Locking horses in during bad weather and Fire prevention question
Hi everyone. I have 2 horses in Massachusetts and a 36 by 34 morton type steel barn. It has 2 stalls in it with back doors so they can go in and out freely. The horses have gotten so used to this set up over the past few years that they absolutely HATE to be locked in, to the point that if my mare thinks you might lock her in you won't be able to catch her.
We have had a lot of storms lately (hurricane this fall, snow storms this winter with high winds) and a lot of trees and branches have fallen with the wind. They have about an acre paddock attached to the barn and love to go out into the woods for some reason and hang out there. Every time we have a storm coming I debate locking them in the barn or leaving them out and just feeding them their hay in their stalls (they usually eat outdoors unless its raining/snowing etc) so that they will (hopefully!) spend the majority of their time in their stalls. I am paranoid about the thought of a barn fire so locking them in makes me nervous. When we get storms like this this we often lose power and I worry that some kind of power surge will cause a fire. The barn is brand new with brand new electrical wiring but we do have some hay, shavings etc in their and no fire alarm system set up.
So... in bad weather, do I leave their doors open or lock them in? If I do lock them in, anything I can do that isn't a fortune for a fire alarm type system or other fire prevention?
Is it worse to worry about falling trees/ limbs or fire?
Leave the stalls open! My horses stay out (with access to a run in) in pretty much all weather. I'll occasionally bring them in but mostly it just makes ME feel better. Give em tons of hay, blanket if necessary and they'll be happier
Charlie Brown (1994 bay TB X gelding)
White Star (2004 grey TB gelding)
April of 2011 we had a direct hit from tornadoes. In the mts. of SWVA. At 1:00 in the morning. We had lost electricity so had no warning. My horses and pony were outside. The (metal) barn blew away. The hay inside stayed. At least a dozen trees in the pasture blew over. There was not one scratch on the horses. Nothing.
The next farm over had halter QHs that were in the barn. I won't describe the fatal injuries but they were awful. Our vet, without saying much, indicated leaving horses out was the difference.
I'd give them the freedom to come and go as they please. I would, however, try to get the mare accustomed to being shut in the stall. There may come a time when she'll need to be in -- medical reason, for example.
A little off topic but ManyDogs made me wonder... what do horses left outside do during a tornado? Do they just stand still? I would be afraid of them running in terror and going through a fence or escaping from the property? I know people in tornado prone areas leave their horses out because it's safer than trapping them in the barn, but how do they prevent the horses from running off?
(p.s. I clearly do not live in a tornado area, so none of this is common sense to me)
I really think that in a tornado, there is no best answer. Just go with what you feel best, in or out. We had a really bad tornado here last year, and it just came down to luck. Some horses in barns were fine; some got injured. Some out on pasture were fine, some were injured. Some just disappeared. Personally, in a severe storm, I would go with in. Simply because I know a couple of people that have had horses killed by lightening strikes, which are much more common than F4 tornadoes....
I have the exact same setup--barn with stalls open to a small sacrifice paddock. I have never confined my horses in there unless they are on stall rest due to injury or I have one due to foal. There is a "horse porch" facing south and that helps with some of the wind and snow/rain blowing in, and they have a clump of trees that is actually a better break from the SW wind.
Each and every winter here (this is our 6th on this property) we have dozens of days and nights of steady 30-40 mph winds and ridiculous amounts of lake effect snow (we are 3 miles in from Lake Michigan, right in the path of the worst winds and snowfall) and often the temperatures are sub-zero at night. On nights like those I leave the stalls open so the horses can choose to go in and out as they please. My current stall configuration is actually one big 12 x 24 foaling stall, with one Dutch door open to the paddock. I only have one TB and my Shetland here this winter. If I have more horses, I open up the other stall as well.
Judging by the amount of poop and disturbed bedding I see in the morning, the TB and/or pony spend only a couple of hours in there at night.
For weather such as cold/snow I'd let them choose. For nasty thunderstorms/tornados it would depend on the barn and what the structure was rated at wind wise.
Now if you were concerned about an electrical fire caused by a storm maybe cut the power to the barn?
Now ours don't have the option to come and go when they please so when it gets particularly cold/snow ours come in as we aren't used to cold snaps. We have a Morton barn so things can stay nice and toasty over night when we close the two big barn doors.
A friend of mine writes articles for The Horse. She is also the owner/president/instructor for Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue (see www.tlaer.org). Here is an article she wrote about horses and bad storms.
I occasionally keep my horses in (they have a very large run in shelter for the rest of the time) and only once did something happen that outside would have been more dangerous - there was a microburst that tore off about 20 of the steel roof panels and they were flying around. It also flattened an area of the (Post & Board) fence so they could have been hit by a panel and/or gotten out. Every other time they are in it's because they are asking to be inside. That's not very often. They often stand right out in the bad weather ignoring their shelter.
Thanks everyone for the advice! Luckily, we don't tornados here (just hurricanes/ snow storms) but the hurricane winds can get up pretty high.
Draftdriver- you are def right about getting here more comfortable being indoors. She is almost 30 and lived most of her life in a stall before I got her, so she isn't bad per say just anxious. I should try and make it a better experience for her though and work on that!
As far as flying objects goes... our barn is brand new and well constructed, wouldn't they be better off in the situation indoors that out?
The paddock has a lot of old trees so its a little different than an open pasture. We seem to lose a big tree or two ever storm. We had a bad snow storm (2 + feet) with hurricane forced winds last week and lost 3 large trees and the paddock will cluttered with branches. Not sure if that changes anyones thoughts!
Yes but my fear is lightning. I've known of 3 horses of friends of mine who's horses were out and got hit and died immediately. That's why I always put mine in for a bad storm. 2 were hit in the open and one it struck the tree a stud and his baby were standing under. It went in the stud from the tree and then jumped into the foal. So guess really 4 horses.
Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole
Again it is hard to say what your barn can and cannot withstand. I know when Morton built our barn it came with certain guarantees. All comes down to a judgement call. I'd say inside in particularly high winds etc sounds better in your situation.
In Florida the concensus is that a horse is better off outside during hurricanes. They say that horses will seek the lowest level of land ( a swale or gulley) to get down into during the storm. I on the other hand, always put my horses in if faced with that danger. The debris blowing from yours or other properties and carried along can be deadly, and Florida, being flat, doesn't offer much in the way of deep swales or gullies. I also tend to bring my horses in if threatened by a severe thunderstorm.
Four things greater than all things are-
Women and Horses and Power and War.
Thanks for the advice everyone. I really enjoyed reading the fire prevention articles that were posted too! I ended up locking them in for a few hours tonight during the worst of the winds and I unplugged their outdoor heated bucket's extension cord and a few other things after reading the articles. The wind slowed down a bit so I let them back out tonight.
I never lock my horse in, but he has the option to go into a 24x48 run in shed with 3 closed sides. I noticed that when the wind gets bad during a storm or if there is a lot of lightning, the boys hunker down in the shed. Otherwise (snow, rain, etc), he stays out.
A few years ago I was managing a farm in NC when an EF1 tornado came across the back of the property. The horses who were outside were fine but nervous. The ones inside were napping. Luckily the only damage was a few downed trees and the side of a run-in that got ripped off. It's my personal belief that in natural disasters, a horse's instincts will generally keep them safe.
The weather has gotten so volatile and the storms so severe in Northern Va, I had my lightning rod system updated. Prior to this, my barn was hit by lightning and the rafters charred and the insulation fried.
I keep my horses inside during a thunderstorm now that the lightning rods are corrected. The run-in shed has lightning rods also. If I knew a tornado was approaching, I would put them outside however because my barn is a small stick-built wooden barn.
Keep an eye on your barn during a storm if you have no lightning rods and there is hay in your barn.
if we are having a lot of wind, I leave the horses out. I will leave them inside if it is really cold, really hot, or really rainy and cold at the same time, or if the rain is just miserably hard. Otherwise, they are out. There are several large oak trees around our farm that would smush the barns if they fell, even though are barns are very well made and wood. Just don't stand a chance against a tree like that, and I'd rather the horses be able to get away than trapped.