How to Prepare Yourself, Your Barn and Your Horse for a Tornado

Due to the impending Particularly Dangerous Situation...


...I woke up well before dawn to get feeding, turnout and stalls done early so I could get home before the storms hit.  One of the thoughts in my head when I woke up at 5:30 this morning (besides "COFFEEEE...") was that a lot of the people that read this blog don't live in tornado-prone areas and wouldn't know what goes into preparing a horse facility for tornadic weather.

I grew up in Illinois and now live in Indiana, and, fun fact, I am a trained storm spotter with the National Weather Service.  I have distinct memories of my mom putting halters on our horse and donkey every time a tornado watch was issued.  We Midwesterners usually get 1-2 days notice that there might be severe weather, and 0-10 minutes to prepare for an actual tornado headed our way.  These are the rules I live by during tornado season:

If you're a barn owner, groom, barn worker, or otherwise responsible for the horses' well-being:
A horse being rescued from a barn hit by an F5 tornado in
Oklahoma earlier this year.
1) Figure out the safest place for the horses to be during the storm and put them there.  Unless your barn is made of rebar-reinforced concrete block, the safest place for them to be is almost certainly going to be outside in your fields, where they will have a fighting chance of survival in the event of a direct hit by a tornado.  Inside the barn, they are sitting ducks for injury should the barn collapse around them.  You'll hear the opposing viewpoint too, but in the event of a direct hit, I truly believe outside is better.

2) Make your horses easy to catch and identify in the event that they get loose.  If a tree, tornado or high wind takes down your fence and your horses escape, you'll want them to be wearing halters to make catching easier, preferably with your name and address on them - hence my mom's pre-storm ritual.

3) Do whatever you need to do to prepare the barn for a power outage.  Usually tornado-induced power outages aren't as lengthy as hurricane-induced outages, but if you store temperature-sensitive medication or the barn gets really dark without light, you'll want to plan to have backup power and flashlights stored around the barn.

4) Check your emergency kit, and make sure you're prepared to deal with injuries caused by flying debris, such as glass, as well as puncture wounds and lacerations.

If you're a boarder: 
Document, document,
document!
1) Are the things you store at the barn covered under your homeowners or renters insurance? (Probably not.)  Does the barn's insurance policy cover the things you store at the barn?  (Probably not.)  You'll likely need to look into a rider on your homeowners or renters policy in order to cover your saddles and other expensive tack - luckily, riders like that tend to not be very expensive at all.

2) Pertinent to #1, make sure you have detailed photos (and a video walk-through, ideally) of all of the things you store at the barn, as well as documentation that lists the serial number, date of purchase, and approximate value.  Copies of original receipts and invoices are invaluable when you're trying to prove the value of the lost or damaged items to your insurance company.

Hopefully you never have to use this advice, (besides the insurance advice, which goes for other types of loss such as theft also), but in the event that you do, or you're just curious about what is a pretty common ritual in this part of the US, I hope you learned something useful!

22 comments:

  1. Super helpful, thanks! Before we moved to TN I was never in tornado area, but lately we have been getting strong storms with tornadoes in spring and (less often) fall. In fact, we have the possibility of a tornado in this storm ourselves. Anyway, never learned how to prep the barn and horses for it, so thanks again!

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  2. I'm glad it helped you! Tennessee gets some crazy storms, hope it doesn't get too bad for you guys today. We're still waiting for it, Emergency Management is telling everyone not to travel today. Crazy!

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  3. We are on the verge of getting the same storm as you. . .just waiting for it to pass. Excellent advice!

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  4. I agree with you. I don't like the fact that my horse is inside during the current storms (hopefully we don't get hit as hard as Indiana). I'd rather he be outside where he can somewhat fend for himself.

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    1. You should be okay, we ended up not getting anything - just two minutes of rain!

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  5. My barn has prepared for two hurricanes and was hit badly by the wacky derecho storm in 2012 in which we lost power for a week and forty trees on the farm. We actually keep the horses in because the falling trees are so dangerous. I still worry about them being in, though.

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    1. I remember reading that post. The derecho was just something else entirely, but I think you have to keep them in for something sustained like a hurricane. They'd be miserable otherwise, even if it was safe. Tornadic storms are typically pretty fast-moving. I don't even know where I'd start with a hurricane, honestly.

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  6. Really good advice, thanks for posting!

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  7. Write your name and phone number on your pets and horses in Large Tip Sharpie!!!!!!

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    1. That's a really good one if you're seriously in the danger zone, and especially for hurricanes. I think it's a necessity for hurricanes.

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  8. Thanks for sharing this information. We definitely don't have storms like that and I have to say, I'm so glad!

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    1. They make life interesting, and I kind of like them, hence the storm spotter certification - but only if they leave my house and horse alone.

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  9. Interesting info. Glad you were safe.

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    1. Yeah, it sort of broke up around my county. Areas to the north and south got hit pretty hard though.

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  10. Great points to make! Thank you for sharing!

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  11. You can also braid a name tag with address etc into the horses mane. Stay safe everyone.

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    1. That's a really good idea for a tornado. Less permanent than sharpie, more likely to stay put than a halter.

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  12. This is a really interesting overview - thank you for sharing it.

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  13. thanks for the tips and information..i really appreciate it.. horse racing competition

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