Prepare don’t panic

Prepare don’t panic

The images of horses unable to escape fires around the country devastated all of us last year, and this summer, the threat of wildfires continues to grow. Last month, New Mexico clocked several fires, portending a rough summer. Around the country, threats of flooding, fire, tornados, and heavy lightning storms are keeping all of us on our toes. Do your herd and yourself a favor by being prepared for any disaster, not only fire.

Last month, the Northern New Mexico Horsemen’s Association sponsored a critical Zoom monthly meeting that addressed preparation in times of emergency. Cheryl Nigg and Kit Weidner, active members of the Pecos Chapter of Back Country Horsemen and the East Mountain Emergency Response Team (CERT), said being prepared by having a comprehensive and well-thought-out plan can be the difference between life and death for your horses. Worsening wildfire conditions can mean you and your animals may need to evacuate with limited notification.


By spending some valuable time preparing to ensure a safe evacuation, you can tame the anxiety. Disasters often arrive with little warning. The tendency to panic is natural, but you can prepare rather than panic by reviewing an outline for your own plan below.

Prepare an evacuation plan for your horse (s)

  • Ensure your trailer is ready to go by checking spare tires, fire extinguishers, and lights;
  • If there is a threat, be sure to keep your vehicle’s gas tank full;
  • Store extra sacks of feed and containers of water in case evacuation orders are issued;
  • Customize a disaster kit for your equines, including equine meds, basic grooming tools, extra halters, and leads, wraps, first-aid antiseptic and store in a waterproof container;
  • Put ID tags on horse halters or microchip your horse;
  • Collect key documents (horse photos and proof of ownership, insurance information, special medical care requirements);
  • Put ID tags on halters or microchip your horse.

Be prepared yourself

  • Keep your flashlights and phones charged and have extra batteries;
  • Pack eyeglasses, prescriptions, knife, change of clothes, raincoat, extra boots or shoes, gloves; water, food;
  • Keep a checklist of what you will need to take and where items on the list are located in your house or barn;
  • Identify routes to your designated “safe place” – a friend or family member who can secure your equines safely (15-20 miles away is a minimum distance)
  • Plan your route(s) from home to your chosen safe place.

Practice evacuation protocols with your horse

  • Load them in your trailer(s) or practice with a friend’s trailer;
  • Drape a bandana or kerchief from a halter over their eyes and lead them around
  • Plan what you need if you are away from your property for three to seven days;
  • Practice at night, when many evacuations occur.

Orders to Evacuate

  • Listen to media for updates about closed or dangerous locations to avoid;
  • Confine animals to stalls, small paddocks, or even in trailers to avoid a delayed departure;
  • Grab your equine disaster kit;
  • Load feed/hay and containers of water into truck or trailer;
  • Evacuate early to avoid smoke, closed roads, and emergency vehicles;
  • Never turn animals loose – they will run from fire but will return home;
  • Once in a safe location, contact your family or emergency contacts;
  • Write phone numbers, directions, and evacuation information on paper because cell service may be spotty;
  • Plan on a single evacuation trip

Safely return home

  • Keep animals off-site until the emergency is declared over;
  • Be aware of lingering smoke, loose animals, downed power lines, contaminated water;
  • Ensure you have secure fencing, corrals or stalls, available water, and feed/hay when you return.

Stay safe, stay horsey, stay prepared!