Emergency planning for horses

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With the 2023 Animal Welfare Seminar, ‘Quit horsing around: Advancing horse welfare in Australia’ coming up very soon (22/23 February – registrations are free!), horse welfare is at the front of mind here at the RSPCA.

And for people who own horses, one important aspect of horse welfare is emergency planning. For many Australians, the last few years have unfortunately made it all too clear just how important it is to plan for an emergency or disaster. So if you own a horse, it’s essential to have an emergency plan in place that includes your horses (and any other animals).

Our animals, including horses, rely on us completely, so we need to plan for them so that they have the best chance of being evacuated to safety if an emergency arises. Read on for advice about what to include in your emergency plan and how to best prepare. Please note this is general advice only, and exact preparations will depend on your individual horse or animal and your situation.

Preparation is key

Preparing a pet emergency kit is an essential part of the planning process. It will ensure that you have everything you need to activate your plan quickly.

Before you begin your plan, you can start by researching disasters that have occurred previously in your area and identifying other possible emergency events which could occur in the future. You can also research and identify trigger levels for each disaster which will prompt the activation of your emergency plan (e.g., fire danger ratings or flood height predictions).

It's also important to locate and prearrange an evacuation site outside of your immediate area for animals to be transported to if required. For horses, possible evacuation sites may include veterinary or agricultural school grounds, racetracks, show grounds, stables and equestrian centres, fairgrounds, pastures, or saleyards.

When relocating horses or animals, ensure you have suitable vehicles, yards and loading facilities available to transport all farm animals. Portable yards can be very useful. Coordination between multiple properties to ensure there are enough resources (e.g., towing vehicles, float or truck space) may be necessary and is advised. You should ensure that your neighbors are aware of your emergency plans and inform yourself on others in your area. Alerting family or friends of your plans is also a good idea.

Remember to ensure all animals have durable and easily visible identification (neck collars, ear tags, leg bands, and/or non-toxic marking paint or markers).

Have the essentials ready to go

The next step is to assemble your emergency provisions. Your emergency provisions should include everything you may need when activating your emergency plan and ensuring your horses and other farm animals can be cared for during and after an emergency event. 

You could consider including: emergency contact details, a map of your property and where animals are located, information on the number of animals and identifying features and locations, including proof of ownership and copies of any veterinary/treatment records. Other essential items may include feed and water stores for 7-10 days, vitamin and electrolyte packs, feed and water troughs/buckets, any regular medications, portable panels/fences and race, buckets and storage containers, water tanks, ropes, halters and leads, flashlight and radio, batteries, blankets, towels, tarps, waste and cleaning supplies and basic animal first aid supplies.

During an emergency

It is important to remember during an emergency event, that just like you, your horses and other animals will likely be stressed and can easily become frightened and disoriented. This means extra care needs to be taken when handling them, and best practice low-stress handling methods should always be used.

In an emergency event, putting your emergency plan into action earlier rather than later will help avoid panic and give you time to deal with unforeseen events. This means staying aware and keeping informed of upcoming weather forecasts, particularly during high-risk seasons.

Ideally and if possible, if there is prewarning of an emergency event like a natural disaster, horses and other animals should be either evacuated to an area outside the expected disaster zone or moved to a safe secure location on the property. The decision to leave animals in their current location during an emergency event should be based on the risk to animal welfare and the immediate environment and the ability to safely move them during the emergency event.

Always stay up to date on your local or state-based emergency service advice, warnings and latest information.

For further advise on emergency planning and tips to keep everyone safe, we encourage you to read the advice on the RSPCA Knowledgebase.


Interested in hearing more about horse welfare? Join us online on the afternoons of 22 and 23 February at the 2023 Animal Welfare Seminar to hear from leading experts and the scientific community about key horse welfare issues, including for horses used in competition, racing, leisure, therapy and companionship.