Natural disasters often happen with very little (if any) notice, so it’s important that you make a horse emergency plan if you live in a flood-prone area.
By planning ahead, you can save vital minutes in an emergency that could mean the difference between your horse staying safe or getting hurt.
Why do you need a horse emergency plan?
Horses are fairly capable swimmers, and most can handle standing in water up to their bellies for a couple of days. But they can still be vulnerable in the event of a flood, especially if they are trapped in a stall or small yard. There are a number of hazards that can be dangerous to horses during a flood, including fences and corrugated iron that can cause injury if your horse is swept into them.
Health issues can also arise after prolonged exposure to floodwaters including mud fever, rain scald, pneumonia, waterborne illnesses and stomach problems from drinking contaminated water or mouldy food.
Many horse owners choose to evacuate their horses during an emergency, but if this is not possible, the right preparation can help ensure your horse emerges from the flood healthy and injury-free.
How to prepare your horse for a flood
There are a few things you will need to do to prepare your horse for a flood. As part of your horse emergency plan, you may want to:
- Stockpile enough food to last three days in case you are cut off.
- Document all your horses, including markings and microchip numbers so they can be identified if they should escape or be washed away.
- Create an evacuation plan with an identified safe location close-by, such as high ground on your property or a neighbour’s paddock.
- Prepare a plan for if you need to leave your horse behind, including making sure they have safe escape routes and a source of food that’s accessible above ground level. Don't leave them stabled or shut in a yard.
- Train your horse to go in the float quickly and easily in case you do need to leave in an emergency. Have an alternate route in case one road is flooded, and keep your vehicle and float in good working order.
- Keep a stash of feed and water in your float as evacuation centres can often run out of feed very quickly.
Flooding can happen fast. Taking time to prepare now can help you stay calm and focused in the event of an emergency.
After the flood
It’s important to keep a close eye on your horse after a flood or other natural disaster, especially if they have been exposed to potential hazards like contaminated water. Here are a few things you should watch out for:
- Puncture wounds or scrapes that might have occurred during the flood.
- Bacterial skin infections which can happen after prolonged exposure to water.
- Lameness or swelling to legs, caused by injury or prolonged submersion in water.
- Abnormal bowel movements that might indicate diarrhoea or colic.
- Signs of trauma or emotional distress including lethargy, tremors, lying down, low head carriage and muscle twitching.
Flood waters often contain a lot of bacteria, especially if there is sewage overflow or other contamination. Even a small scratch on your horse can be enough to let harmful bacteria in, so make sure you clean out any cuts with an antiseptic solution and monitor for signs of infection.
The better prepared you are for a flood or other natural disaster, the more likely it is that you will be able to protect your horse, and stave off any post-flood health issues or injuries.