Although natural disasters such as earthquakes are unavoidable, they aren’t entirely unpredictable. Ben Franklin wisely said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Heed that piece of advice if you own an equestrian estate as well. There are ways to prepare your horse barn for an earthquake and save your precious animals from harm.

Which states are more frequently affected by earthquakes

While earthquakes can happen everywhere, they happen more often in certain states. Alaska and California, followed by Hawaii, Nevada, Washington, and Wyoming, on average, get more frequent shakes than other US states. If you’re intent on purchasing horse property in a state with more earthquakes, get ready to learn and train your equines.

How horses react to earthquakes

Different factors affect how a horse will behave in an earthquake. Unless you know from experience, be ready for anything. Horses can sense incoming vibrations before their human handlers can recognize them. Unless there’s an early warning system to alert you, you will notice your horses’ unusual behavior first.

They might stop doing what they were doing and get distracted or upset. They are likely to run or leap if they feel threatened. Although smaller tremors often pass unnoticed even by these sensitive animals, you should be well prepared for the bigger shocks.

This implies knowing how to soothe your horses if they get agitated but also assert dominance and show you’re in control. Pay attention to your animals but remain cautious. Horses can behave unpredictably, especially in the aftermath of a quake. Establishing a routine as soon as possible alleviates most stress and calms horses down.

How to ensure the safety of your horses during an earthquake

Design your barn correctly if you’re building your horse farm from scratch. To prepare your horse barn for an earthquake, consider the comfort of your horses and their safety. If you’re buying a horse property, inspect the existing barn’s structural soundness.

Also, assess its location and distance from other facilities and access roads. It may not seem important at first glance, but it will prove vital in the case of an earthquake emergency or evacuation. What other preparation steps make a big difference?

  • Create and practice an earthquake emergency plan with your horses.
  • Learn the location of all shutoff valves and how to turn them off.
  • Keep sufficient food and water supplies.
  • Prepare a horse barn evacuation protocol.
  • Have halters and lead ropes within easy reach.
  • Keep all important documents at hand.

And what do they mean in practice?

Create an earthquake emergency plan and rehearse it

A sound emergency plan begins with putting your equestrian property on a map. Get in touch with the local Animal Control services and county officials. Inquire if they have an emergency plan and what it involves. Often, counties designate space for animal emergency shelters, and you can count on Animal Control’s assistance.

Although strong earthquakes rarely occur, better prepare for the worst. Identify each animal permanently, either by chipping, branding, or tattooing. Practice loading horses into trailers, so they get familiar with the tight space. Also, take your horses out for a walk at night. Use a flashlight or a glow stick in their presence so they get familiar with it. You never know when an earthquake might strike.

Maintain water and food reserves

The larger the animal, the more food and water it consumes. Prepare for an earthquake by storing enough for three days at least. A horse consumes approximately 12 to 20 gallons of water and about 1.5 to 2% of its body weight in dry feed daily.

Store sufficient water in tanks even if you have a well and a generator for the water pump. An earthquake may affect groundwater level and its quality. Also, consult your vet and prepare a first aid kit for your horses, including medication if they take it.

You can store feed and other perishables in your horse barn or a storage building on your property. For everything else, consider renting storage space in a facility in your area. Make sure it can keep your tools and belongings accessible 24/7 in case of an emergency.

Know where the power and gas shutoff valves are

During a particularly strong earthquake, power lines may go down, and gas and water lines may rupture. Running a horse property without electricity or water is only a part of the problem. Shutting off the valves, particularly gas, will prevent a disaster.

Learn the location of all the valves and practice shutting them off even in the dark. Be aware of the nearby power lines during an earthquake. If they are down, stay well away from them and call 911. Keep your flashlights and extra batteries where you can easily find them.

Develop a barn evacuation plan

In the event of a strong earthquake, you will need to evacuate your horses and household. If you get to design your barn, anticipate emergencies, and prepare your horse barn for an earthquake evacuation.

Unless you’re alerted early enough and instructed to evacuate, the decision to do so remains upon you. Devise a plan and a backup plan, and keep the details in a binder. It should also include their medical and vaccination records, Coggins test, allergy info, and your and your vet’s emergency contacts.

Keep one binder at the barn entrance and one at home. If the panic blocks you, follow your step-by-step instructions, calm down and then assert control over your horses. You may get separated from your equines, so make sure they are easy to identify. You should also be able to prove ownership.

Keep halters and lead ropes at hand

When it comes to halters and lead ropes, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  • They must be easily accessible.
  • Learn how to tie them in the dark.
  • It’s helpful to add an extra ID tag.

You may attach ID info to a halter with transparent duct tape. Include the horse’s name, your name and email address, as well as your and your vet’s phone number.

Final notes

Although horses are intelligent animals with strong survival instincts, they might depend on you for assistance and reassurance. Horses can pick up your fear and act unpredictably. Do your best to remain calm in the case of an emergency. You will achieve that if you prepare your horse barn for an earthquake, practice an emergency routine at least once a year with your horses, and remain in contact with local emergency agencies.



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