Evacuating when a hurricane hits is a stressful and scary experience, especially when evacuating with horses. While tornadoes give little warning for evacuation, hurricanes can give enough lead time to actually move people and horses out of the storm’s expected path. But even with that time, preparing for equine evacuations can be crucial to the survival of horses.
William Moyer, DVM, professor emeritus at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, offered a series of suggestions for evacuating with horses.
"Take the threat seriously," Moyer said. "You need to make the decision to leave as soon as you can. If you wait until the last minute, you’re placing yourself and your horse in harm’s way. Over 100,000 animals were lost during Hurricane Ike." He suggested that owners make sure their trailers are road-worthy before hurricane season begins or identify individuals with reliable trucks and trailers who can transport horses for them.
Another important aspect of evacuating is ensuring that your horses are comfortable with trailer loading. Working with your horses ahead of time is particularly important if a neighbor or friend will be transporting your horse because ill-behaved horses can waste valuable evacuation time or refusal of transport.
Evacuation traffic is often slow and crowded, creating a potentially dangerous situation for trailered horses. "You are often forced to move quite slowly," Moyer said. "Filling up on gas or diesel before entering traffic is imperative and can keep you out of situations where your animal might overheat or become dehydrated sh