FIRST, I wanted to apologize for the stoopid issues with the HORSE AND MAN hosting server. Sheesh. A special thank-you to all of you who wrote to tell me your specific problems… without your voices, we wouldn’t know what was broken.
I’ve been told it is all working now…
1) IF YESTERDAY’S BLOG about tagging your horses during disasters showed no photos, click this link and you should see them.
2) IF THE DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY’S BLOG about product reviews didn’t have a link that worked to purchase Equion (love the stuff), click here.
MORE GOOD FIRE EMERGENCY EVACUATION INFORMATION
Yesterday’s blog (linked here) about fire and disaster and tagging your horses really did stir up some dust around here! My email box was FULL of ideas and thoughts on how to tag horses and about fire in general.
I wanted to pass on a few ideas and an excellent webpage about horses and fire. Here is the link to that excellent page.
I’ve listed some excerpts here:
If there is no possibility of evacuating the horses, and the best you can do for them is to turn them out into a large dirt field and hope they can outrun or survive the fire, be sure to remove anything they might be wearing. Horses can often outrun fires, or run through them and live, but they cannot escape from rugs, sheets, or halters that are burning and melting on their bodies. Before you release your horses to take their chances in the wide open spaces, take a moment to soak them from head to tail with the hose. Wet coats, and especially soaking wet manes and tails, will take up to half a minute longer to catch fire, and that little bit of extra time may give the horses a chance to get away from the flames. Horses, given enough space to run, are surprisingly clever about fires. Like wildlife, they won’t run themselves into exhaustion if they can avoid it, and in fact will often find their way to some land that has already burned, where they can stand and wait. The problem is that a big fire will often destroy fences, letting horses out onto roads, where they are in more danger from vehicles than from the fire itself!
Yes, blindfolds can help. Horses can be made very nervous in the presence of fire and smoke, especially if the person handling them is also nervous and in a hurry. Blindfolds can help them get their attention back where you want it – on you. Long-sleeved cotton shirts make very good blindfolds. Cotton leadropes are vastly preferable to nylon ones; cotton rope or leather halters should be used instead of nylon. If you have time, dropping the halters and ropes into a water tank for even a few minutes will make them less likely to catch fire. You can also soak the blindfolds before putting them on – or after putting them on.
DRESS FOR THE JOB
Avoid synthetics. Jeans and long-sleeved cotton shirts (don’t roll up the sleeves, leave them long) will keep you safer. Shoes or boots and gloves should be leather – synthetic gloves and rubber-soled nylon shoes can MELT. Safety glasses or goggles will help keep smoke and cinders out of your eyes. And if you’re soaking your horses with the hose, soaking yourself with the hose isn’t such a bad idea, either.
HOW FIRES MOVE
A firefighter friend of mine informs me that a fire coming straight at you does not necessarily have to kill you. When you’re dealing with a brushfire or wildfire, your instinct is – of course – to run away from it, but sometimes, under certain circumstances, it may be better to find the right place and go TOWARD it. When a fire is uncontained and out of control, there is only one truly safe place, and that is behind the fire line, in the place that is NOT going to catch fire – because it has already burned.
If you’re riding in an area covered with short grass, and the fire is approaching, it MAY be possible for you to ride through the fire line and into that smoky, hot, blackened area behind it. If there’s time and you have your wits about you, you may even be able to find a dirt road or path that provides no fuel for the fire, and follow it through and past the fire line. With such a path to follow, you wouldn’t have to ask the horse to go through a line of flames, even very low ones. With a frightened horse and in the absence of a flame-free path, you might have to dismount, strip off the tack, leave your horse to fend for himself, and run through the fire line alone. Either way, it won’t be pleasant on the other side, but it will be OUT of the fire and thus safer.
The very best of luck to you – and to everyone else worried about the fires! There’s no way to predict exactly what a fire will do, and no way for a horse-owner or farm-owner to guard against every possibility, but perhaps some of the suggestions above will help a little. I hope so.
CLEARLY, my idea yesterday of plastic collars with their names written on them – is not such a good idea. I never considered the ‘melting into their skin’ part. Ugh.
One reader told me that it would be an excellent idea to teach my horses to lead while blindfolded.
I could see how this might help, but I know that blind horses (or horses that lose their vision quickly, I should say) tend to panic. So, teaching a horse to follow you blindfolded would be a huge act of faith for them.
And, maybe that is the point.
To be a true partner, you have to have that trust.
I think I will put that into my instructional sessions with Rojo and see how that goes…
Here is a bit of research on blindfolded horses:
Blindfolding is routinely used to aid the handling and loading of horses that are difficult to control. Fifteen relatively well-behaved horses of varying ages and disciplines were used to investigate the effects of blinkering and blindfolding on behaviour and heart rate in three situations: whilst stabled, when being led in a ménage, and during loading onto a lorry. Heart rate increased in all three situations when a blindfold was used, and when animals were handled by the least experienced of three handlers. The effects of blinkering on heart rate and behaviour were small compared with blindfolding. Overall, blindfolding appeared to make the horses more nervous and difficult to handle. However, the study does not discount the practical application that blindfolding may have for improving welfare and safety when handling certain individual horses. This work forms the basis for further studies involving animals less accustomed or disposed to being handled.
Having Morgans, I have raised several driving horses. They have all worn blinders while pulling the carts. And yes, it took a while for them to get used to the hoods. However, I’m glad that they have learned about head garments and blinders because it has served me well when I’ve needed to have them wear head bumpers for trailering – or when I’ve needed for them to wear extensive fly
But another reader wrote in about her interesting use of a hood with eye cups…
A hood with eye cups is a hood that has cups that can cover the eye totally, partially, or just somewhat – to obscure peripheral vision. But, they can also be used if a horse has an eye issue and needs for one eye to be totally shielded.
Here was an ingenious use of a driving hood!:
We had a race colt that sustained an injury to his neck and he would not hold his head straight once healed.
According to the vet, just the wrong muscle memory had developed.
We put full cup blinders on him, with just a small opening on one side, so he had to hold his head straight to see while galloping and in time we opened that more and more, then the other side and the colt went on to do some winning and made a great ranch horse later.
FINALLY – PAINTING THEIR HOOVES FOR MARKING!
Yesterday, I mentioned painting their hooves with the livestock crayon. But a reader had another idea.
She said that during the two evacuations she had last year, they wrote their phone numbers in Magic Marker on the horses’ hooves.
Easy. And for those of us who have accidentally had their Magic Marker leak – we know the marks are PERMANENT!
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
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Not sure why the guy with the blindfolded horse figured that if the horse couldn’t see, he couldn’t hear either? I think that horse would have done all that if the guy just used a regular voice instead of yelling! Amazing horse though.