Bushfires can occur at any time in New Zealand. With high temperatures and dry summers come conditions of high fire danger. People put themselves at risk trying to save their pets and livestock at the last minute when under threat of bushfire. This guide highlights steps that horse owners can take to prepare themselves in case their property comes under threat of bushfire.
Prepare a plan
If you live in a bushfire risk area it is essential to develop your bushfire survival plan before the fire danger season. Decide a plan for your house and family, and consider your horses. This will allow you to know what needs to be done when danger is close by!
Prepare the property
Work out the safest plan to put your horses if evacuation is not possible. If horses are given enough space, they are quite good at avoiding bushfires. Therefore putting them in the largest bit of land you own is ideal as this will give them the best shot at avoiding any danger.
Reducing possible fire hazards before bushfire season is a major step to safeguarding your property and your horses. Keeping dead grass down around homes and stables is important as this can be an accelerant for fires, as well as any other objects that could prove fuel for the fire.
Prepare a relocation kit
Equip a plastic rubbish bin with the essentials you might need to use for the first 24 hours. Store this kit in an easily accessible location. This kit should include feed, water, halter, any medication that may be needed, and any other item that you deem necessary for your horses care in those 24 hours or possibly longer.
Identify your horses
Ensure all horses have some form of permanent identification. In emergencies, horses can get easily scared and bolt off as fast as they can. This may mean that you may not see your horse for a couple of days if they escape. Therefore getting your horse microchipped is a great idea as they will be more speedily reunited with their owners if separation occurs.
When a bushfire threatens
Try to remain calm and alert, think clearly and act decisively. If you cannot move your horses to a safer district, move them into your previously identified ‘safe area’. Remember to give plenty of room for your horses to move around.
If you are able to evacuate your horses, leave as soon as possible as trying to load a horse on to a float is a time sensitive situation which can cause both humans and horses to panic! Even the best loading horses can decide they don’t want to get on if the situation is putting them under an immense amount of pressure.