The focus is on companion equines in this special disaster readiness-themed Top 10 list. As the saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." If you're a horse owner, it really pays to plan for disasters rather than wait for one to strike. The ASPCA's Kelly Nilsson, Director of New York State Disaster Response Services, has graciously provided this list of the top 10 things you can do to protect and prepare yourself and your horse from the danger and chaos that can result from both natural disasters and ordinary, everyday carelessness. Be safe!
1. Keep it Clean
Keep a clean and tidy stable and pasture. Remove hazardous and flammable materials, debris and machinery from around the barn's walkways, entrances and exits. Inspect your grounds regularly and remove dangerous debris in the pasture.
2. Shaky Ground
Regularly maintain and inspect barn floors and septic tanks. Many accidents occur when horses fall through old floors and old septic tanks in the ground.
3. No Smoking
Prevent fires by instituting a no-smoking policy around your barn.
4. Risky Business
Avoid using or leaving on appliances in the barn unless someone is present. Plastic buckets with built-in heaters and laundry dryers are responsible for many barn fires. Even seemingly harmless appliances like box fans, heaters and power tools can overheat. Exposed wiring also can lead to electrical fires in the barn, as can a simple nudge from an animal who accidentally knocks over a machine.
5. Get a Move On
Get your horse used to wearing a halter, and get him used to trailering. Periodically you should practice quickly getting your horse on a trailer for the same reason that schools have fire drills - asking a group of unpracticed children to exit a burning building in a calm fashion is a little unrealistic, as is requesting a new and strange behavior of your horse. Remember, practice makes perfect!
6. The Right Equipment for the Job
If you own a trailer, please inspect it regularly. Ordinary trailer wear-and-tear can result in structural breakdown, which leads to totally avoidable accidents. Also, make sure your towing vehicle is appropriate for the size and weight of the trailer and horse. Many accidents happen because vehicles are not able to handle the size and weight of the trailer.
Always make sure the trailer is hitched properly - the hitch locked on the ball, safety chains or cables attached, and emergency brake battery charged and linked to towing vehicle. Proper tire pressure (as shown on the tire wall) is also very important.
7. Is Your Horse a Social Animal?
Get your horse well-socialized and used to being handled by all kinds of strangers. If possible, invite emergency responders and/or members of your local fire service to interact with your horse. It will be mutually beneficial for them to become acquainted. Firemenís turnout gear may smell like smoke and look unusual, which many horses find frightening - so ask them to wear their usual response gear to get your horse used to the look and smell.
8. Make Friends with Firemen
Get to know your emergency responders and show them the farmís layout so they're familiar with your horses and the hazards and scope of the property.
9. Phone Tree
Set up a phone tree/buddy system with other nearby horse owners and local farms. This could prove invaluable should you - or they - need to evacuate animals or share resources like trailers, pastures or extra hands!
10. Very Important Papers
Keep equine veterinary records in a safe place where they can quickly be reached. Be sure to post emergency phone numbers by the phone. Include your 24-hour veterinarian, emergency services and friends. You should also keep a copy for emergency services personnel in the barn that includes phone numbers for you, your emergency contact, your 24-hour veterinarian and several friends.