Trailer-trained horses have a bet­ter chance of mak­ing it out of a dis­as­ter alive and un­in­jured.

Horse & Rider - - Conformation Clinic -

Know Your En­emy

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters take many forms, with hur­ri­canes, floods, and fires top­ping the list. Each of these dif­fer­ent types of emer­gen­cies comes with its own set of chal­lenges and dis­as­ter-prep par­ti­clu­ars.

You likely know the type of dis­as­ter com­mon to your par­tic­u­lar area. For ex­am­ple, if you live in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, you’re aware that wild­fires fre­quently re­quire mass evac­u­a­tions. If you’re from South Carolina, you know the hur­ri­cane risks. If you live in a flood plain, you un­der­stand what part of your prop­erty is likely to end up un­der wa­ter. But do you know which nearby road­ways are apt to be­come im­pass­able so you can iden­tify the best pos­si­ble es­cape routes?

De­cid­ing whether to evac­u­ate or stay put dur­ing a nat­u­ral dis­as­ter can be one of the hard­est choices you’ll face. With such events as a se­vere win­ter snow­storm or freez­ing rain, stay­ing home may be your only op­tion. If a hun­ker-down-at-home type of emer­gency is pre­dicted, pre­pare by mak­ing sure you have plenty of feed and avail­able wa­ter—and by tak­ing what­ever steps you can to re­in­force barns and sheds to pro­vide your horse pro­tec­tion. For hur­ri­canes, floods, and fires, where evac­u­a­tion is pos­si­ble, it’s gen­er­ally the safest choice to get out as early as you can. And if evac­u­a­tion is manda­tory, get out fast. That’s when hav­ing a care­fully thought-out evac­u­a­tion plan in place be­comes im­por­tant.

Your Evac­u­a­tion Plan Step 1: Trailer-Train Your Horses

Imag­ine be­ing faced with ris­ing flood­wa­ters and an evac­u­a­tion or­der from your lo­cal of­fi­cials. Pretty stress­ful? Now imag­ine how you’ll feel when you re­mem­ber that your 2-year-old has never been loaded in a trailer. Or that Old Dob­bin is as stub­born as they come, and hasn’t been trail­ered in years. Spend­ing time to train your horses to load and haul with ease is one of the most im­por­tant things you can do ahead of time to pre­pare for an emer­gency. Evac­u­a­tion may re­quire that your horses be loaded in un­fa­mil­iar rigs by strangers—and of­ten in a hurry. If the mem­bers of your herd are well-trained and easy to han­dle, they’ll have a much bet­ter chance of mak­ing it out alive and un­in­jured.

Step 2: Iden­tify Your Horses

If a dis­as­ter strikes, you’ll move your horses out in a hurry, and may leave them with peo­ple you don’t know. It’s pos­si­ble that one or more will be left be­hind. Re­li­able iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is the key to be­ing suc­cess­fully re­united with your herd af­ter the emer­gency con­cludes. It’s best if your horses each have two forms of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion—one per­ma­nent and one vis­i­ble. Con­sider mi­crochip­ping all your horses as a form of per­ma­nent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Your vet can im­plant a mi­crochip—not much big­ger than a grain of rice—in the lig­a­ment on the top of your horse’s neck. It’s a sim­ple pro­ce­dure, and typ­i­cally costs less than $100. The mi­crochip emits a sig­nal with a per­ma­nent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion num­ber that can be iden­ti­fied us­ing a scan­ning de­vice. You can record this num­ber with both the mi­crochip com­pany and your breed registry—mean­ing that if your horse is “mis­placed” dur­ing a dis­as­ter and evac­u­a­tion, a mi­crochip can help who­ever finds him learn who he is, and how to find you.

A less per­ma­nent but more vis­i­ble form of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is also im­por­tant dur­ing an emer­gency. Make a set of wa­ter­proof lug­gage tags with each of your horses’ names and your name and con­tact num­ber. You could even in­clude notes about each horse’s tem­per­a­ment that might help who­ever ends up hav­ing to trans­port, treat, and house the dif­fer­ent mem­bers of your herd. Plan to at­tach these tags to your horses’ hal­ters as a first step dur­ing any evac­u­a­tion. Or if you haven’t pre­pared tags and find your­self in an emer­gency, use a large, per­ma­nent-ink pen or wa­ter­proof paint to write or paint your phone num­ber on your horse’s side or on one hoof.

Step 3: Or­ga­nize Pa­per­work

If you’re evac­u­at­ing your horses, you’ll need to take them some­where to stay dur­ing the emer­gency. Large fa­cil­i­ties are of­ten gen­er­ous about hous­ing dis­placed horses, but they might have strin­gent health re­quire­ments, such a proof of vac­ci­na­tion and a neg­a­tive Cog­gin’s test. A neg­a­tive Cog­gin’s test will also be re­quired should you have to travel across state lines. Put to­gether a binder with copies (wa­ter­proof) of all these records, along with ei­ther copies of reg­is­tra­tion pa­pers or phys­i­cal de­scrip­tions of all horses. (Be sure to in­clude mi­crochip in­for­ma­tion.) If you have horses with tem­per­a­ment quirks, spe­cial feed­ing re­quire­ments, or med­i­ca­tion needs, note these, as well. Not only will this doc­u­men­ta­tion en­sure that your horses will be wel­come at most fa­cil­i­ties, if you have to hand them off to a stranger in a hurry, your res­cuer will have vi­tal in­for­ma­tion about their care.

Step 4: Ar­range Trans­port

How will you re­move your horses from the vicin­ity of the dan­ger? Do you have enough trailer space for all of them? For ex­am­ple, if you have a four-horse trailer but seven horses on your prop­erty, will you plan to make two trips? Or

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