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How to prepare for an emergency evacuation

It's storm season, so make sure you're prepared to evacuate your horse just in case.

It's storm season, so make sure you're prepared to evacuate your horse just in case.

Spring and summer signal great outdoor weather, but they also bring tornados, hurricanes and thunderstorms. These severe weather events sometimes force people to evacuate their homes, which is exceptionally burdensome for horse owners. That's why preparing for an emergency is so important. Here are three steps that will ensure you're ready to evacuate your horse if the time comes.

1. Prepare documents

Because of their sheer size and various needs, evacuating a horse isn't as simple as saddling up and heading out. Preparations are vital – otherwise, you could get delayed and caught in the storm.

The Humane Society detailed some great practical advice. First, make sure you have thorough identification for each horse. Mircochips, tattoos, brands and even photographs all work well in this regard.

Next, keep paper records of your equines' ages, sexes, breeds and colors. Store this information and other essentials, including veterinary papers, medical information, Coggins test and more, in a watertight envelope. Store this envelope somewhere easy to access in the event of an emergency.

Also, arrange a halter with an attached luggage tag for each of your horses. The tags should list your animal's name, your name, email, phone number and the contact information of another person. The tags will be immensely helpful if you and your horses get separated, which is more likely than you might hope. As Practical Horseman detailed, the Cedar Fire of October 2003, the worst in California's history, ultimately resulted in around a thousand equines taking shelter on the Del Mar fairgrounds and race track. Many owners were separated and had to be reunited with their animals later on.

Observers looking at a distant wildfire.A California wildfire forced a thousand horses from their homes.

2. Locate the essentials

With the tags settled, make sure you have food, water and medications readily available and easy to grab. You probably can't put these in an emergency kit, as they may expire or go bad before you need to use them, so just store them somewhere accessible. Also, it's a good idea to have a few of Finish Line's Quia-Cal on hand. If storm conditions are severe enough for an evacuation, your horses will likely be anxious. Quia-Cal is a fast-acting, one-shot paste created to support calm nerves.

3. Organize transport

Now, look at your transportation plans. Make sure your horses are comfortable being loaded in a trailer, and take time to practice if they are not. The last thing you want is an equine that hates getting in a trailer when a hurricane or tornado is approaching. Also, make arrangements so you have enough space to transport all of your animals. Consider teaming up with a horse-owning neighbor so the two of you can share resources.

Finally, be sure you know where you're going. Write down the location of various emergency shelters and determine which ones you'll likely be staying at. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals advised learning multiple routes to get to a shelter in case some roads are down.

When disaster strikes

When an emergency is on the horizon, evacuate as soon as you receive word from officials – possibly before if you can. Some people will try to tough it out or wait until conditions are absolutely unbearable before leaving. By this point, however, emergency authorities may force you to leave your horse behind. The earlier you head out, the better chance you have of taking your horse with you.