How to Prepare Your Horse for Wildfire Season
Wildfire season is here and it’s time to make sure you are ready. The best thing you can do for your horse during wildfire season is to have a plan in place so you aren’t scrambling if the time to evacuate comes.
Transportation in Case of Wildfire
If you have a truck and trailer, make sure both are operational. Check the tires for sun damage and take everything on a test drive if it hasn’t rolled recently. The last thing you want to do is overheat your truck or blow a bearing on your trailer mid-evacuation. This is also a great opportunity to clear wasp nests and other unwanted pests out of your trailer.
Whenever possible, make sure your trailer is loaded with a week’s supply of feed, your emergency medical kit, and a full tank of water. Keep your trailer hitched to your truck all fire season. This will save you precious moments if you have to get out quickly. If you have a high-line or portable panels, make sure those are loaded and ready to go as well. Having the ability to set up a containment area for your horse anywhere gives you a lot more options during an evacuation. Make sure your horse is trained on a high-line before you use it in an emergency.
If you don’t have a truck and trailer, know who you will call in case of an emergency evacuation. Have a conversation with that person in advance, and make sure they know how to access your horse if you are unable to go in with them. If you don’t have any friends or family members to help you, find a professional hauler.
Know Where You Will Go and Go Early!
Make a list of barns or pasture areas that you can go to if you are evacuated for an extended period of time. These places fill up quickly during wildfires so get your name on the list now. Include a few locations in your plan just in case your first pick is also under evacuation or already full.
When it comes time to evacuate, don’t wait for the order to become mandatory. It’s better to go and realize later it wasn’t necessary than it to get stuck because you waited too long. Expect traffic on the road as you leave. You don’t want your horses sitting in traffic in the heat and smoke if you can avoid it.
Trying to wait it out or stay and fight the fire puts you, your horses, and our emergency responders in danger. Unless you are a trained firefighter the most heroic thing you can do during a wildfire is to get out early and stay out of the way.
Prepare Your Horse
If you find yourself evacuating your home because of a wildfire you are going to be anxious when you load your horses. They will pick up your emotions. This is not the time for trailer training. Make sure your horses will load easily now. If you need to have a trainer work with them, do. It’s a worthwhile investment in their safety.
Sometimes evacuation isn’t possible. The hauler can’t get to you, the fire is coming too fast, your truck won’t start, or your horse won’t load. These are all scary situations, but possible and you should be prepared to open the gates and let your horse flee if that’s your only option. If it comes to that, remove all halters, fly masks, and anything else that could snag on trees or fences before you let them go.
Microchip your horse if you can. It’s standard practice for rescue organizations to check for chips. Spray painting your phone number on their sides or writing it with a sharpie marker on their hooves will also work in a pinch. Anything that attaches with velcro or braids into the mane or tail isn’t reliable identification because it can easily be torn off.
Wildfire evacuations are stressful. The more you prepare, and the earlier you get out, the easier it will be on your horses. If you find yourself in trouble during a wildfire, we have an emergency assistance network on our map. You can find professionals that are available to help in an emergency by entering your address in the search bar and looking for the light blue icons that you see in the image below.