A while ago I wrote about the need to have a disaster plan, https://equinefacilitydesign.com/equine-care/equine-disaster-plans.htm, recent historic flooding has reached the equestrian community, threatening the lives of hundreds of horses. Do your horses live in a flood plain? Even if the farm isn’t in an area commonly threatened by floodwaters, you might be surprised by the answer.
And even if the flood threat seems distant, consider this: extreme weather events in North America are on the rise, and urban construction only increases the risk of flooding. Rainwater which would have been absorbed into the soil has to go somewhere when the soil is covered by concrete — new levels of rainwater run-off could create floods in areas which were unaffected. It’s time to make a plan for floods.
Have an evacuation plan: Know where you’re going to take your horses, and how you’re going to get there. Large stabling areas such as fairgrounds, show-grounds, and racetracks may open as evacuation facilities. Consider the possibility of water inundating low-lying roadways. Keep a go-bag ready in your trailer, with first aid supplies, spare halters and lead-ropes, copies of Coggins tests and other paperwork, plus buckets and equipment you might need at an evacuation property.
Have evacuation-ready horses: This means training your horse to load quickly and quietly–every time. A disaster situation is not the time to remember that Sparky only gets on the trailer after twenty-minutes with a lead-rope across his hindquarters and half a bag of Mrs. Pasture’s cookies. Keyed-up humans and potentially stormy weather means your horses will already be on edge–will they load onto the trailer efficiently, giving you plenty of time to drive safely to your evacuation facility?
Prepare identifiers for your horses: If trailering out isn’t an option, have items on hand to help rescuers identify your horses if necessary. Keep recent photographs of your horses to record markings, along with recording any tattoos, microchip numbers, or brands. You can also use luggage tags marked with your phone number to braid into your horse’s mane or attach to their (leather, breakaway) halters.
Afterwards, use caution on the farm: If pastures or trails are flooded, walk them carefully before using the spaces again. Floods leave behind all matter of debris, which could include sharp rusted metal, entangling ropes or wires, and other items which could spell disaster for a horse long after the threat of floodwaters has passed. Pay close attention to potential outbreaks of illness as well.
Preparing for disaster beforehand can be hard to work into your busy schedule, but it’s much easier than finding yourself faced with an emergency and no plan. Take a little time out this week to consider what you’d do if faced with a flood at your horse’s farm. Take those documenting photographs, and put those first aid items in your trailer. A few minutes of prevention will go a long way in the face of a flood.