Flooding - What Does it Mean for Horses?
The rainy season is here, and many areas of the US are already dealing with floods. A 2018 study found that 41 million Americans live in flood-prone areas. If you are one of them, it’s time to prepare you and your horses. Check the FEMA flood map to understand your flood risk and know why flooding happens in your area.
Common sources of flooding include:
Dams or levies bursting
Rivers or drainage overflowing
Storm surges from hurricanes
Intense weather conditions from tornadoes
Once you know if flooding is likely to occur and what causes it to happen, you can prepare for it.
Make an Evacuation Plan
Ensure your truck and trailer are in working order, and your horses will load quietly. If your horses have trouble loading, find a trainer near you so you aren’t facing a 2-hour struggle when you have to evacuate.
Plan at least two routes out of town in case roads wash out and use our map to find a barn that’s accepting evacuees. Put things like phone chargers, meds for humans and horses, and essential paperwork in a waterproof container in your truck so they are there if you have to go quickly.
Prepare Your Horse Property for Flooding
Move expensive machinery like tractors and ATVs to high ground
Put all hay and feed in barn lofts or on high ground and cover with tarps to protect it from the rain
Make sure your drainage system is clear
Dig ditches and use sandbags to protect your house, barn, and other vital areas of your home
Turn off all of your utilities before you evacuate so you don’t risk mixing electricity and water
Dispose of hazardous materials like pesticides, fuel, and oil.
Take your tack with you, or put it in the attic of your house before you leave
Call your insurance provider and make sure you have coverage for flood damage
Have dry waterproof blankets on hand to keep older or sick horses warm and remember, no blanket is always better than a wet blanket
Shelter In Place
If you don’t have access to a truck and trailer, or road washouts prevent you from evacuating, you’ll have to shelter in place. Being prepared for this will make it go a lot smoother. A spot of high ground in your pasture is the best spot for your horses. We don’t recommend leaving them locked in a stall or small paddock where they can’t escape the rising water.
Some properties don’t have any high ground. Please don’t panic. Horses can typically tolerate living in standing water for a few days as long as they can access fresh food and water. A blowup raft or paddleboard are perfect for floating hay and water out to them.
Ensure your horses are current on vaccines, especially West Nile and other insect-transmitted illnesses in your area. Standing water is breeding grounds for disease, and this is the best way to protect them.
Horses naturally know how to swim. If there is any possibility that they will have to swim to find dry ground, remove their halters, blankets, and anything else that could entangle them. We highly recommend getting your equines microchipped so you can be reunited quickly.
Never attempt a deep water horse rescue on your own. It is extremely dangerous and could lead to you and your horse needing rescuing. Contact your local first responders and ask them about their protocol for livestock rescue. Know who to call and save their number in your phone.
Large animal vets are another excellent resource and sometimes have specialized equipment to help with this. Call the horse vets near you to find out who is most prepared and keep their contact information on hand as well.
We hope your farm stays dry this year, and you and your horses are safe, but if you live in a flood zone, please be prepared to weather the storm. If you need emergency assistance or are available to help, please join our Equine Emergency forum on Facebook.