Thinking and planning for these things in advance will make them easier to get through if it does happen.
If there is a place that is out of the storm's path that you could take your horse or horses, make sure you have a firm plan or agreement in place for wherever you plan on taking them. Also, make sure to get them there well before the storm hits. You don't want to be having to trailer them and unload them in new surroundings during that start of a hurricane is a scary thought!
If you do have an evacuation plan for your horses, know whether or not you have to bring their grain and hay with them. Again, make sure you have all their identification and health paperwork in order, so you know where it is and can grab it and go if necessary.
What If Evacuation Isn't an Option?
For many of us with whole farms full of horses, evacuating them all in the event of a hurricane would be hard—there aren't many places that have room to take a whole barn full of horses. It stinks, but it's the truth.
So, once you make sure you have enough water stored up for power outages, have all the grain and hay you need for your horses, and fuel for your generator if you have one, there will be another decision left to make.
To Leave the Horses in the Barn or Out?
This is a matter of opinion. I can see both sides of the debate. If you have a barn and the horses are in, but it is damaged by high winds or falling trees, the horses aren't safe in the barn at all.
If you leave them out in their fields, there is the chance that winds or tree limbs might damage the fencing. Also, the risk that the wild weather might cause them to run around out of fear and get hurt is a real possibility.
With inclement weather, there are so many what-ifs. You have to consider your farm set up, your horses, and what you feel most comfortable with is what you should do. There is no right or wrong answer here.
First Aid Kit
I would hope that you always have a human and horse first aid kit available in your barn. When preparing for bad weather, make sure that you take inventory of your first aid kits and that they have everything you might need.
Remember, it is better to plan for the worst-case scenario than not have what you need and not be able to get it. (Especially considering that if there is a storm that causes significant damages, the roads may not be clear right away for you to drive anywhere, so you need to have basic first aid supplies on hand.) Hopefully having everything you need will mean that you won't need to use any of it!
Vet Contact Information
Most of us have our vet contact information either programmed into our phones or posted somewhere in our barns. Make sure you have the vet contact information in more than one place, in case it would blow off a bulletin board in the barn, or you lose power and aren't able to charge your phone.
Of course, there are no guarantees that a vet will be able to get to you right after a storm, but again, having the contact information readily available will reduce stress in a very stressful situation.
Any Preparation Is Better Than None
Anything we can do to prepare for mother nature's worst is well worth it if it helps keeps our horses safe. We need to prepare well in advance so that we don't put ourselves at risk in the midst of the storm trying to do things for our horses. Our horses need us to stay safe for them, so preparation is key!
Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, is a much better and safer route than waiting to see what happens because once mother nature has her sights set on sending a bad storm your way, you want to know that you are ready to handle it, and are as prepared as possible.
Hopefully, you are so prepared that you don't get stressed and you get lucky, and the storm doesn't even hit your area! If it does though, you will be glad that you did everything possible to keep your horses safe and out of harm's way.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2018 Ellison Hartley
Ellison Hartley (author) from Maryland, USA on September 15, 2018:
Thank you, we are very fortunate to not have to worry this time, but praying for those effected.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 14, 2018:
This is an important article, Ellison. I would be worried if I had a horse or horses to protect and was facing a storm. You've shared some great advice for taking care of them.