The appearance of a tropical storm on weather maps makes every horse owner in its path worry, and rightfully so. Even if it never reaches hurricane strength, a tropical storm can be destructive and deadly. Begin your preparations when skies are clear so that when the weather turns dicey you’ll have less to worry about. Most of the following steps are good management practices in general:
1. Tend to your trees. Trim overhanging limbs and cut down unhealthy and weak trees that could damage structures and fences or block access to your driveway if they were to fall.
2. Repair hinges and gate latches. Worn hardware can break in high winds, allowing horses to escape. Periodically inspect all of the closures on your property and repair or replace faulty ones promptly. Likewise, try to get to repairs to fences, roofs and buildings without delay.
3. Organize your barn aisle. Keep the aisle clear of anything that could become a missile in high winds or impede an evacuation. This includes stall mucking tools, saddle racks and grooming kits.
4. Prepare for power outages. Headlamps offer a hands-free alternative to flashlights when working in the dark with horses. But it’s important to desensitize your horses to them ahead of time---some horses are spooked by a moving light. Also, consider installing a generator or at least acquiring a portable model so you can pump well water if the power goes out.
5. Establish an evacuation plan. Lay out how you will transport your horses and where you will take them. Be sure to account for contingencies, such as traffic or blocked routes. Keep an extra set of supplies in your trailer, including a first-aid kit, extra buckets, halters and lead ropes, along with copies of health papers and proof of ownership, such as photographic documentation of your horses and property.
Consider adding a little Gatorade to your horse’s water from time to time: In the event of a disaster or drought, he may hesitate to drink unfamiliar water. But if he is accustomed to the flavor of Gatorade, it can be used to encourage him to drink water regardless of its source.