Emergency Tips for Equine Owners

Evacuating Horses      
Equine owners should make sure to have enough water, hay, and feed on hand for several days. Even when the storm is over, downed trees and power lines could keep you from returning home right away. Make sure your gas tank is full. Also, put together an emergency kit for the road, since you may be stranded in a strange place. Keep these handy for quick transport:

  • Extra halters and lead ropes
  • Buckets
  • First aid supplies; disinfectant
  • Horse health records, papers and current Coggins tests
  • A week’s supply of needed medication
  • Leg wraps and foot bandages
  • Flashlight and batteries

If owners have not made arrangements for stabling, they may check with emergency shelters and local horse clubs for recommended emergency shelters. Call ahead to check to make sure they still have room and to be aware of any special requirements.

South Carolina has three coastal evacuation routes: 1) Northern (N. Myrtle Beach to Georgetown) may evacuate toward Florence/Camden; 2) Central (Charleston) may head toward Columbia; and 3) Northern (Hilton Head) may move toward Aiken/Augusta. For the evacuation route nearest you, visit
Equine Evacuation Routes           
Hurricane season is here and it’s time to review emergency plans and get ready to take action if necessary. The Clemson University Livestock and Poultry Health (LPH) and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) urge all equine owners to be prepared for impending emergencies.
Officials say that if you decide to evacuate your horses, make the decision early. Trailers and high winds are not a good combination! Also, by leaving before a mandatory evacuation order goes into effect, you may avoid heavy traffic.
If you decide to move your horses, you should know where you’re going. Make arrangements with friends or boarding facilities well in advance. Call before you leave to make sure they can still accommodate you. Follow the recommended SC DOT evacuation routes as closely as possible to your destination. See www.sctraffic.org for coastal evacuation routes.
Make sure your horse can load into a trailer
Leave early and know your route
For possible stables, visit: http://agriculture.sc.gov/animalag and go to “Livestock Emergency Information.”
Which is safer – barn or pasture?
Clemson University Livestock and Poultry Health (CULPH) and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) urge all equine owners to be prepared in case of pending emergencies.
Natural disasters like hurricanes and floods usually don’t give much time to act. That’s why it is vital to plan ahead. Being prepared can save you and your animals a great deal of stress. Develop a plan, stick with your plan, and most important be safe.
If you choose to leave your horses, consider where they will be safer barn or pasture?
If your barn is capable of withstanding hurricane winds and on high ground, it may be best to leave your horses inside. However, they will need enough hay and water for several days, in case you cannot return immediately.
Beware: If the power is off, automatic waterers will not work.
Since the average horse drinks 15 to 20 gallons of water a day, one bucket is not enough. Consider a large plastic trash can, secured so it cannot be overturned, that your horse can access at will.
If the barn is old or not well constructed, leave your horses outside or secure the doors open so they can get out into a pasture or paddock.
Identifying Horses for Emergencies
Clemson University Livestock and Poultry Health (CULPH) and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) urge all equine owners to have their horses, mules, and donkeys identified in case of a storm or other emergency.
Horses sometimes get lost during storms. It is essential that before equine owners evacuate, they make sure to identify every horse on their property. They should secure an ID tag in their mane, use live-stock crayon to write a phone number on their body, or attach a neck band with a cell phone number. A luggage tag can be attached to a break-away halter.
Veterinarians agree that microchipping is the ideal identification for horses. If the horse has a microchip, tattoo or freeze brand, owners need to take the paperwork with them. They also need photographs of each horse in case they must prove ownership. (Just how many bay mares are there? Or black geldings? A lost horse with no ID is another disaster!)
Spray paint a cell phone number, or another contact number, on the side of your barn. Add HORSES INSIDE or HORSES IN PASTURE so emergency personnel will know to check on them. Be sure someone in the area knows where you will be. Set up a buddy system so that whoever comes home first can check on their neighbors’ animals.
Owners are urged to check with emergency management personnel in their county to see if a “Lost Horse Hotline” plan is available.
Returning Home after the Storm
Clemson University Livestock and Poultry Health (CULPH) and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA) offer tips for equine owners returning home after an evacuation.
First, check fences, buildings, electrical and gas hookups, and water supplies. Be very cautious of downed power lines and standing water. Clear the pasture of debris or do some repair work before putting your horses away. Inspect hay and feed that was left behind, to examine for mold or other water damage. Supply all horses with fresh water.
On the other hand, if a loose horse is found, approach it carefully. Separate the new horse from your horses, but keep it close enough to remain calm. If the horse has an identification tag, call its owners. If not, call the authorities in your area to report the found horse.
Most injuries during high winds come from flying debris, such as tin from the barn roof. Do not leave horses in small paddocks where they cannot escape wind-driven debris or overhead power lines.
Large pastures are often the best place for horses. Remember, horses have lived outside for thousands of years, and their instinct will go a long way toward keeping them out of trouble. Check your pasture for hazards. Don’t forget the water!
During a hurricane, the leading causes of death are collapsed barns, dehydration, electrocution, and accidents from fencing failure.
For more information about livestock and pet emergencies, contact Charlotte Krugler, DVM, MPH, LPH, Animal Emergency Coordinator, 803-788-2260 ext. 286.