Preparing your horse for severe weather
Posted September 27, 2018
Adverse weather can be troublesome for humans and
animals, alike. While small, indoor pets are easier to board and
travel with, horses require additional preparedness and
Dr. Jessica Millwood, a resident in equine practice at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences,
said that planning ahead and paying attention to weather alerts are
the keys to keeping horses safe during severe weather.
“Pastures should be clear of hazardous items, debris, and known
entrapments for horses, and safe fencing and holding areas should
be available around the property,” Millwood said. “Owners should
install lightning suppression systems, sprinkler systems, and smoke
detectors on all high-risk buildings, in particular those where
animals are kept.”
Millwood suggests considering several factors before determining
the most ideal form of shelter.
“Owners should consider their horse’s anxiety level during
storms, the horse’s past experience during severe weather, the
severity of the thunderstorms forecasted, and the storm-worthiness
of the barn,” she said.
If a horse spends more time outdoors and is not accustomed to
any other housing, it could be more stressful to try and place them
in an enclosed environment, according to Millwood. A small,
semi-covered secure paddock might be a better alternative for
horses that react poorly to being stalled.
“On the other hand, if the horse tends to show nervousness or
anxiety outside during storms, a stall in a strongly-built barn may
be a better alternative than being left outdoors,” she said.
“Visual contact with herd mates may also help diffuse anxious
Contact information for you or your local veterinarian should be
posted in the barn or stable. Horses should also have a microchip,
brand, or any other form of identification to ensure they are
returned home safely if they escape from the enclosure.
In the case of flooding, Millwood says that owners should ensure
their horses have safe drinking water, without which horses may
become dehydrated or be forced to drink contaminated flood
“Flooding may also destroy food resources available to horses
and eating moldy hay or feed can lead to clinical signs such as
colic or respiratory disorders,” she added. “Owners should ensure
adequate food is available for at least 72 hours after a predicted
flooding event is suspected to subside, and they should store feed
securely to prevent contamination or spoilage.”
Another concern that comes with flooding is standing in polluted
water through which the horse’s skin is exposed to irritants and
contaminants. Owners should bathe their horses as soon as possible
after a flood and keep their horses up-to-date on core vaccines to
prevent any potentially fatal diseases.
Most severe weather conditions are tracked in advance, with the
most likely scenarios forecasted. If necessary, Millwood suggests
that owners evacuate their horses while it is still possible to do
Owners have a heightened responsibility to care for and keep
their animals safe during severe weather. By taking the necessary
precautions and having a disaster plan ready, you can ensure that
you and your horse are prepared when a situation arises.
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Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be
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