One farm in Connecticut prepared this morning for the Blizzard of 2015. The farm's herd included 27 horses--a mix of minis, draft, and regular horses. In preparation for the predicted blizzard, Emergency Animal Rescue Service (EARS), with Jon Nowinski at the helm, rallied--supported by CDHR (Connecticut Draft Horse Rescue) volunteers--to help out at Locket's Meadow Farm to prepare the indoor arena as a temporary shelter setup to keep their horses safe and secure. They enacted their emergency shelter plan, which would use the indoor riding arena as a temporary setup to move all horses inside. Note: The main barn at this location has been undergoing repairs, and out of concern for the roof and predicted snow loads, managers and emergency personal decided this would be a best-choice scenario to ensure the safety of all horses on the property.

Locket's Meadow Farm managers prepared for the blizzard by making sure they had enough hay to weather the storm.

Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Gimenez

This facility is primarily a horse rescue but has a few boarders as well. And, although their horses are perfectly used being outside in Connecticut winters, managers didn’t want to have people out in a blizzard trying to take care of horses, especially if something should go wrong, or if the storm gets worse than expected or lasts much longer.

Their design is fairly simply: Create "stalls" using the fencing along all sides of the indoor arena. Each "stall" was made using three fencing panels against a solid wall. They used steel strapping screwed into the wall to hold the panels in place. This way the horses can see each other, and buddies can even groom each other--but they can get away from each other too. While it's not a complicated process to erect stalls, it is one that requires teamwork and moves much faster when you have a group of people working together.

Panels were used to create temporary stalls.

Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Gimenez

There were a lot of panels, and 27 "stalls" to create. Even the process of loading, unloading, moving, putting together, and dismantling of these stall areas is something that needs consideration and practice. It took around four hours in total for the setup, including transport time. It's an important reminder that horses (and other large animals) require additional considerations... most can't be put together in such a small space, some need to be assured specific or larger amounts of space, some need to be in corners, some not near others, some with more secured fencing, some don’t like the other types of animals near them, etc., etc.

The horses, ready to wait out the storm in the safety of temporary stalls inside the arena.

Photo: Courtesy Rebecca Gimenez

This is why it is was so imperative to plan and practice ahead of time. For this blizzard they watched the weather report and understood that the snow would be coming on Monday morning--and are expecting up to 24 inches there. So they started working on Saturday to ensure they had enough panels, as well as the hay nets, hay, feed, buckets, and cleaning tools needed to make this happen (most area tack stores are closed on Sunday).

Every facility, small or large, should have plans in place for alternate sheltering of the animals on site,even if it's only temporary until a greater plan can be acted upon. These plans should be developed long before any incident that needs it, and should be written out, discussed, regularly updated, and practised. So many places that I've talked to have taken some steps to be prepared but fail to follow through, and the vast majority (even those with good plans on paper) have never practiced their plans.

Update:

On Monday late morning, the stalls are all prepared for the actual blizzard to start, with water buckets filled, hay in each bag, and first feeding in their feed buckets. Although the heaviest winds are expected this afternoon and tonight, when it starts to pick up and snow to be moved around they are bringing the horses in.

What preparations are you making for the Blizzard of 2015? Please share details with all of us.