Horse Disasters What To Have And What To Look For

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(Compiled by The Humane Society of Utah - Last Modified 09/06/11)

A good Utah equine resource, according to a recent newspaper article, may be Mr. Bill Day, horse specialist, Utah State University's Extension program, who runs public information programs throughout Utah.

According to the American Humane Association's pamphlet, "Are You Ready?", about 2% of households in the U.S. own horses, with an average of 2.54 horses per each household owning a horse. A 1998 Utah Department of Agriculture and Food Annual Report, pg 25, estimates that about 8.7% of Utah households had equines, or about 48,100 households. The average Utah household owning equines in 1992 owned about 3.80 equines, meaning there were about 182,700 equines in Utah at that time. 49% were Quarter horses, 13.99% Arabs, 7.32% Paints, 7.27% Thoroughbreds, 4.89% Appaloosas, and 1.91% Mules. A 02/02/2001 Deseret News article lists approximately 220,000 horses, which provide a $500-million slice of Utah's economy.

Disasters may include: fires, floods, tornados, loss of water, broken gas mains, explosions, earthquakes, blizzards, animal transport wrecks (train, truck, boat, or plane), building collapses, avalanches, mud slides, lightning strikes, chemical spills, etc. Remember that power outages may shut down well pumps and automatic watering systems.”

Leading causes of death in large animals during hurricane Andrew: collapsed barns, kidney failure due to dehydration, electrocution, fencing failures (hit & killed on roads/highways), debris (entanglement), and from flooding.

Horse owners should first have an individual disaster plan. Community horse owners might then band together for a community-wide disaster plan, which could then be tied into the Utah State disaster plan.

Before a disaster strikes, check over your current facilities: Are electrical service boxes in a dry, dust-free location and mounted on fire-resistant materials? Are electrical fixtures free of dust, dirt, cob webs, chaff, hay or other combustible materials? The your current heating/cooling systems designed for barns and stables and are they properly installed?

Are any fuel storage tanks located at least 40 feet away from building housing animals? Are these tanks properly grounded? Are there fire extinguishers near the tanks? Are the tanks protected from collision from vehicular traffic? Do you have a clean-up/spill protocol?

Is your hay cured prior to storage? Are the roofs, walls and windows weather tight? Are many fire extinguishers available in all animal-housing areas? Are they checked at least annually and are they protected from freezing? Is there a phone in all barns with fire, police, key personnel listed. Are there 'no smoking' signs and is this rule enforced? Are horses which are valued over $100,000 stabled in separate barns?

Are corrals, paddocks, and pastures free of harmful objects? Are there any broken planks, exposed nails, sharp or broken glass, or exposed metal edges?

Are barn aisles at least twelve feet wide? Are the aisles free of dangerous objects? Are the stalls latched? If stalls are locked, are keys or bolt cutters immediately available in case of an emergency?

Prioritize animals you would move, assuming that there may not be time to move them all. Make sure that all family, staff, and volunteers are aware of your selections. If possible, evacuate your horses early to ensure their safety and ease your stress. Also make plans to take dogs, cats, and other pets.

The safest fencing is woven wire, as it acts like a volley ball net; in many cases falling trees don't even take it down. It stops debris. It doesn't pull apart in high winds. Animals are less likely to get caught or entangled in it. Board fences blow/wash down and become debris itself. Barbed wire cuts horses to ribbons and is easily torn down by flying debris.

Keep trailers and vans well-maintained and towing vehicles full of gas and ready to move at all times. Be sure your animals will load. If you don't have your own vehicles, make arrangements with local companies or neighbors before disaster strikes.

Keep clean fire breaks around your home, corrals, barns, stables, and property lines. Keep fire fighting equipment in one location.

Find out if anyone nearby has equipment which may be shared, such as trailers, stock trucks, generators, water tanks, or portable pens/panels.

It is recommended that horse owners use detailed topographical maps from the state's Office for Emergency Services to help in choosing locations for command posts, animal housing points, transportation routes, equipment storage, and equipment distribution. Locate several sites in the areas least likely to be affected by each type of disaster where you can house stranded animals or those left in your care by other owners. Allow space for confinement, feeding, watering, cleaning, and removal of animal waste products.

One method of organizing an equine rescue group would be to have committees for the following: Organization, Trailering, and Billeting. Organization would conduct meetings, mock evacuations, do community education, newsletters, and continually upgrade communications with local emergency agencies. Trailering would establish, maintain, and update list of trailer owners available during emergencies, identify drivers, and at least one crew person/trailer, hold trailer clinics & check on required trailer equipment, determine staging areas, etc. Billeting would organize central locations for housing of horses/staff during emergencies, record arrivals/departures of animals, document each animal, accumulate inventory & store needed equipment, organize daily care, feeding, and cleaning of each animal, and act as a liaison between horse owners and disaster command while the animals are being housed/stabled. Media management could be handled out of the central billeting area. Note that equipment and communications will overlap all three committees.

Know your area: are you in the flood plain for nearby creeks/rivers, are you by any hazardous waste sites, dumps, or disposal sites; are you near railroad tracks carrying hazardous chemicals/wastes; near any fuel depots/gas stations, near an area prone to earthquakes, etc. Is your insurance adequate to cover any potential losses? Know any local roads which may become impassable during floods, heavy snow, or strong storms. If possible, plan to use roads that aren't being used for human evacuation when moving your animals.

In case of 'instant' emergency, close barn and stall doors. Open all interior pasture gates. Put I.D. on all animals and turn your large animals out. They may suffer debris injuries, but at least this way they have a chance. The safest place for large animals to weather a storm is in a large pasture which is free of exotic trees/plants, has no overhead power lines, well away from areas that might generate wind or water-driven debris, and has low areas that animals can shelter in (preferably a pond) and higher areas that will not be flooded.

If you decide you must evacuate, do not try to evacuate with your livestock trailer unless there is sufficient time. You may become stuck in traffic and high winds. If possible, call ahead to make sure that your destination site is still open and available. Do not panic - - horses will be aware of the disaster by the way you act and the environment they will be in. Maintain communications with at least one person who will know where you and your animals will be.

While evacuation may not be possible, there may be alternatives. Make plans to move your animals to a safer area which is relatively near your home. Leave 48-72 hours of water and feed for animals if you evacuate and do not take them. Use children's plastic swimming pools, boats, trash cans, bath tubs, etc. to hold water and feedstuffs.

Make sure all animals have current vaccinations and take necessary papers with you if you must evacuate. Locate safe areas within your county and surrounding counties and make arrangements now to move your animals to this location.

After an evacuation, be sure to notify all owners/agents of horses not belonging to you, but which were under your care or custody to inform them of the animals' location and condition.

Following a disaster

Use caution when leaving horses outside after a disaster. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered; animals could become confused and lost. Place them in a secure area. Check all fences; be sure they are intact. Check pastures and fences for sharp objects that could injure a horse. Beware of downed power lines. Beware of raccoons, skunks, mountain lions, snakes and other wild animals that may have entered the area and could pose a threat to your horse.

If a horse is lost, contact animal control, veterinarians, humane societies, stables, surrounding farms and other facilities. Listen to the Emergency Broadcast System for groups that may be accepting lost animals.

If you find a horse, isolate it from your animals until it can be returned to its owner or turned over to animal control or some other agency/group.

When approaching unknown or frightened horses, be very caution. Always work in pairs.

Check with your veterinarian or the Utah Department of Agriculture - State Veterinarian for information about possible disease outbreaks.


Cellular phones, hand-held radios, AM/FM radio, flashlights (chargers, batteries)
Emergency generators / lighting + fuel/batteries
Horse identification/marking sheets
Photographs of all animals + photographic equipment (Polaroid-type camera + 35mm/Digital)
Health Records + Animal/Personal medications
ID Tags (auction rump tags), ID collars, fetlock or neck ID bands
Halters with ID attached
Equipment to paint or etch ID on hooves
Clipboards, writing pads, ballpoint pens & felt-tip markers, sign supplies and markers
Personal toiletries
Sanitation supplies (hand cleaner, towelettes, paper towels, etc.)
Portable sanitary facilities (paper towels & toilet paper)
Covered garbage containers & multi-layer garbage bags (medical waste, carcasses, garbage)
Lime and bleach
Cots, bedding, blankets
Personnel food/water supplies
Severe weather clothing, including hip boots & gloves
Road flares, roadmen's flags/vests, safety goggles, hard hats, crime scene tape
An extra pair of glasses and spare car/truck keys
Cash and credit cards
Maps (state and local)
Portable fans/heaters
Portable ladders
Portable boat
Fire extinguishers
Animal bulk food + feed containers
Water pumps, barrels, tanks
Livestock slings
Halters, lead ropes, shanks, lariats, twitches, hobbles
Chains and keyed-alike padlocks
Bailing wire & duct tape
Mechanic tool kit, hack saw, bolt cutters, crowbar, slim jim, shovel, Ax, Fence pliers, chain saw
Winch, hoist, come-along, tow chain
Manual T-post driver, T-posts, 300' of 11 gauge smooth wire, or high-visibility temp fence w/ties
Folding knife
Nylon rope, pallets, tarps, stakes/tie-downs
Livestock transportation equipment
Means to deliver feed, water, and personnel to isolated areas (ground vehicle, boat, helicopter, snow vehicle)
List of personnel with special training/expertise
Means of humane euthanasia, if required
Portable corrals/panels
Portable livestock stalls


Thermometer (large animal type with string attached)
Stethoscope (with long, 20", center tube)
Latex or rubber examination gloves
Bandage materials
(large sterile Telfa pads, roll gauze (4"+ in width), roll cotton, & several rolls of self-sticking stretch tape / Vetrap at least 3" wide, sanitary napkins, disposable diapers, Elastikon, Expandover, & duct tape.) Bandage scissors (blunt end)
Neosporin solution
Phenylbutazone (obtain from your vet in 6 gram tubes)
Electrolyte powder/paste (specifically designated for horses)
Sterile eye wash solution
Boric acid or Lacri-Lube eye ointment
Betadine or Nolvasan solution
Betadine ointment & scrub
Lysol concentrate
Non-antibiotic first-aid cream
Petroleum jelly
DMSO gel
Cortisone ointment
Fly repellant, labeled for use on open wounds, such as Swat
Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide cream
Witch hazel / Calamine lotion
Saline solution (homemade or commercial)
10% benzoyl peroxide acne cleanser or medicated scab softener
Commercial/homemade poultice
Commercial/homemade sweat
Hoof boots or Easy Boot
Can of Deep Woods Off (fly repellant)
Nail clincher and shoe puller
Clean towels
Combination knife/tool
Electric clippers with #40 blade
Plastic-bristled pot-scrubber brush
Syringes (2 - 4 oz. size + larger for cleaning wounds)
Splinting materials
Cold and hot chemical packs
Hoof knife
Hoof pick
Soap (for washing hands)
Light liniment (Absorbine)


local 'phone tree' for notification/mobilization
local media
local government officials, including law enforcement & fire agencies
local search & rescue units
local Sheriff's Posse
local Emergency Management Agencies
local brand inspector
local large animal veterinarians
local fairgrounds & rodeo grounds
area livestock auction
area animal welfare organizations
area non-profit emergency relief agencies
area horse breed & riding clubs
area boarding/riding stables
area trailers/parts suppliers
livestock feed and water supplies/delivery
provisions/Contacts for dead animal disposal
National Guard
ambulance Service (for owners/personnel)
livestock assoc. / Farm Bureau