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Evacuating when a hurricane hits the coast is a stressful and
scary experience, especially when evacuating with horses. While
tornadoes give little warning for evacuation, hurricanes can give
enough lead time to actually move people and horses out of the
storm's expected path. But even with that time, preparing for
equine evacuations can be crucial to the survival of horses.
Dr. William Moyer, professor and special assistant to the dean
at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical
Sciences, offered a series of suggestions for evacuating with
"Take the threat seriously. You need to make the decision to leave
as soon as you can. If you wait until the last minute, you're
placing yourself and your horse in harm's way. Over 100,000
animals were lost during Hurricane Ike," Moyer said. He
suggested that owners make sure their trailers are road-worthy
before hurricane season begins or identify someone with reliable
trucks and trailers who can transport horses for them.
Another important aspect of evacuating horses is ensuring that
your horses are comfortable with loading. Working with your horses
ahead of time is particularly important if a neighbor or friend
will be transporting your horse because ill-behaved horses can
waste valuable evacuation time or refusal of transport.
Evacuation traffic is often slow and crowded, creating a
dangerous situation for trailered horses. "You are often forced to
move quite slowly. Filling up on gas or diesel before entering
traffic is imperative and can keep you out of situations where your
animal might overheat or become dehydrated should you run out of
fuel," Moyer said.
Moyer advised identifying evacuation destinations.
"While moving inland during a hurricane is important, finding a
specific place to go is best. During hurricane Ike we sheltered 166
horses through a cooperative agreement with a local livestock arena
operation. The degree of planning for resources, personnel, and
scheduling regular care can be daunting. The State of Texas
recognizes that prior planning and implementation is live saving
for both animals and people."
He suggested creating an evacuation "kit" with a brief and well
documented health history, a list of behavior peculiarities (if
applicable), a first aid kit, cash, appropriate health
documentation, enough food and adequate, safe water supplies for
about four days, and any necessary medicine for chronic or
Owners also need to ensure the appropriate health documentation
accompanies the horse. An up-to-date Coggins test is necessary,
particularly if crossing state lines. Moyer suggested making sure
you have these papers organized before hurricane season.
In addition to required documentation, vaccinations are also
"Because evacuating can be a stressful time, vaccinations can
help decrease the likelihood of several diseases," said Moyer.
"Mosquitos can be a huge problem during hurricane season, and
moving them around coastal areas can expose them to new areas of
infestation and diseases."
Also, prepare current paper and electronic copies of pictures of
your horse for reclaiming purposes, particularly if the horse isn't
tattooed or branded.
"Ideally, these would include a picture of the owner and the
horse together to insure ownership," Moyer said.
If you cannot evacuate your horse, or are forced to leave part
of your herd behind, there are also some precautions that can help
you reunite with your horse. Keeping photographs can help, but also
attaching identification information to the horse's body can be
"Braiding information wrapped in plastic to horses manes and
tails can help. Livestock paint works well to put identification
information on the body, and it's waterproof. Or even taking a pair
of clippers and shaving your contact information into the animal's
hair can help you reunite with your horse when you return."
In addition to preparing your horse for evacuation, Moyer also
suggested preparing yourself.
"Have a personal evacuation plan, too. You have to take care of
yourself first to be able to take care of your horse."
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