We have been hit pretty hard with Mother Nature’s power this year in the way of natural disasters. Poor Texas has gotten hit with flooding, tornadoes, and blizzards all within the same week. It’s hard to predict when most disasters will hit, but most of us know what our areas are prone to. Here are a few things to help you be prepared to the best of your ability if a disaster does hit close to home.
During a snow storm as humans we want to be inside next to a close fire. If we could we would bring our horses in with us, but it’s usually not possible. Here are a few things for you know about keeping your horse safe during the winter storms. Most horses will do just fine turned out as long as they have access to these few items;
1. A shelter that has three sides and a slanted roof this way the snow that builds up will just slide off the back. Be sure to make sure the open side is not facing the wind. Feeding your horses in their shelter is the best way to keep their hay dry and away from mud and snow.
2. Make sure they have extra calories to help keep them warm, ask your vet how much extra you can feed your horse, if all possible do an extra feeding late night this way they are staying busy eating. Eating helps horses keep warm.
3. Horses must have access to lots of water and make sure that it isn’t frozen. A lot of horse farms have access to anti-freezing water systems. If you don’t then you can either use a water heater that sits in your tank. You can also put a soccer ball in the trough. This will keep the water moving. Moving water can’t freeze.
4. There is always to controversy of blanketing or not blanketing. Instead look at each horse differently, if your horse grows a really nice winter coat he is probably fine. If you have a horse that doesn’t grow much of a winter coat or is elderly and/or a hard keeper put a blanket on them to help keep them warm.
Keeping a horse outside is usually best during the winter because if it is sunny during the day that will help keep them warm. This is better than in a shaded stall unless your barn is heated. Being outside with buddies is great because they will huddle together to keep warm when they move around this also creates warmth. Now with this being said there are a few reasons to bring a horse inside
1. If the footing and ground has become dangerous. Either with excessive mud which is hard on tendons or if the ground is frozen and has icy spots. This can cause a horse to slip and you could wind up with a hefty vet bill that could have been avoided.
2. Another reason would be if you physically can’t get out to the paddocks to feed and water or, if you can’t keep your horses water from freeing. Dehydration can be a problem during winter for horses that don’t have access to water 24/7
3. If weather conditions outside are less than ideal. This theory of keeping them outside to stay warmer works best when the sun is out. If you prefer keeping your horse in a barn, they offer great wind protection if the doors are closed and if your horse is blanketed or has a thick winter coat they should be fine. There are a lot of show horses in cold climates that do well inside barns even if they don’t have a winter coat. They are heavily blanketed and the barn doors remain closed in order to keep the wind chill out.
A tornado warning comes in an instant so it is best to be prepared ahead of time. Having a tornado proof barn or a safe room is the best way possible to keep your horses protected. Safe rooms for horses can be no wider than 12’ and you can go 30’ or a little more. When building your structure your concrete should be thicker than regulation, you can find your states concrete regulation by calling your local city hall. It’s a temporary solution to keeping them safe. Have a few buckets of water and a few bales of hay to keep them safe and happy overnight. But not all of us have access to a storm shelter for our horses so here are a few tips on being prepared for a tornado;
- Putting your horse out to a pasture is best, this allows them to either seek shelter or run from the tornado. Also put a fly mask on your horse to avoid eye injury from flying debris.
- Spray paint a friend or a family member’s number that is not in the area on your horse’s side. This way if you lose access to your phone at least a person outside of the area will have a chance to get a hold of you. Another idea is to use a sharpie on their hoof which is harder to wash off.
During a wildfire you have a little more warning than you do with a tornado, but it is no less destructive. Being prepared ahead of time is always the best solution. If you are able to evacuate have your truck ready and hooked up to the trailer, and have your horses ready to load and go. Have plenty of water in water tanks in the truck or the trailer. Include buckets and hay. That way if you have to unload your horses in a spot where you don’t have access to these things you are prepared.
If you do not have the ability to evacuate make sure you have a friend or family member’s number on your horse. You can achieve this by using spray paint on their side, sharpie on their hoof, or even shaving it into their fur. All these are great ways to allow others who may find your horse to get in touch with you. Also, make sure they have access to lots of water and hay. If your property is in danger of the fire, leave gates open. This way if they need to run they can. Horses are hardy animals and will protect themselves. We just have to allow them the ability to and give them all opportunity to survive.
Every situation is different and sometimes there is no warning to a disaster or storm but at least this way you have a guideline to follow if you can and have a chance to be somewhat prepared. Always have a halter and lead rope in your car there has been many cases where there was one needed and no one had one! Be prepared!! And kiss those soft velvety noses we all love!
Written By, Jona Lane. Share this on Facebook if you would do anything to protect your horses!