Horse Owners Advised to Prepare for Hurricane Earl

Hurricane Earl isn't expected to take a swipe at Massachusetts' east coast until Saturday, but on Tuesday boarding barn operator Dausha Campbell didn't waste time preparing for the storm's arrival.

"We feel like we’re a great big target," said Campbell, owner of Serendipity Stables, in Plymouth. "Fortunately, we're on pretty high ground and have 40 acres of paddocks, so I've been out cleaning them up in case we have to turn the horses out."

Declared a Category 4 storm on Tuesday, Earl is expected to begin pummeling North Carolina and Southern Virginia with high winds and pelting rains late Thursday or early Friday before advancing to New England by the weekend. The storm's full impact on the Eastern U.S. coastal states is still uncertain. Even so, Jim Hamilton, DVM, director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Veterinary Response Team for the Southeast Region, said horse owners from North Carolina to Maine shouldn't waste time preparing for a possible hit.

"Really, people should be preparing for the storm 24, 36, or 48 hours before it arrives, especially if they have to evacuate their animals," said Hamilton.

That means making arrangements as soon as possible with inland neighbors willing to accommodate evacuated animals until the storm passes.

Owners unable to evacuate their horses should plan to turn their horses out into pastures or paddocks just before the heavy weather arrives, Hamilton said.

"The best place for them is in the pasture or paddock, no matter how sturdy your barn is," he said.

In the meantime, they should be sure those areas are free of debris or other potentially dangerous objects.

"Get the chainsaw and cut down tree limbs that might break off in a storm, and remove any objects in the paddock or pasture area that might become a projectile and impale a horse," Hamilton advised.

Likewise, owners who rely on wells for water should plan for storm-related interruptions in electric service.

"If electricity goes out, (water well) pumps won't work," Hamilton said. "Get 55-gallon drums and start thinking about a water collection strategy."

Hurricane Earl is the first major storm to threaten the region since Hurricane Bob brushed North Carolina's outer banks before devastating parts of New England in 1991. As a result, horse owners in the region are less likely than counterparts in Florida, Louisiana, and other Gulf states to have disaster preparedness plans in place, Hamilton said.

"There's nothing like experience," he said. "Areas where hurricanes are more common are generally more prepared with designated evacuation destinations and other services." That's why Campbell thinks East Coast horse owners will work together however they can if Earl's impact is significant.

"It's a frightening situation,“ she said, "but I'm sure if people need help with their horses, nobody will turn them away."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More