Horses and Wildfires

Sadly there’s a lot of wildfires happening all over the USA.


According to the Predictive Services National Interagency Fire Center, the potential for wildfires will be above normal in multiple areas of the country this year. In the North-Central US, this above-normal volatility has been expanding throughout the month of April. In Southern California, where drought has the state scrambling to conserve water, there is also high wildfire potential this month. In Southern Alaska, the above-normal potential is “prevalent”.

As Spring unfolds into summer we’re looking at the risk expanding along the West Coast, spreading down into the Great Basin and up into the Northwest and over to the Rockies. Thankfully, it’ll slacken up a bit and descend to normal in the North-Central US, come June and July. But over here in the West, we’re looking at a wild summer.

Wildland Urban Interface areas prone to wildfires make for some of the best spots to own horses. Reasons for this include plenty of pasture space, grass, and ample access to trails. It’s all about the great wide-open spaces! But with the near inevitable of wildfire danger this year in these areas, we’ve got to be prepared.

Keep Horses from Bolting

If you don’t have a quality fence set up what’s to keep your horses from fleeing the pasture? Horses are highly sensitive and they can be anxious creatures when danger levels rise. The typical board-fence is strong, but splinters and breakage can harm your horse. The best possible scenario involves the horses staying in the pasture unharmed so that when fire encroaches you can evacuate them safely if need be. If the fire’s close enough wooden fencing will go up quick, it’ll help destroy your property, and plastic fencing will melt. I recommend a braided electrical fence. They are safe and more effective than tiny wires. And, they’re portable, so if you need to relocate your pasture after a fire you won’t have wasted your money.


Don’t wait ‘til you see smoke. An emergency evacuation procedure just makes good horse sense. You’ve got to know the best route in your area, so consult local emergency management officials, county law enforcement, or animal control officers to get expert opinions. Talk to as many members of the community as you can in an effort to determine the number of routes—the more options you have the better. Then, give evacuation routes a priority rating by analyzing potential scenarios. You might have a favorite route to get into town but wouldn’t the highway be safer in a wildfire situation? This all depends on the geography of your location.

Once your routes are mapped out, prepare your trailer, if you have one. Take a test drive with the trailer on your escape routes, make sure the trailer’s in good condition, keep a full tank of gas in the rig you’ll use for hauling. Practice loading fast with the horses so they get used to loading in a hurry with one handler.

In the event of a fire, some unprepared horse owners choose to set their horses loose. The logic is, horse-sense will kick in, and it’s better for them to be free fending for themselves than confined where the fire can get them. But if you’re prepared this won’t be an issue. If you don’t have a trailer, talk to your neighbor. If you do have one, talk to your neighbor. Enlisting your neighbor when creating your plan can be one of the most valuable actions you can take. Use each other as failsafe; team up on keeping each other notified. If you get word of an evacuation in your area notify your neighbor immediately; you can expect her to do the same for you.


It’s already a good idea to be able to readily identify your horses. But during fire season it is especially important. A horse could get loose or you might not be home, in which case the horses will be hauled to fairgrounds or a boarding facility. Either way, to claim your horse you’ll need the papers. In the case of a runaway horse, a microchip will come in handy. Work with animal control agency personnel in the event of a lost horse. The most efficient way to go about this is to create a packet full of identification materials, including pictures, registration papers, brand papers, etc. Keep this with the horse during the emergency proceedings. Keeping an additional packet with important health information won’t hurt, either.

First Aid

Have a general first aid kit fully stocked and ready in the barn, one you can take with you in the trailer to treat any injuries that might occur in an emergency. Make sure any specific medications for your horses are properly labeled and kept separate and easily accessible.

Tack List

Put together a list of important tack items ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it when a fire’s threatening. Hang the list on a clipboard in the barn. Leather halters are best because they don’t get as hot as nylon. Include a water bucket. It’s also a good idea to have some neck bands with your contact info to place around your horse’s neck in case it escapes.


This might seem like common sense, but having boarding arrangements and a contact list prepared ahead of time is extremely valuable. You need to know exactly where you’ll take your horses during the fire, and you’ll need to know exactly who you’ll call. That’s why my earlier advice to talk to members of the community is probably the most valuable as far as arrangements go. The boarding area will probably be the fairgrounds, a commercial facility, or a friend’s or family’s place. For the contact list, make sure to have someone in another area (preferably a different state) who can help you with phone calls while you’re away from the property. Don’t go it alone!

Do you have any useful tips for protecting horses during a wildfire? Please share!


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