I hope you enjoyed the Holidays with friends, horses and family! Happy 2014 and “Year of the Horse” (which officially kicked off on Jan. 31) to all of you. Let us hope that 2014 will bring brighter futures for horses and people around the world.

As I write this a huge snowstorm “Hercules” is bearing down on the Northeast, preparing to dump snow and ice on more than 100 million people here in the United States, and this is on top of a large storm last week that knocked out power to thousands. Over the internet we have been watching communities struggle to provide just fresh water to their horses under these conditions of frigid below-freezing temperatures for weeks, and sadly several barns have been burned to the ground while their well meaning owners struggled to heat water to above freezing.

I want to make a case for you to resolve to increase your personal- and your horse-level of preparedness in 2014. Ensure you have made better arrangements than to wait until the last minute to react when disasters threaten. The first step is admitting there is a possibility of a problem that could affect you.

The second logical step is admitting that in an emergency it is possible that water, sanitation, food, power, and telephone will not work at your home, your work, and your barn. It will give you a lot of confidence in yourself if you know that you have enough supplies and equipment to be able to react if you're suddenly propelled into the eye of a hurricane or snowstorm or wrecked train of chemicals. Or even if you have a horse that gets caught in a fence or injures itself in the barn. I have blogged about disaster details for preparation last year). 

You don’t have to be a firefighter or military person to be able to increase your preparation level and learn to deal with disasters and emergencies. Setting personal health goals in the new year is all that most people do, but improving you and your family’s overall well-being requires you to take greater action. Knowing what to do in an emergency is vital to the health and safety of you and your loved ones, and if you involve the kids and your neighbors–you will be preparing your community to be more resilient.People who have strong social connections tend to be healthier and more resilient to change and disasters of all kinds (personal, financial, and motional as well as physical).

Since it may take days for emergency workers to reach your location, you must acknowledge that you ought to undertake efforts to ensure your family’s well-being in the immediate aftermath of a disaster or evacuation. You should not even consider working on any plan for dealing with your horse(s) until you get this first part right. Your family is most important, and if they are made part of the planning preparation process this will make them more resilient and capable if a real emergency occurs.

I will assume that you live somewhere else in the United States or the world as you are reading this. I have to ask: Are you just watching what is happening, or what are you doing to prepare in 2014?

Disasters are only a disaster to the people who don’t have a plan or the resources to be able to deal with them. Weather disasters are more and more commonly affecting thousands and millions of people at a time across our country–and you can be assured that rural horse farms are not on the priority list for restoration of utilities! Best of all–you don’t have to do it all at once. Write down a list and research some resource websites–then add to your stockpile all year long.

Preparation can be as simple as making a list of equipment and resources. For example, do you have a trailer and truck fueled and parked facing out, first aid kit, battery and charged cell phone, up to date maps of the area, simple hand tools, extra buckets for water, and a couple days extra of feed and hay? And, do you have phone numbers of people that might be able to assist you in an emergency, such as the local sherriff office, farm bureau, saddle club, riding association, or neighbors with trailers and horse experience.

Or you can get serious about it and take a quick quiz to rate yourself and your preparedness level? One good example is my quiz

Then you can make some simple but crucial changes to your barn facilities

Here is a small example which is crucial to those of us that have horses or a horse related business:

Do you know how you would get access to your important documents should they be destroyed in a disaster or emergency? Your Coggins papers, your registration information, and all your business documents? What if, after a disaster or while traveling, you lost everything? With no wallet, ID, or smart phone, most of us would be horrified and lost. Can you use Google drive to store and download and print copies of critical documents? Do you have another online FTP site to accomplish this? Do you have an off-site storage of paper files and digital copies?

I hope this blog got you thinking about the new year and the possibilities and improvements that you can make. Let me know your ideas and feel free to ask questions about how you might make your level of preparation better. Do you have examples of how you are doing things to prepare? Please share!