Horse owners are responsible for their horses during any natural disaster. Preparation, Planning and Practice of plans is essential to increase you and your horse’s chance of survival.

PIRSA has recently developed a strategic document outlining the Management of Animals in Emergencies

The Horse SA bushfire information page contains a lot of information that can  be adapted to preparing for a wide range of natural disaster emergencies, including  flood and storm. The page contains suggested tips for staying or going, for horse evacuation kits and more! Related pages include Large Animal Rescue  & Biosecurity

Visit the Horse SA Events page for related activities.

In early 2017 the SA Government released the report ‘Animals in Emergencies



Care of your horse during and after a flood   floodalert.pdf

Prepare with info from:

Tips for clean up (floodwater is dirty water)


Horse owners should have an emergency plan for their family, property and horses which includes decisions on if and when to evacuate horses, and where to go in the event of such evacuation. Pre-planning could include a “paddock buddy” who is located in a low-risk area and can take your horses at short notice.

An alternative place to take horses may be an equine evacuation centre. A Local Council, any local community (horse) group or a range of not-for-profit organisations could be the people responding to and assisting in the management of equine evacuations and sourcing of temporary housing.

An equine evacuation centre may be set up to remove horses from a major hazard e.g. approaching fire front, during an emergency or as part of a recovery activity.

Horse SA has developed a guide which is flexible and adaptable  and can be used in full or part. It is NOT endorsed by Government.

Feedback on the guide is welcome to

Horse SA template for setting up an  Equine Evacuation Centre  EQUINE_EVAC PLAN_31.12.13

Horse SA does not expect to implement or carry out the establishment of an equine evacuation centre. Horse SA is not in a position to do so. This guide should be implemented by the best people at the time according to the type and location of the disaster, which is most likely to be local horse owners.


Horse SA is seeking an expression of interest from one  club with a suitable venue (yarding/stabling) to conduct an equine evacuation drill. The idea is modelled on drills that are practiced by USA riding clubs. This would take place with a set number of club member’s horses, known in advance. It is a drill associated with only a part of the template for the establishment of equine evacuation centres (i.e. field evacuations will not be covered)

Preparation for the drill would require

a) at least one planning meeting

b) sourcing of 8 – 10 volunteers

c) briefing of club members a couple of weeks prior to the drill



Date/time/venue  TBA


  • Horse owners to practice an evacuation drill
  • Horse owners to practice putting together an equine evacuation kit
  • Venue managers to try out logistics with using their venue as an equine evacuation centre
  • Build capacity in your local community to respond to a disaster or request for assistance by an adjoining region

Sample timetable:

8.45 am                         Volunteer registration, induction & training

9.30 – 10.30 am          Horses arrive, checked in, ID, through sample vet inspection

10.30                              Morning tea

11.00                              Guest speaker related to emergency services

11.30                              Show’n’tell  evacuation kits brought by horse owners

12.00                              Conclusion


Discuss this idea with your club committee and contact Horse SA if it may be a suitable club activity for members.






A Moveable Beast: Subjective Influence of Human-Animal Relationships on Risk Perception, and Risk Behaviour during Bushfire Threat   Trigg-et-al.-2016-TQR-21.10-1.p

Horse related – Australia  (many of the links on the bushfire page also have fact sheets for other natural disasters)

Queensland Horse Council  Horse Owners Tackbox (includes flood, fire fact sheets)


Horse related- overseas:

Disaster Preparedness for Horse Owners (USA) brochure  USA Humane Society

British Columbia Horse Council  disaster preparedness checklist  USA

Hurricane/Storm Emergency Preparedness for Horse Owners USA

The Horse 911 Disaster Preparedness (Blog by Dr Rebecca Gimenez)

YouTube- Horse Lovers Emergency Planning  (this one is quite good/easy to listen to)



Emergency Management Australia

National Planning Principles for Animals in Disasters   (Australia)

Livestock Emergency Guidelines & Standards  (International)

WSPA   The Case for Preparadeness

Pintrest:  Disaster Plans & Kits






 After the fire front has passed

As soon as it is safe, check your horse for obvious burn, cuts and other injuries to  see if veterinary attention is required. Remember to continually to check horses for the next 6 weeks as many types of burns, respiratory and hoof problems will only make itself known in the following weeks.


Horses commonly suffer only facial burns, presumably because they turn  and run through the fire front. Other possible injuries include burns to  other areas of the body, smoke inhalation, damage to eyes, and burnt, swollen  eyelids. It is also important to check for other injuries sustained during  the fire such as lacerations from running into fences. The nature and extent of burns can vary widely between animals of different  species, depending on the nature of the fire and degree of exposure. Some  may be more severely burned than others in the same herd. Situations which  may warrant emergency destruction on humane grounds include: – severe burns to greater than 50% of the body  surface with severe charring of the limbs, muscles or facial tissues – suffering from severe smoke inhalation resulting  in acute respiratory distress, as shown by facial burns, laboured breathing,  frothing or          discharge at the mouth and  nose, and coughing. –  horses which are down and unable to  rise due to injuries or burns sustained during a fire If an insured horse has to be destroyed, make sure the insurance  company is notified as soon as practicable.

First Aid & Follow Up Observations

Veterinarians will most likely be working under emergency circumstances  and communications may be disrupted, so expect some delay before help arrives.  You must therefore be prepared to monitor the progress of your horses and  to administer appropriate first aid while you are waiting for professional  assistance.

Links of interest

A presentation given by Dr Chris Heislers at the International Large Animal Rescue Conference (ILAR) covers off on experiences with treating horses after the Victorian Bushfires of 2009.

Bushfire observations:  Article with case studies and summary of experiences Dr Chris Heislers

PDF of  ILAR PowerPoint TVS Horse Rescue Bushfire presentation (which goes with the above YouTube link, as imagers were wobbly)

Dr Chris Heislers presentation at ILAR- Powerpoint added onto Slideshare

A short article by the University of Melbourne after the same fires

A USA article, after California fires

Veterinary comment on this one would also be welcome:

Dealing with burns on horses

This article includes a horse with bushfire related problems-

Australian article


First Aid-  Skin Burns

Skin burns produce severe inflammation, indicated by heat, pain and swelling.  Thus first aid must be anti-inflammatory i.e. cold water delivered by a  hose or gentle sponging if you still have access to a water supply. It  is also important that horses have access to feed and water, shade and to  soft, even ground if their feet are burnt, or you suspect they may be burnt or have been on very hot ground.

First Aid – Smoke Inhalation

Severe smoke inhalation can cause delayed lung damage, which may not be  immediately obvious. Horses may appear normal after the fire but in 3-4  hrs can become anxious with rapid, sometimes laboured, breathing and an  elevated heart rate. These horses need urgent veterinary treatment.

Re-introducing Horses to Burned Areas

Care must be taken introducing horses to burned areas. There may be hotspots  that could flare up without warning. Particularly burned structures and  trees may be unstable and suddenly fall over. Make sure the fencing is  secure. Check for ash pits – areas where root systems have burned underground,  downed power lines and dangerous debris before turning horses out into  a burned paddock. If possible, keep horses on unburned areas or off on other agistment for several weeks before returning to their own paddocks. As a priority, consideration must been given  to a land management property plan which will prevent dust, mud and erosion  and ensure good pasture growth in the following rains. Weeds, which may  be toxic, are often the first plants to emerge in a horse paddock post  fire.

Prepare and Practice your Bushfire Survival Plan now!

The distress of having a horse burnt in a bushfire can be magnified by  the lack of readily available first aid measures. This can be compounded  if the fire destroys facilities and prevents any form of communication  to seek help. Good forward planning will protect the safety and well-being of your horses  if you live in a high bushfire risk area. Carefully consider the needs  of your animals when preparing your Bushfire Survival Plan and  practice it regularly.

Psychological First Aid for People


Further links:

PIRSA Land Management Recovery after Bushfires