“Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer." — J.R.R Tolkein
Weather! If you own a horse, the weather app will surely become your new best friend. It tells you when to blanket, and when to take blankets off, what the riding conditions are likely to be - or if it is even safe to ride. This interest in the weather is not perhaps unique to the horse owner, but if you are manage a barn prepare for it to become a borderline obsession!
When we lived in Virginia the extremes of weather made caring for our horses a very real challenge. In the summer temperatures could rise into the high 90’s. Couple that with 90 percent humidity, and you have a heat index of 180 (which makes for extremely dangerous riding conditions). In the winter heavy snow made keeping water from freezing over and - on occasion - even reaching the barn with your vehicle an impossibility.
In Oregon blanketing presents a unique challenge with temperatures ranging between 40 and 70 degrees in a single day. We have also had to face a drought (I know, it seems crazy, but it’s true), which resulted in our well drying up for the first time since it was sunk a hundred years ago. I can tell you, it’s no joke trying to keep 8 horses hydrated for a week in mid-summer when temperatures are in the 100’s and you don’t have any water!
Having spent a considerable chunk of our hard-earned cash sinking a new (and deeper) well, we were unprepared to face the rains that followed. Rains that flooded our entire pastures and very nearly flooded our whole barn. And if you don’t have an indoor arena, be prepared! Oregon’s high rain fall can make riding and teaching a whole different version of unpleasant. There have been many days when I’ve felt more like a swimming coach than a riding instructor!
Having an emergency plan and evacuation procedure in place for your barn is always a smart move. When disaster strikes, you don't have time to think. Having a plan in place a head of time can prevent tragedies and reduce the fall out from these events.
The most important consideration when drawing up your plan is how to move your horses quickly and safely out of danger. Here are three things to think through:
· How will our horse be transported from the barn?
· Do I have spare halters and other emergency supplies located in an area away from the barn (important in case of fire)?
· Where will our horses be relocated? Do you have neighbors or other horse owners in the area that can serve as an emergency resource?
Perhaps it’s that crazy horse gene again, but despite the unique challenges extreme weather presents to us as horse owners, somehow it all still seems worth the effort that it takes to make sure that these amazing animals - who rely on us so completely - are kept safe and comfortable no matter how appalling the conditions!