Preparing for Natural Disasters With Horses: Do’s and Don’ts

Identifying risks and reducing and mitigating a disaster’s effects start with a well-written, all-hazards plan for sheltering in place and/or evacuating. Here are some keys to remember.
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preparing for natural disasters with horses
If you're leaving horses behind during a natural disaster, place them in the largest, best-fenced pasture available or leave them with a choice whether to stay outside or walk into shelter. | Photo: Courtesy Dr. Rebecca Husted

What would you do if a Category 5 hurricane were heading straight toward your farm? What’s your plan if a wildfire were to threaten? How would you react in the event of a surprise hail storm if the 45 horses on your property were out in pastures? If you can’t immediately answer any of these questions, one large animal rescue expert says you’re not adequately prepared.

Disaster planning is key to keeping horses—and, if you’re a clinic or farm owner, staff and patrons—safe if the unthinkable happens. At the 2018 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 1-5 in San Francisco, California, Rebecca Husted, PhD, shared tips on how veterinarians can prepare their practices to respond to natural disasters. She said horse owners can benefit from many of these preparations, as well.

“No matter the size of your facility—whether treating backyard horses in a pole barn or managing a … treatment clinic featuring high-dollar show horses—(veterinary) facility owners are expected by their clients to have evacuation or shelter-in-place plans for every conceivable type of disaster,” said Husted, president and primary instructor of Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue Inc., in Macon, Georgia

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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