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Tornado Warning: Horse Owners Prepare

Keeping Horses Safe in Severe Weather

In Oklahoma, we experience severe weather in every season: ice storms and snow in winter; drought, humidity and 100+ temperatures in summer; and flash floods, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in spring and fall. We grow up knowing how to prepare, especially for tornadoes.

But how do you prepare an 1,100-pound, accident-prone toddler that bolts in terror at the sight of a Walmart bag for a tornado? While most tornado shelters aren’t large enough to accommodate a horse, owners can take steps to minimize damage, loss and injury through even the worst weather events.

Swingin’ D Horse Rescue has put together some tips for preparing yourself and your horse for severe weather. We hope this information helps you develop a plan and practice it with ranch personnel, to keep you and your herd safe.

Store In Human Shelter or Secure Storage

  • Always have fully-stocked first aid kits for humans and horses.
  • Ensure you have adequate insurance for your property,  horses and equine facilities. Keep your insurance documents in your personal Go Bag.
  • Make sure your horses’ paperwork – registration or proof of ownership, Coggins, health records, vaccination records – are among your personal records, just in case you have to evacuate or relocate.
  • Prepare a “Horse Go Kit” – fill a large trash barrel with:
    • Water buckets
    • Extra halters and leads
    • Surface disinfectant wipes
    • Chlorhexidine or other skin disinfectant
    • Wire cutters
    • Sharp knife
    • Flashlights and batteries
    • Enough feed, hay, medications for at least 48 hours (in case you’re unable to get to feed store in the storm’s aftermath)

Prepare Your Trailer and Truck

  • Ensure your truck is well maintained and full of fuel, and that your trailer is ready for immediate travel.
  • Depending on the type of weather event, store your Horse Go Kit in your truck in case you have to quickly evacuate.
  • Plan an evacuation route and location in case your ranch is in the path of flash flooding, or if storm damage makes it unsafe for you or your animals.
    • Coordinate with friends, neighbors, boarding facilities, veterinary hospitals, fairgrounds or others who might allow you to temporarily house your horse(s).
  • Make sure your horse can safely load on a trailer. If not, have a dose of sedative on hand.

Prepare Your Horse and Property

  • Ensure your horse can be identified if found in the aftermath of a storm. If you haven’t tattooed, branded or microchipped your horse, consider labeling his a halter with your name and phone number.
    • If you elect to halter your horse so he can be easily caught, use a leather halter with a breakaway crown piece, or some other type of breakaway halter. (If the halter gets caught on a branch or other debris, you want your horse to be able to break free.)
  • Ensure your horse has access to safe shelter where he can find a dry place to stand out of the elements. (The type of shelter depends on the type of severe weather.) Prep the shelter with clean, dry bedding.
  • Ensure your horse is up to date on vaccines – especially tetanus.
  • Maintain current health records, including feeding and supplement instructions.
  • Plan for a backup drinking water supply in case municipal water is inaccessible.
  • Check fences for weak spots and ensure gates are secure.
  • Plan an evacuation route and location in case your ranch is in the path of flash flooding, or if storm damage makes it unsafe for you or your animals.
    • Coordinate with friends, neighbors, boarding facilities, veterinary hospitals, fairgrounds or others who might allow you to temporarily house your horse(s).
  • Make sure your horse can safely load on a trailer. If not, have a dose of sedative on hand.

During Severe Weather

  • Be sure you can monitor severe weather as it develops. The last thing you want is for your satellite TV to fizzle out, just as things get hairy.
    • Portable crank radios don’t need batteries or electricity.
    • Get a reliable, well-rated severe weather app on your smartphone.
    • Tablets provide a handy way to watch local newscasts and monitor weather radars.
  • You’ve already prepared your horse’s potential shelters. Now you just need to decide which shelter is best for each severe weather scenario.
    • A barn can protect horses from lightning, wind, hail and rain; but if you have concerns it could collapse, it’s best to turn horses out in a pasture where they’re least likely to be struck by projectiles.
    • If your barn is in a flood zone, the last thing  you want is for your horses to be trapped inside. Turn them out if flooding is a concern, so they can find higher ground.

After the Storm

  • Examine your horse(s) for injuries.
    • Be aware, your horse may still be spooked and may respond in uncharacteristic, erratic ways.
  • Check shelters for damage to ensure your horse(s) can safely remain on your property.
  • Ensure your horse has access to clean, fresh water.
  • Check fences and pastures for damage and debris that might injure your horse(s).
  • Restrict your horses’ access to flood zones.
  • If you agree to take in someone else’s horses after the storm, be sure to keep them separate from your own horses, and familiarize yourself with any infectious diseases in your area through the state agricultural department.