Feeding Evacuated Horses

Our equine nutrition expert shares tips for feeding horses during natural disasters.

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Feeding the Evacuated Horse
When told to evacuate do your best to do so, and do it early. Try to take with you enough feed and water for each horse to last at least several days, preferably more. | Photo: Photos.com
Natural disasters take many forms. From wild fires to earthquakes, tornadoes to hurricanes, the United States sees its fair share. These terrifying events have resulted in the emergency evacuation of many horses, while other horses have remained in place and whose owners now face an unrecognizable landscape.

We know we should make changes in our horse’s diets slowly, but when natural disasters occur that’s not always possible. The problem with natural disasters is their unpredictability. You have no idea for how long you will be evacuated for and what will remain when you return. Will your hay barn with winter’s stock still be there? Will you still have fencing and be able to turn your horse out as normal? Perhaps your barn will be gone and you’ll have to turn him out, possibly with other unfamiliar horses. What about the feed store? Will it still be operational and will feed be easily available? All these are unknowns. What results is a scenario where you just do the best you can.

Here are some things to consider when faced with an approaching natural disaster or in the aftermath of such an event.

Evacuate Early

Natural Disaster Interactive
Interactive Feature | Natural Disaster: Are You and Your Horse Ready?

When told to evacuate do your best to do so, and do it early. Try to take with you enough feed and water for each horse to last at least several days, preferably more. This will enable you to feed your horse as you do currently, and if the situation dictates that feed changes will need to be made you have enough current feed to slowly transition to something new. The same is true if you decide to shelter in place. Don’t forget about water even when sheltering in place. Remember that if you are on a system that requires a pump but power goes out, you won’t have water until it’s restored. Horses need 5 to 12 gallons of water per day per 1,000 pounds of body weight, more if they’re lactating

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Written by:

Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

4 Responses

  1. We live in NE FL. Several years ago i went to an Emergency Preparedness seminar for Equines and it was very helpful. One of the take a ways i remember was in the event of a hurricane that’s approaching-NEVER shut your horse(s) in the barn. The horse has to be able to escape flying debri and horses have been injured or killed in barns that have collapsed during hurricanes.

  2. I had to evacuate my horses during the fires last year in Santa Rosa, CA. Not only should you have ID on your horse (I have name & phone number tags on halters), but be sure to keep copies of registration papers, vaccination records and other health related information in your tow vehicle and/or trailer. That way they are always with you – you don’t have to go looking for them in a tense, emergency situation where you may have just enough time to get out.
    Keep your gas tank full – you never know how far you’ll have to travel.
    And yes, grab as much of your horse’s regular feed as you can – we ended up being away from our property for 10 days. I had enough hay for about the first 5 days and was fortunate to be able to buy similar hay at a feed store outside of the fire zone.
    Discuss possibilities and make plans for where you might go BEFORE it ever becomes necessary, and have contact info programmed into your phone for those places . Many fairgrounds are evacuation centers for horses and livestock during emergencies, but it can be a very hectic environment, scary for a lot of horses. Line up other alternatives if you don’t think your horse would do well in the midst of much commotion, cattle, pigs, lamas, etc..

  3. Greetings! Good article! A few other suggestions for emergency evacuations: Be sure to prep you and your horse/s ahead of time. I.e. introduce your horse to some sort of flavor water by adding gatorade, apple juice, etc. to help with water consumption, practice trailer loading, make sure vaccinations and coggins are current, tie name tags with owners info into manes, practice moving your horses in a high energy situation.
    You may never have to use any of the things noted in the article or here but better to have a plan.

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