Hurricane Preparation for Horse Barns

Hurricane Preparation for Horse Barns

  • Posted by Michael Hubbard
  • On September 1, 2019

As an owner of a horse barn, hurricane preparation is an annual occurrence, but we have a great checklist to share with other horse barn owners, or just horse owners who may never have experienced a storm like this. Every year, normally in September and October, North Carolina comes under the threat of a hurricane – and while we don’t typically know until a day or two before if it’s actually going to hit us as forecasted (they tend to make a lot of random turns from when they’re first named until actually making landfall), there are still a lot of things we need to be prepared for. 

Blue Skies Stables is far enough inland (Selma, NC) so as to not have to deal with the storm surges, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the effects of the hurricane. Typical issues we incur include heavy, sustained periods (days) of rain that cause pastures to pool up, as well as the potential for downed trees, lightning, high winds and power outages. But even if we don’t get any of those directly at our barn, the surrounding state of emergency will impact things like hay vendors or saw dust arriving – or let’s face it, being out in the country, if the power goes out, I believe there are less than 20 people on our power grid – which means, we are the last priority to restore power in massive outages.  

Our barn was built in 2016, and its roof is windproof up to 120mph (this would be a category 3 hurricane wind speed).  That doesn’t mean a gust of wind can’t do damage, but it’s worth considering when deciding whether to put your horses out in pastures or to leave them inside your barn.  Being as far inland as we are, we believe it’s safer to keep the horses in our barn and wait out the storm – but we know others prefer there’s to be outside in order to avoid the potential of collapsing barns or structures.

Here are some of the preparations our barn will take in the event of a hurricane, along with some rough timelines depending on where landfall is being made. For example, if landfall is slated to hit in Florida, it’s less likely that we’ll have as much of the high winds, and so we may drag our feet a little and do a lot of these preparations just a day or two prior. But for this list, we’re assuming that a hurricane is going to make landfall somewhere on the North Carolina coast, and within a couple hours make it’s way to our horse farm.

Hurricane landfall is 7 days out, initial horse barn preparations include:

  • Ensure we have enough hay and grain to last us up to a month (if not longer in the event of shortages). Truck loads often times can’t get into areas impacted, and just as importantly, if the hurricane is major, a lot of times semi loads of hay will need to get to the places that are impacted the worst first – so make sure you have a minimum of one month’s worth of forage. Typical hurricanes will linger with bands of rain for a week on the area, leaving you 3 weeks to be prepared for.
  • Make sure all of the extra gas cans have been filled. We still need to run farm equipment as well as generators, and the day before a storm, we typically see lines at gas stations, and stations running out. Our generator will run 8 hours on 5 gallons of gas powering lights, the well pump and fans for the horses. Using it sparingly, 5 gallons should get us through a full day – and I like to have 7 days worth on hand.
  • Test the generator.  Fill with gas. Make sure everyone knows how to turn it on and what it can power.
  • Clean up any outside unused materials, including unused jump standards and poles. Only move the unused ones, as we don’t shut down the barn until the storm reaches us, but we’re prepared and move the unused ones to a secured area.
  • Make sure flashlights and emergency radio are charged.
  • Double Check EVERY stall and ensure no nails or anything loose or sharp is in the stall.  When the horses spook, they may run into it unknowingly.
  • Keep extra medicine and bandages on hand, such as bute for your horses.  If your horse is extremely anxious, consider having something on hand for staff to sedate the day of the storm (must be oral – no injections).
  • Talk to your vet though – and ensure you have the basics on hand, as well as understanding what their on-call policy is going to be!

Hurricane landfall is now 3 days out, horse barn preparations are now all about the horse:

  • Start them on ulcergard a few days before, during and after the storm. Even if they aren’t nervous, we do this, because inevitably they are going to be inside more than usual – and any time we break routine, they notice.

The hurricane is now 1 Day Out, and it’s definitely going to have an impact on the horse barn. You know it, and the horses know it – so now it’s time to put in some extra, unpaid work that the horses will never say thank you for:

  • Get horses as much turn-out time in the pasture as possible!
  • Make sure all stalls have a minimum of 4 inches of shavings, and bank more saw dust in the corners. They’re going to be in for a while, make them comfy – and bank some extra saw dust so that you don’t have to bring in saw dust in the rain.
  • If there’s an empty stall, bring extra hay bales inside and extra sawdust.
  • Fill empty water buckets, and 5 gallon water jugs in the event the power does go out – we are on a well, and want to have extra water on hand should the generator happen to fail. Most wells have a 5-20 gallon reserve, so while you’ll be able to flush the toilet a couple times without power, that reserve dries up quickly! A bucket of water in the bathroom to fill the bowl will ensure you can always flush – but the rest of your water you’ll need on reserve for the horses.
  • Secure all outside items including moving all jumps and standards out of the covered arena. In between hurricane bands, we utilize our covered arena for turn out for the horses – it allows a quick stretch of the legs, but we’ve learned they don’t always notice the objects when they’re excited – so we take everything out of that arena in advance.  Bringing rocking chairs inside or secure them in the garage. and put garbage cans in the garage or hay barn.
  • Tractor – put the back blade on the Kubota, and the forks on the front and park the tractor in an open area away from anything that can fall on it.  Do not leave it in the garage, put it out in the open. Make sure it’s gassed up with the key in it. This is your emergency vehicle in the event something collapses or you need to move a tree.  The lift can move 800 lbs overhead – so it’s not a lot, but in an emergency will come in handy.
  • Put flashlights in the feed room, laundry room and bathroom – or any room with no windows.
  • Put extra lead ropes and halters up at the house, or somewhere other than where their regular ones are kept in the barn.  This way, if there is a barn emergency, you can safely retrieve halters without going in.
  • Put sandbags outside the front stall dutch doors, as when heavy heavy rain comes, water floods back in under the stall doors
  • Clean horses and pick their hoofs
  • Weave an ID tag into their mane, or consider writing your name and phone number in sharpie on their hooves

Day of and During the Hurricane – basically just keeping the horses calm during the storm:

  • Depending on the severity, we may have one person stay at the front house.  There is a whole home generator, so it will never be without power or water.  This would be in the event we’re concerned about people not being able to make it into work due to road closures, etc. This person would be responsible for all day care, and night checks of the horses.
  • Pasture troughs – bring into the barn, and fill them in the wash stall as another source for emergency water.
  • Pasture gates – closed, and bungee tied together.
  • Consider putting poms in horses ears, as the loud sound of the storm will startle them – but do not leave in overnight
  • Ensure all horses are in the barn.

Once horses are safely inside our barn:

  • Secure all stall locks and dutch door locks.  
  • Dutch door tops must be closed both the top and the bottom to prevent any debris from flying in.
  • Hang 2 hay bags in every stall, and ensure that the water buckets are always full.  Horses will receive unlimited hay throughout the course of the storm. We will continue to feed the normal grain amounts at the usual times to keep things as routine as possible.
  • Leave the front entrance door for people unlocked so you can get in quickly
  • Secure the large barn doors with the silver lock/latches
  • If it’s safe to do so (hurricane storms hit in bands as it rotates), horses are to be hand walked up and down the aisle of the barn as much as possible to keep circulation in their legs.  Do not take them out of their stalls however during the bands of the storm. If there are a few hours, we can turn them out in their turn out groups in the covered arena.

There are always things we are adding to this list, and we encourage people to comment below and let us know other things you do! But here’s some additional things we like to keep on hand as well:

  • Chainsaw and gas
  • Extra fence pieces and posts
  • Duct Tape
  • Knife


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