Preparedness: Key to Equine Survival in a Tornado

Preparedness: Key to Equine Survival in a Tornado


-Victoria Pinner

               The tornado sirens start going off.  You have a preparedness plan for yourself, but what about your equines?  In “tornado alley,” some people have storm shelters to ride out the storm but having a storm shelter built for horses is more complicated and costly.  Whether you are in an area which is not particularly prone to tornadoes, or you have them often, preparedness is key.  How prepared are your equines? 

            You have two choices:  you can create an equine evacuation plan, or you can prepare your equines to shelter in place.  With tornadoes giving little notice and because most authorities recommend that you not be out on the roads in an impending tornado, sheltering in place seems to be the obvious best choice.  Still, you must be prepared!

            By installing hurricane clips that secure lumber and reinforcing support beams, most equine facilities can survive a mild to mid-range tornado, but barn owners should also remove implements that could become projectiles.  However, in tornadoes, many owners fear that their barns will collapse, and some owners choose instead to leave their equines out in the pastures, and let instinct do its job. 

          At the first tornado watch, remove any debris in the pastures that could injure your equine. Sally Vivrette, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, a veterinarian from Triangle Equine in Lee County, North Carolina further advises that equines who are left in the pasture wear fly masks to protect their eyes. Many horse owners also encourage turnout boots.

          Whether you leave your equine inside a barn or out in a pasture, authorities also recommend that you paint contact information on your equines’ bodies or braid it into their manes or tails. Some people attach freezer bags containing their information to their equines’ halters, but do not leave any halters on your animal unless it is leather or breakaway.  Micro-chipping your equine can also be invaluable in getting your equine safely back to you after the storm. 

            In a storm, your equine’s instinct to survive will kick in.  Do what you can to prepare for the storm, learn basic first aid, but in the end, remember human life comes first.  Prepare your barn, prepare your pasture, prepare your equine, and prepare yourself.

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