Category Archives: Emergency Preparedness


The most common esophageal conditions in horses is choking and it is always an emergency.

Typically, there is a cause to this condition like eating too quickly, food being too dry or suck together, or even a lack of water. Some horses may choke due to their dental health as well. Further, abnormal esophagus anatomy can also contribute a predisposition to choking, Food may form a firm bolus that becomes lodged in their esophagus. However, other items can also cause an obstruction like hay or straw, hard treats, carrots, and even, nonfood objects.

How to tell if your horse is choking?

  • The most common symptoms are hyper salivation, food or foam coming out of their nose and mouth
  • Some horses may become anxious and thrash around
  • Retching
  • Not eating
  • Acting colicky
  • Coughing

What to do when you suspect your horse is choking?

  • Immediately remove access to any food or hay.
  • Call your veterinarian
  • If you are knowledgable with medication administration, and your horse is extremely agitated, you can administer a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) like Banamine. Make sure to check the horse’s temperature before administering as NSAIDs will mask a fever.
  • Once the vet arrives they will preform a physical exam. Typically, they will insert a tube down the horse’s throat to flush out any compaction. This may have to be done multiple times.
  • Your horse maybe required to begin antibiotics depending on the veterinarian’s advise to help treat any aspiration or potential pneumonia.
  • You may need to keep your horse confined for a few horses (or days) depending on the severity of the choke.
  • You will need to check their temperature for a few days after choke to ensure that the horse has not developed an upper respiratory infection.
  • Depending on the cause, the veterinarian may schedule a dental float procedure, or have you wet the horse’s feed and/or hay or switch the feed entirely.

Strangles Cases Climb in Florida

How Long Will A Riding Helmet Last?

How to Check Your Horse’s Gut Sounds

What’s In Your Tack Trunk?

Equine First Aid Kit
All horse owners should have an equine first aid kit & know how to use all of the supplies. At least twice yearly, examine & replenish outdated supplies. Store your first aid kit in your home or temperature controlled space. Leaving it in a trailer or uninsulated tack room will quickly degrade the supplies. Talk to your veterinarian about customizing your first-aid kit for your horse’s particular needs.

Thermometer, Mercury or Digital
Stethoscope (good quality)
Headlight (good quality)
Proper Fitting Halter & Lead Rope
Latex Gloves (12)
Watch or Timepiece with Second Hand
Bandage Scissors
Suture Scissors
Tweezers or Forceps (smooth jaws)
Non-Sterile Gauze – 4″x4″ Squares (1 package)
Conform® or Kling® Gauze 4″ (2 rolls)
Elastic Adhesive Bandage (Elasticon®) 3″ (2 rolls)
Cohesive Bandage (Vetrap®) 4″ (2 rolls)
Non-Adhesive Wound Dressing (Telfa® pads) 3″x4″ (2) & 3″x8″ (2)
Povidone Iodine (Betadine®) Solution (4 oz)
Antiseptic Scrub, Chlorhexidine or Povidone Iodine (Betadine®) Scrub (4 oz)
Small Plastic Containers for Mixing or Storage (2)
Wound Lavage or Cleaning Bottle, Saline (250 ml)
Tongue Depressors (6)
Alcohol Wipes (10)
Spray Bottle for Water (1)
Paper Towels (1 roll)
Multi-Purpose Tool, Leatherman® or Equivalent
Cotton Lead Rope (3/4″ – 1″ in diameter)
Electrolytes (paste or powder)
Fly Repellent Ointment (1)
Heavy Plastic Bags (2 – gallon & 2 – pint size)

Cotton, Rolled Sheets, Leg Cottons (2)
Standing Wrap & Quilt or Shipping Boots
Easy Boot or Equivalent in Appropriate Size
Baby Diapers (2) (size 4 to 6 depending on hoof size)
Triple Antibiotic Ointment (1 tube)
Extra Halter & Lead Rope
Syringe 35 cc (1)
Syringe 12cc (3)
Syringe 3 cc (3)
Syringe 3cc with 20gauge needle (3)
Syringe – 60 cc cath tip (2)
Needles – 18gauge – x 1.5″ (4)
Needles – 20 gauge – x1.5″ (4)
Eye Wash, Saline (1 bottle)
Opthalmic Ointment or Drops (1 bottle or tube)
Magnesium Sulfate, Epsom Salts (1 package)
Duct Tape (1 roll)
Clippers with #40 Blade (good quality)
Shoe Puller
Crease Nail Puller
Hoof Pick
Hoof Knife
Hoof File, Rasp
Clinch Cutters
Farrier’s Driving Hammer
Collapsible Water Bucket
Ice Wraps
Bute Banamine Bordered

Talk to your veterinarian about dispensing a few medicines that you may use in an emergency. In most, if not all states, a veterinarian cannot legally dispense prescription items without a valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR). 

• Flunixin Meglumine (Banamine®) (injectable or paste)
• Phenylbutazone, Bute Paste (1)
• Trimethoprim-Sulfa Tablets SMZ-TMP in small container (75#)

Horse First-Aid Kit

What to Include in a First-Aid Kit for a Horse

The Horse: Barn First-Aid

Medicine Chest Clean Out

Anti-Inflammatory Medications to have on Hand

Practical Biosecurity Tips to Protect Your Horses – The Horse

Learn equine biosecurity basics for the farm, horse show, and breeding shed to protect your horses from infectious diseases.
— Read on

10 Common Horse Emergencies & the Skills You Need to Help – Horse Side Vet Guide

#1 Abdominal Pain, Colic Signs Perform Whole Horse Exam™ (WHE) Assess Color of Mucous Membranes Assess Demeanor or Attitude Assess Gut or Intestinal Sounds Assess Manure Assess Capillary Refill Time (CRT) by examining Gums Give Intramuscular (IM) Injection Give Oral Medication Sand Sediment Test…
— Read on

Extra Care for Horses in Cold Weather

Horses Require Extra Attention when Temperatures Plummet

With freezing temperatures comes the need for extra care and attention for horses and other equids.


Horses Require Extra Attention When Temperatures Plummet
The next few days will bring freezing weather to many parts of the country, and with that comes the need for extra care and attention for horses, donkeys, ponies, mules, and any other outdoor animals.As the temperatures decrease, a horse’s feed requirements increase. Allowing horses free choice to good quality forage (hay) is the surest way to ensure that they consume enough energy, and the process of digesting forage will actually produce heat. Horses will typically consume 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in forage each day; that would be 25 pounds per day for a 1,000 pound horse. Winter pasture alone will not provide enough forage to sustain a horse and, therefore, must be supplemented with hay and/or grain.

The growing season some parts of the nation had last year produced overly stemmy or fibrous hay with a lower digestibility. As a result, making certain that horses are supplemented with grain when fed lower quality hay will help them maintain body weight and condition, a key factor in withstanding cold temperatures.

Constant access to clean, fresh water at 35 to 50°F is an absolute necessity to keeping horses healthy. This can be achieved via heated tanks or buckets, or by filling a tank, letting it freeze, cutting an access hole in the frozen surface, and then always filling the tank to below the level of the hole from that point on. This provides a self-insulating function and will typically keep the water below from freezing. Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to check tanks frequently to ensure your horse’s water remains free of ice.

Additional ways to keep horses comfortable in cold weather include making sure they have access to shelter. A well-bedded, three-sided shed facing south or east will typically provide adequate protection from wind and snow, as can appropriate bluffs or treed areas.

When the temperatures get colder, mature horses will not typically move around much in an effort to conserve energy. Making an attempt to keep hay, shelter, and water fairly close together can limit the energy expenditure required, thus conserving body condition.

And, finally, keeping horses at a body condition score of 5 or 6 (on a 9-point scale) will help prevent surprises when horses shed their winter hair in the spring, and improve conception rates for those choosing to breed.

Three Ways You May Be Inadvertently Putting Your Barn at Risk for Fire

We all love our horses. Sometimes in the interest of expedience we can inadvertently create unsafe conditions. ©Thomas Gumbrecht

More so than from other tragedies, I find myself physically as well as emotionally affected by these stories. As the horses usually have absolutely no chance of escaping, I think it is probably the horse owner’s worst nightmare.

Emotions aside, in my job as a professional electrician, I am mindful that many of these fires are caused by faulty electrical wiring or fixtures. Over the year,s I have borne witness to my share of potential and actual hazards. Designing a barn’s electrical system to today’s codes and standards is a topic for another day. For today, let’s address what we can do to make the existing horse barn safer.

I can’t cite statistics or studies, but my own experience shows the main safety issues that I am exposed to fall into three general categories:

  1. Using extension cords in place of permanent wiring
  2. Exposed lamps in lighting fixtures, and
  3. Overloading of branch circuits.

The first item I am addressing is extension cords.

I am often asked how extension cords can be UL-listed and sold if they are inherently unsafe. The answer is that cords are not unsafe when used as intended, but become so when used in place of permanent wiring.

The main concern is that most general purpose outlets in barns are powered by 15 or 20 ampere circuits, using 14 or 12 gauge building wiring, respectively. Most cords, however, for reasons of economy and flexibility, are rated for 8 or 10 amperes, and are constructed of 18 or 16 gauge wiring. That’s no problem if you are using the cord as intended—say, powering a clipper that only draws 1 to 4 amperes.

The problem comes when the cord is left in place, maybe tacked up on the rafters for the sake of “neatness.” You use it occasionally, but then winter comes and you plug a couple of bucket heaters into it. When the horses start drinking more water because it’s not ice cold, two buckets become four—or more.

If they draw 2.5 amperes each, you are now drawing 10 amperes on your 18 gauge extension cord that is only rated to carry 8 amperes. The circuit breaker won’t trip because it is protecting the building wiring, which is rated at 20 amperes. A GFCI outlet won’t trip either because the problem is an overload, not a ground fault.

Anyway, next winter, you decide to remove two of the buckets and add a trough outside the stall with a 1500 watt heater, which draws 12.5 amps at 120 volts. If you thought of it, you even replaced the old 18 gauge cord with a 16 gauge one that the package called “heavy duty.” Now the load is 17.5 amperes on a cord that is designed to handle 10 amperes.

In this case, it is possible to overload a “heavy duty” cord by using it at 175% of its rated capacity and never trip a circuit breaker. What has happened is, we’ve begun to think of the extension cord as permanent wiring, rather than as a temporary convenience to extend the appliance cord over to the outlet.

In doing so, we have created an unsafe condition.

Overloaded cords run hot. Heat is the product of too much current flowing over too small a wire. The material they are made of isn’t intended to stand up over time as permanent wiring must. It’s assumed that you will have the opportunity to inspect it as you unroll it before each use.

“Love means attention, which means taking care of that which we love. We call this stable management” —George Morris. ©Thomas Gumbrecht

The second item on our list is exposed lamps (bulbs) in lighting fixtures.

Put simply, they don’t belong in a horse barn. A hot light bulb that gets covered in dust or cobwebs is a hazard. A bulb that explodes due to accumulating moisture, being struck by horse or human, or simply a manufacturing defect introduces the additional risk of a hot filament falling onto a flammable fuel source such as hay or dry shavings.

In the case of an unguarded fluorescent fixture, birds frequently build nests in or above these fixtures due to the heat generated by the ballast transformers within them. Ballasts do burn out, and a fuel source—such as that from birds’ nesting materials—will provide, with oxygen, all the necessary components for a fire that may quickly spread to dry wood framing.

The relatively easy fix is to use totally enclosed, gasketed and guarded light fixtures everywhere in the barn. They are known in the trade as vaporproof fixtures and are completely enclosed so that nothing can enter them, nothing can touch the hot lamp, and no hot parts or gases can escape in the event of failure.

The incandescent versions have a cast metal wiring box, a Pyrex globe covering the lamp, and a cast metal guard over the globe. In the case of the fluorescent fixture, the normal metal fixture pan is surrounded by a sealed fiberglass enclosure with a gasketed lexan cover over the lamps sealed with a gasket and secured in place with multiple pressure clamps.

Unsafe conditions tend to creep up on us. We don’t set out to create unsafe conditions for our horses. ©Thomas Gumbrecht

The last item, overloaded branch circuits, is not typically a problem if the wiring was professionally installed and not subsequently tampered with. If too much load is placed on a circuit that has been properly protected, the result will be only the inconvenience of a tripped circuit breaker.

The problem comes when some “resourceful” individual does a quick fix by installing a larger circuit breaker. The immediate problem, tripping of a circuit breaker, is solved, but the much more serious problem of wiring that is no longer protected at the level for which it was designed, is created.

Any time a wire is allowed to carry more current than it was designed to, there is nothing to stop it from heating up to a level above which is considered acceptable.


Unsafe conditions tend to creep up on us—we don’t set out to create hazardous conditions for our horses.

Some may think it silly that the electrical requirements in horse barns (which are covered by their own separate part of the National Electric Code) are in many ways more stringent than those in our homes.

I believe that it makes perfect sense. The environmental conditions in a horse barn are much more severe than the normal wiring methods found in the home can handle. Most importantly, a human can usually sense and react to the warning signals of a smoke alarm, the smell of smoke, or of burning building materials and take appropriate action to protect or evacuate the occupants. Our horses, however, depend on us for that, so we need to use extra-safe practices to keep them secure.

As I always state in closing my electrical safety discussions, I know that we all love our animals. Sometimes in the interest of expedience, we can inadvertently cause conditions that we never intended. Electrical safety is just another aspect of stable management. I often use the words of George Morris to summarize:


“Love means giving something our attention, which means taking care of that which we love. We call this stable management.”

About the Author

Thomas Gumbrecht began riding at age 45 and eventually was a competitor in lower level eventing and jumpers. Now a small farm owner, he spends his time working with his APHA eventer DannyBoy, his OTTB mare Lola, training her for a second career, and teaching his grandson about the joy of horses. He enjoys writing to share some of life’s breakthroughs toward which his horses have guided him.

The Weather Outside is Frightful…

I walked outside to sit on my porch and enjoy the evening, when I realized that the time is fast approaching where I can not longer do so without bundling up first.  I decided it was time to get ready for the winter months ahead especially for my equine friends.

I have included articles, lists, resources, etc to help you make sure you and your horse are ready for the dropping temperatures! 

Preparing Your Horse for Winter

Cushings Horse

By: Dr. Lydia Gray

Hot chocolate, mittens and roaring fires keep us warm on cold winter nights. But what about horses? What can you do to help them through the bitter cold, driving wind and icy snow? Below are tips to help you and your horse not only survive but thrive during yet another frosty season.


Your number one responsibility to your horse during winter is to make sure he receives enough quality feedstuffs to maintain his weight and enough drinkable water to maintain his hydration. Forage, or hay, should make up the largest portion of his diet, 1 – 2 % of his body weight per day. Because horses burn calories to stay warm, fortified grain can be added to the diet to keep him at a body condition score of 5 on a scale of 1 (emaciated) to 9 (obese). If your horse is an easy keeper, will not be worked hard, or should not have grain for medical reasons, then a ration balancer or complete multi-vitamin/mineral supplement is a better choice than grain. Increasing the amount of hay fed is the best way to keep weight on horses during the winter, as the fermentation process generates internal heat.

Research performed at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine showed that if during cold weather horses have only warm water available, they will drink a greater volume per day than if they have only icy cold water available. But if they have a choice between warm and icy water simultaneously, they drink almost exclusively from the icy and drink less volume than if they have only warm water available. The take home message is this: you can increase your horse’s water consumption by only providing warm water. This can be accomplished either by using any number of bucket or tank heaters or by adding hot water twice daily with feeding. Another method to encourage your horse to drink more in winter (or any time of the year) is to topdress his feed with electrolytes.


It may be tempting to give your horse some “down-time” during winter, but studies have found that muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and overall flexibility significantly decrease even if daily turnout is provided. And as horses grow older, it takes longer and becomes more difficult each spring to return them to their previous level of work. Unfortunately, exercising your horse when it’s cold and slippery or frozen can be challenging.

First, work with your farrier to determine if your horse has the best traction with no shoes, regular shoes, shoes with borium added, shoes with “snowball” pads, or some other arrangement. Do your best to lunge, ride or drive in outside areas that are not slippery. Indoor arenas can become quite dusty in winter so ask if a binding agent can be added to hold water and try to water (and drag) as frequently as the temperature will permit. Warm up and cool down with care. A good rule of thumb is to spend twice as much time at these aspects of the workout than you do when the weather is warm. And make sure your horse is cool and dry before turning him back outside or blanketing.


A frequently asked question is: does my horse need a blanket? In general, horses with an adequate hair coat, in good flesh and with access to shelter probably do not need blanketed. However, horses that have been clipped, recently transported to a cold climate, or are thin or sick may need the additional warmth and protection of outerwear.

Horses begin to grow their longer, thicker winter coats in July, shedding the shorter, thinner summer coats in October. The summer coat begins growing in January with March being prime shedding season. This cycle is based on day length—the winter coat is stimulated by decreasing daylight, the summer coat is stimulated by increasing daylight. Owners can inhibit a horse’s coat primarily through providing artificial daylight in the fall but also by clothing their horse as the temperature begins to fall. If the horse’s exercise routine in the winter causes him to sweat and the long hair hampers the drying and cooling down process, body clipping may be necessary. Blanketing is then a must.


There are a number of health conditions that seem to be made worse by the winter environment. The risk of impaction colic may be decreased by stimulating your horse to drink more water either by providing warm water as the only source or feeding electrolytes. More time spent inside barns and stalls can exacerbate respiratory conditions like “heaves” (now called recurrent airway obstruction), GI conditions like ulcers, and musculoskeletal conditions like degenerative joint disease. Control these problems with appropriate management—such as increasing ventilation in the barn and increasing turnout time—and veterinary intervention in the form of medications and supplements.

Freeze/thaw cycles and muddy or wet conditions can lead to thrush in the hooves and “scratches,” or, pastern dermatitis, on the legs. Your best protection against these diseases is keeping the horse in as clean and dry surroundings as possible, picking his feet frequently, and keeping the lower limbs trimmed of hair. Another common winter skin condition is “rain rot,” caused by the organism Dermatophilus congolensis. Regular grooming and daily observation can usually prevent this problem, but consult your veterinarian if your horse’s back and rump develop painful, crusty lumps that turn into scabs.

About Dr. Lydia Gray

Winter Resources

Preparing your horse and barn for winter

Winter Horse Care Must Haves

Around the Barn Winter Prep

Winter Nutrition Tips for Horses

Penn State: Winter Care for Your Horses

Barn Tips for Winter

Horse Barn Health Checker

Cold Weather Barn Management Check List

15 Winter Tips

I Wish Money Grew On Trees

It is a new year.  So, what better way to start off the year then to make a budget for my horse-related expenses.  Yay!!!! (NO!)  Owning a horse is not just like owning any other pet…it is far more expensive.  Especially when you have a senior horse with maintenance vet bills and a rather large diet.

The average horse has the following expenses:

  • Feed
  • Hay
  • Supplements
  • Board
  • Farrier 1x a month
  • Dentist/Float about once every 6mths
  • Vet
  • Vaccinations and worming
  • Coggins

And that is the bare minimum….

I have always known how much my guy costs to keep happy and healthy and living a life of luxury but when I added it all up on one spreadsheet and saw all of the numbers right there in front of me I almost hyperventilated!  How much!???

Below is my personal budget for Chance.  I set up the average cost of each item/service and set up a column for each of the upcoming months.



Below are some useful resources for making your own budget.


Horse Expenses

Horse Expense Calculator

The TRUE Cost of Owning A Horse

“I’ll Send An SOS To The World…”

Equine Emergency Preparedness in Virginia

The below was written by: Shea Porr, Ph.D., Superintendent, Middleburg Agricultural Research and Extension (MARE) Center, Middleburg, Va.; and Jennifer Brown, D.V.M., Clinical Assistant Professor of Equine Surgery, Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Leesburg, Va.

The 2006 Virginia Equine Survey reported approximately 215,000 horses – a 26 percent increase since 2001 – that was accompanied by a 41 percent increase in the number of horse operations. The equine industry is growing, and there should be adequate emergency preparedness training and documentation for both emergency responders and horse owners or service providers. In nearly every emergency or disaster situation, preparing before the event is the key.

There are a variety of emergency and disaster situations that could affect horses in Virginia. Acts of nature include such things as hurricanes, tornadoes, and winter weather, as well as floods and fires (both barn and wildfires). Other emergencies include loose horses on roadways, horses – alone or with riders – hit by cars, and horses trapped in overturned or wrecked trailers. This publication includes methods of assessing risk for the types of natural disasters that are most common in a given area, as well as other types of emergencies that may be encountered. It discusses how to work with emergency management personnel and presents tools to help people prepare before an incident, including setting up emergency plans and having appropriate first-aid and emergency kits gathered. It also covers how to respond during an incident, including when to evacuate, where to go, what to take, how to contact friends and family, and how to return or recover after an incident.

Emergency Contact Information

Listed below are some state and local agencies that you might want or need to contact in case of an emergency or disaster. Fill in the contact information for your local agencies for faster reference.

Virginia State Animal Response Team: (804) 346-2611;

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services: (804) 786-2042;

Office of the State Veterinarian/Veterinary Services: (804) 692-0601;

Local fire department:

Local animal control:

Local feed store/hay dealer:

Local emergency veterinarian or regular veterinarian:

 General Disaster Preparation

In the event of a disaster, it’s very important for you as a horse owner to have preplanned actions and proper information to enable you to make rapid decisions that may save your horses and even your own life. The following general guidelines will help you become better prepared.

Assess Your Risks

There are a wide variety of accidents or disasters that could affect different areas of the country. Take time to evaluate the region in which you live and assess which risks you are more likely to encounter. Examples of widespread disasters include floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, nuclear accidents, disease threats, chemical spills, and ice storms. Typical accidents or other emergency situations may include escaped animals and horses – with or without riders – hit by a car or stuck in ditches, mud, or water. For each type disaster, ask yourself the following questions:

• What are your major vulnerabilities?

• What can you do to minimize the damage?

• What plans do you have in place?

• Who do you need to contact?

Before an Event

Plan ahead. Hopefully it will be the best wasted time of your life and you’ll never have to enact your emergency plan. However, if you do need to take action, you’d rather be prepared. Start by taking a careful look at your property and identifying the best place to locate your animals for each type of disaster you consider. Check for alternate water sources. You want to be able to have enough fresh water and hay available to last for at least 48-72 hours.

Prepare for the possibility that you might need to evacuate both yourself and your horses. Check with your local law enforcement, animal control, or agricultural Extension agent for routes and recommendations. Several locations should be identified ahead of time, and you will want to know the entry requirements for each. Be sure to have agreements arranged for your animals in advance.

Nothing is worse than needing to move your horses and having no way to get them out. Keep trailers and vans well maintained and full of fuel, ready to go. If you don’t have enough trailer space to move all your animals at one time, make arrangements with a neighbor or professional horse hauling company. You will want to have contracts in place in advance, because making arrangements at the last minute in an emergency situation is often impossible. Make sure to keep current and adequate insurance coverage on all vehicles.

Animal identification: Prepare an identification packet for each horse, including information on their age, sex, breed, color, registrations, unique identifying marks, photos, microchip numbers, etc. Write down any special feeding instructions, list any medications with dosage, and record the name and phone number of your prescribing veterinarian. Be sure all vaccinations and medical records are in writing and up to date. Have a current Coggins test, which you will need if your horse has to be moved to get to safety. If you’re going across state lines, you may need a health certificate along with a copy of your Coggins test. If you leave, take your records with you. Records left at home may be damaged or destroyed during a disaster.

If you become separated from your horse in a disaster or emergency, permanent identification such as a tattoo, microchip, or brand will help reunite you, as well as provide proof that the animal is yours. If disaster strikes before you can do this, find another way to get your information onto the animal. Use leg or break-away neck bands with your contact information or braid a waterproof luggage tag into the mane or tail to help identify your horse. You can also paint or etch the hooves; write the information down, seal it in a Ziplock-type plastic bag, and then secure it to the halter with duct tape; or paint your telephone number on the side of the animal using livestock paint.

Finally, consider an event where you might by unable to evacuate all your animals. Make a priority list and familiarize both family and farm personnel with the list in case you are not present when the disaster occurs.

Seventy-two-hour emergency kit, first-aid kit, and emergency tools: The 72-hour emergency kit is designed to help you ride out the immediate impact of a disaster, making certain that essentials are provided for. A plastic trash barrel with lid can be used for a multitude of things and can store many of the items in the kit when it’s not needed. Pack one or two tarpaulins for protection and a couple of water buckets. If you have time to prepare, make sure to have enough hay, feed, and water for each horse for at least three days stored safely – though a week would be better. It is very possible that roads will be closed because of downed power lines and trees, limiting access to feed stores. Cover hay with waterproof tarps and place it on pallets to reduce the chance of the hay sitting in water and keep grain in water-tight containers.

Each horse will need 12-20 gallons of water per day. Fill all the water troughs and buckets. Additional water can be stored in garbage cans with plastic liners. You might want to consider purchasing a generator to run the well if you have a large number of horses.

Have a packed first-aid kit in the emergency supplies and consider one for the trailer as well.

Your basic first-aid kit should include the following:

  • Exam gloves
  • Betadine or Nolvasan solutions for cleaning and disinfecting wounds
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Absorbent dressings
  • Cotton leg wraps and Vetrap bandaging tape/standing wraps to secure them
  • Thermometer
  • Bandage scissors
  • Sterile saline
  • Knife and wire cutters
  • Duct tape
  • Fire-resistant leads and halters
  • Clean towels
  • Fly spray
  • Livestock markers or paint
  • Regular bleach (unscented, with hypochlorite as the only active ingredient; can be used to purify water for drinking*)
  • Lime (can be used for sanitation)
  • Portable radio
  • Flashlight
  • Extra batteries

* To purify water, add eight drops of chlorine bleach per gallon of water and let it stand for 30 minutes before consuming.

Emergency tools include such things as:

  • Chainsaw and fuel
  • Hammer and nails
  • Fence repair materials
  • Wire cutters
  • Pry bar
  • Fire extinguisher (see the section on fire safety for more information)

Buddy system: Talk with a neighbor or friend and make arrangements to check on each other after a disaster. Tell one another if you are evacuating and to where so someone else will know where you are going. Buddies may agree to pool resources for such items as generators, water tanks, trailers, etc. You will also want to have a network of people outside the disaster area that you and your friends and neighbors can contact to check on each other, because the local communication infrastructure may be compromised and not available.

Putting the plan into practice: When facing a potential disaster, remain calm and follow your plan! Remember: It is vitally important to evacuate early in any mandatory evacuation to avoid getting stalled in traffic and create unnecessary hardships.

After an Event

Notify family, friends (your buddy), and officials that you are OK – whether you stayed or evacuated. Use phones, radios, the Internet, signs, or word of mouth. As soon as possible, take pictures or videotape of storm-damaged property for insurance claims.

Inspect your premises carefully before turning out horses. Look for foreign materials such as tin, glass or nails, downed trees or limbs, and damaged fences or power lines. Be careful leaving your animals unattended outside. Familiar scents and landmarks may be altered, and your horses could easily become confused and lost.

Check with your local veterinarian or the state veterinarian’s office for information of any disease threats that may exist because of the situation. If your animals have been lost, or if you find someone else’s horses, you have several options. By contacting local horse owners, farriers, veterinarians, animal control, or the local disaster response team or by listening to the Emergency Broadcast System, you’ll most likely find out how to log lost or found animals. If you have lost horses, be prepared to identify them and document ownership. This is where your identification packet comes in handy. In the event that you find lost animals, use extreme caution in handling them. If possible, work in pairs for safety. Keep the lost horse(s) contained and isolated, and notify authorities as soon as possible.


Hurricanes bring a variety of weather-related dangers with them, particularly tornadoes and flooding. Leading causes of death in large animals related to hurricanes include animals killed in collapsed barns, electrocution, complications secondary to dehydration, animals hit and killed on roadways, and horses tangled in barbed wire after escaping from their pasture. As noted in the general disaster preparation section, each farm should have a written disaster plan to optimize the safety and survival of all animals.

Before the Storm

Horses should be current on their vaccinations, particularly their tetanus toxoid vaccine. Some veterinarians will also recommend vaccinating against eastern or western equine encephalitis at the beginning of hurricane season due to the potential increase in the number of mosquitoes after a storm. All horses should also have a negative Coggins test, if only because the horse may need to be evacuated to a community shelter or cross state lines. A health certificate is also required to cross state lines, so one may be necessary for evacuation of coastal areas. Review the section on general disaster preparations for other details.

Farm considerations: In addition to the general disaster preparation recommendations, be sure to secure all movable objects and remove all items from hallways. Jumps and lawn furniture should be secured in a safe place. Place large vehicles, tractors, or trailers in an open field where trees cannot fall on them. Finally, turn off electrical power to barn.

Evacuation plans: Evacuation of flood plains and coastal areas is usually recommended, and should occur 48 hours before hurricane-force winds occur in the area. Transportation of horses when wind gusts exceed 40 mph is dangerous, and trailers may not be allowed across bridges for safety reasons.

If you can’t evacuate or choose not to, what is the best method for keeping your horses safe? Should horses be left in the pasture or placed in the barn? If the pasture has good fencing and limited trees, it is probably best to leave the horses outside. Do not keep horses in barbed wire or electric fencing during a storm. Trees with shallow roots will fall easily under hurricane-force winds and can injure the horse or destroy the fencing. Fire ants and snakes will search for higher ground during flooding. Carefully look over the premises and the feed for these potential dangers. Well-constructed pole barns or concrete block barns may provide safety from flying debris, but the horses may become trapped if wind collapses the building. Keep horses out of pastures with power lines.

After the Storm

Use the information under general disaster preparations to pick up the pieces and carry on.

Winter Storms

Many of the preparations noted earlier apply to winter storms as well. The main consideration during winter is ensuring that the horses have shelter to help them keep warm. Horses should at least have access to adequate shelter, but in cases of severe storms you may want to bring them inside a solid barn. The same consideration for trees and power lines in hurricanes holds true during winter storms: Be cautious leaving horses in fields where these may come down and either cause harm to the animals or damage fences, allowing the horses to escape. Pay special attention to young or senior horses, as their ability to adapt to the colder weather may be compromised.

Keeping extra hay, feed, and water on hand is also appropriate. Feeding extra hay can help the horse to stay warm, and they will still require approximately 10 gallons of liquid water each day.

Fire Safety and Horses

Fire prevention and safety are the duty of every person involved with and around horses. Safety involves common sense and a trained response and should be taught along with basic equitation by trainers, organizations, and parents. Preventative measures apply whether the facility is a track, training barn, summer camp stable, or backyard barn. Rehearse the necessary course of action to be followed in the event of a fire with members of your family, boarders, youth in training, and others directly involved with the animals in the barn. Fire is the most terrible death that can befall an animal, especially a horse penned within a corral or stable.

Be safety conscious at all times. Fires give little warning. Know where fire alarms, if present, are located. Know where water sources and fire equipment is located, and how to use it properly. Conspicuously post the number of the local fire department (even if it’s 911) by all telephones. Fire prevention is easier to preach than practice, but it is a vital part of horse ownership and management.

Fire Prevention Measures

In the barn area, clean up and dispose of debris (especially flammable debris) regularly. Also, make sure to mow and spray for weeds near the barn. Avoid storing feed and bedding in the top of the barn. Preferably it should be located in another building. The alleyway in front of stalls must be kept free of debris and open at all times to give easy access to each stall door in case of fire. Tack rooms should not be locked unless occupied – there are many flammable items in a tack room.

Do not allow smoking in the barns, stalls, tack rooms, or sheds. No open fires should be allowed anywhere in the stable area, nor should you allow the use of oil- or gas-burning lanterns or lamps. Install an adequate number of water outlets and have hoses attached to each. It can also be handy to have an outside phone with the fire department’s number prominently displayed. Finally, check all electrical wiring periodically for frayed ends, doubled-up extension cords, and so forth, and replace them as needed. All electrical appliances used in stable areas must be in safe working condition. When in use, they must be kept a safe distance from walls, bedding, and other furnishings. They should not be left unattended when they’re on. Also, electrical wiring should be contained in a metal conduit to prevent rodents from chewing on them and creating a fire hazard.

Stable Fires

The official records of the National Fire Protection Association show that the majority of fires in stables (figures compiled from reported fires at racetracks, breeding farms, and fairgrounds) are caused by misuse of electrical apparatus, heaters, and careless smoking. Other causes of fires are lightning, arson, and spontaneous combustion.

Also of note is the fact that almost all horse barns have the following in common:

  • Wood construction – either total or partial.
  • Bedding straw or shavings in stalls.
  • Storage of hay, bedding straw, or shavings in close proximity to the barns.
  • Highly combustible materials within (leather, blankets, ropes, oils, etc.).
  • People.

The burning rate of loose straw is approximately three times that of the burning rate of gasoline. The horse in a stall where the fire originates has only 30 seconds to escape. Compare this to the fact that it takes anywhere from 30 seconds to more than a minute to halter a horse and lead him out of the barn. These startling statistics dramatically emphasize the fact that a stable fire, once underway, does not give much time for horse evacuation. There have been situations where people were in the barn when the fire started, yet most of the horses were lost because the fire spread so quickly.

Automatic sprinkler systems are advocated for commercial facilities such as racetracks, large breeding establishments, and other commercial-type enterprises. Water-type fire extinguishers (see combating a fire below) are effective if used within the first minute. Because stable fires develop rapidly due to the abundance of combustible materials, fire extinguishers are of little or no use once the fire has gained burning time.

Other Possible Fire Situations

Transporting horses: Quick-release snaps should be used to secure the horse in the trailer or truck in order to facilitate the safe handling of horses in case of an accident with possible danger of fire. Lead ropes should remain on horses while they’re traveling. Fire extinguishers should be readily accessible (i.e., in the truck), not locked in a trailer tack compartment.

Horse shows: Follow proper parking procedures so you don’t block fire hydrants or street entrances in case fire-fighting apparatus is needed to access the barns or buildings. Never, ever padlock your horse in a stall.

What to Do in Case of Fire

Assuming you have only 30 seconds to put your plan into action, you have little time to stand around. First things first:

  1. Call the fire department. You may get the fire under control, but if you don’t, you want them already on their way.
  2. Make sure someone opens all outside access gates into the stable area to let the emergency vehicles get onto the property quickly. That person should also wait to guide emergency responders into the property if necessary and make sure the road or driveway stays clear.
  3. Begin evacuating horses. If at all possible, use halters and lead ropes that are (hopefully) hung next to the stalls or paddocks. Blindfold the horses if necessary, using coats, scarves, handkerchiefs, or sacks.
  4. Move the animals to a holding area away from the barn and out of the way of firefighting equipment. Don’t let the horse’s loose outside because they may either run back into the barn or get in the way of firefighters’ efforts.

Combating a Fire

Fire extinguishers are good for controlling a small fire before it can get out of control, limiting property damage and preventing injuries to people and horses. However, using the wrong type of extinguisher or using one incorrectly can cause more problems. Learn about fire extinguishers and how to properly use them.

Finding the right extinguisher: Flammable materials are grouped into several classes based on how they burn, and each group has a particular type of fire extinguisher that’s appropriate. These three types of extinguishers represent the fires that would most commonly be encountered in a barn or stable area:

  • Class A fires include ordinary combustibles such as wood or paper. Water is effective in these cases, and extinguishers for these types of fires will be labeled with a letter A inside a green triangle.
  • Class B fires include flammable liquids like gasoline and kerosene. They require a dry chemical or powder to properly extinguish, and the canister will be labeled with a letter B inside a red square.
  • Class C fires include energized electrical equipment such as wiring, circuit breakers, and appliances. A nonconductive extinguishing material should be used. Fire extinguishers will be labeled with the letter C inside a blue circle.

Another note: Most home extinguishers are designed for a single use and should then be discarded. Industrial extinguishers can be recharged. Know which ones you have and maintain them as recommended. Have them inspected annually to be certain they’re functioning properly.

Fire extinguisher location: Place extinguishers near locations where flammable materials are kept. Keep them near exits, away from heat sources. Also, keep them at an accessible location but not easily reached by small children.

Using an extinguisher: Contact your local fire department to see if they will offer a short course or session on proper use of a fire extinguisher. It may be useful to have a session with your horse or pony club so multiple people can receive the training.

If you decide it’s appropriate for you to fight the fire, remember the word PASS:

  • Pull the pin. It’s at the top of the unit near the operating lever.
  • Aim low and away from you. Point the nozzle or hose at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever above the handle to activate the extinguisher.
  • Sweep from side to side. Start about 8-10 feet away from the fire, aiming at the base of the flames. Move slowly forward if it appears to be going out.

Knowing when to fight the fire: Fire extinguishers are not appropriate in all situations. If the fire is small and contained, and you know what materials are burning and have the right class of extinguisher, you may want to try to put the fire out. Be sure to call the fire department first and make sure all people and animals are evacuated to safety.

If the fire spreads outside the original, contained area or if smoke fills the barn, it is time to get out. Also, if the fire is still burning when the extinguisher empties, you need to leave the area. Finally, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or confused, get out. Firefighters are trained to deal with fire. Let them handle it.

Are You Prepared?

Ask yourself the following questions to see if you’re ready in case of a fire in your barn:What’s the phone number for the fire department?

  • What will I do with the horses?
  • How can I fight the fire? What can I use to put it out?
  • Where is the alarm?
  • Where is the electrical master switch?
  • Do all horses have halters and lead ropes hanging on their stall doors?

Other Horse Emergencies

Other emergencies involving horses can happen in the aftermath of the previously described emergencies or in isolation. Your plan for those situations will also help prepare you for the other things that can arise.

Hit by Car

An unfortunate consequence of horses becoming loose – either from downed fences or a gate accidentally left open – is the possibility they may be struck by a motor vehicle. Being hit by a car is often catastrophic for the horse, vehicle, and people involved. The types of injuries are variable but often are quite severe. Injuries to the musculoskeletal system predominate and may include wounds, lacerations, tendon injuries, joint injuries, fractures, or any combination of these.

If a horse is involved in an automobile collision, call both 911 and a veterinarian. Emergency respondents are essential to help control the scene and deal with any human injuries. The veterinarian will be able to assess and deal with the horse’s injuries. Until the veterinarian arrives, you will want to move the horse (if possible) out of the roadway and provide first aid to any injuries. It is important to keep the horse quiet until he can be assessed by the veterinarian.

Trailer Accidents

Trailer accidents include overturned trailers or trailers being struck by another vehicle. Injuries to horses in trailer accidents can vary, even when overturned. Horses, being prey animals, will often struggle and panic when these accidents occur. However, some horses will be very quiet, resulting in less self-induced injury. In both situations, emergency personnel should be contacted first. They will be essential in scene control. Additionally, fire and rescue personnel have the skills and equipment necessary to extricate humans and animals from damaged trailers and vehicles.

The veterinarian should also be contacted, which will usually be done by first respondents or the dispatchers in the area in which the accident occurs. You can help assure this happens by asking the first respondents on the scene to be sure to contact a veterinarian to respond to the accident. Occasionally, a veterinarian will be needed prior to extrication for sedation or assessment of the animal, but veterinary assistance is generally not needed until the horses are removed from the trailer. Then the veterinarian can provide the necessary care when the horse is in a safer environment.

Down/Trapped Horses

Horses can become down or trapped following natural disaster, accident, or illness. Ditches, sink holes, and septic tanks are potential hazards that you can have on your own property. Assessing your farm for potential areas that horses could get stuck in and subsequently blocking off these areas will help prevent such accidents. With natural disasters, water or mud may sweep horses into areas they can’t get out of. Some illnesses, such as West Nile virus, can affect a horse’s nervous system such that he is unable to get up and stand on his own.

Each of these situations has unique challenges that are worsened by the large size of the horse and the horse’s temperament. Again, fire and rescue personnel will be an essential component of removing your horse from the situation. They have the training, skills, and equipment to move heavy objects. There are also technical large-animal rescue courses that fire and rescue personnel may have taken to provide them with an even more advanced skill set.

If you find your horse in a situation where he is trapped, contact your local fire and rescue service and your veterinarian. While you are waiting for assistance, make sure there is access for people and equipment into the area. Any other horses should be moved from the scene.

Extricating the horse can be a long process and it will take good planning to make sure things go smoothly. If the horse is in a position where he can drink (i.e., in a standing or sternal position), you can offer water to help prevent dehydration. Food can usually wait, unless it would help keep the animal quiet. Be sure that first responders are in charge of moving the horse and the veterinarian is present to provide supportive care, first aid, or sedation, if necessary.


In conclusion, while you can’t always predict when an emergency or disaster is going to occur, the best way to be ready is to plan ahead. Consider now – when you have the time to think and practice – what you would do if a fire starts in your barn or a hurricane is approaching your farm. Stock up on appropriate supplies and check your emergency and first aid kits at least once a year to make sure nothing has expired and everything is still in its place. Plan for where you will go if you have to evacuate and know whom to contact for more information.

Plan ahead. If you never have to enact your emergency plan, the preparation will still be the best waste of time you ever spend.


The authors would like to thank Watson Lawrence, ANR Extension agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension Chesapeake City Office; Crystal Smith, ANR Extension agent, Virginia Cooperative Extension Warren County Office; and Karen Iovino, D.V.M., Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates, for reviewing this document.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

April 16, 2010




AAEP Guideline and Resources

Disaster Preparedness By The Humane Society


What To Do In A Barn Fire

How To Protect Your Horse



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