For anyone who lives in a rural area, no doubt you face the pros and cons of your lifestyle choice on a daily basis. While you love the sound of quiet and the openness of not having your neighbors in your back pocket, the down side of country living is that you're often forced to handle many types of disasters on your own. That's why rural neighborhoods often seem so close-knit. There's a certain amount of mutual co-dependence.
So, say it's been a stormy spring. You've been dealing with late snowfalls and early rainstorms. The results of Mother Nature's whims can really complicate life on the farm when you're responsible for horses and all it takes to care for them. Because of the many different issues that can result from one event, electrical power outages on your property that affect your barn can present major problems. But you may need to train yourself to think of your horses' needs first before worrying about restoring power.
"Safety first" must always be your motto when dealing with an electrical power outage on your property. While it's natural to try to figure out what's happened and when it'll be fixed, your horses are better served if you think of them first. So before you worry about what caused the outage and when it'll be repaired, think first about what your horses' immediate needs will be until electricity can be restored.
Feed, water, and shelter are basic needs of every living animal. From a safety perspective, if you can ensure that your horses have untainted food, clean and abundant water, and a safe and secure shelter to protect them, then you have less to worry about.
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Here are some easy and efficient ideas for making sure your horses' basic needs can be met until the power is restored. In each of these cases, think along the lines of inspection first, then planning second.
Feed. Daylight gives you an opportunity to examine your feed storage areas to make sure there was no damage to your hayloft, hay shed, or grain room from whatever caused the power outage. Also take advantage of daylight to measure out and set up hay and grain for each of your horses for the next few feedings. This way, you won't be trying to measure or weigh anything in the dark. You can just grab a prepared feeding and go. If it's dark outside when you lose electrical power, you can still set up feedings, you'll just need an assistant with a light to help you do this accurately, then you can double check everything during the next available daylight.
Water. Remember, for horses to remain hydrated and healthy, they need to drink at least six gallons of water per day. You'll need to do a visual check on all of your water tanks, barrels, or buckets to make sure they're full enough with water to get you through at least the next day. Also, check for debris or anything else that might have been deposited in your water containers to pollute your horses' drinking water. You'll find that-unless they're desperate-horses won't drink adequately from a dirty water source.
Before you lose the prime on your water pump, see if there's water in the well line that you can use to top off water containers. And, in the worst-case scenario, if your water is low or tainted and your well line is empty, figure out a way to purchase bottled water so you can fill tanks or buckets.
Some folks even go so far as to store larger quantities of water for this purpose. You can buy over-sized containers at most of the big-box home stores. If you worry that the water may become stale if you don't use it, then empty the containers every two or three months, clean them, and refill them. The last thing you want to deal with while you worry about an electrical outage is a horse who's colicky because he's out of drinkable water and is becoming dehydrated.
Shelter. In general in rural areas, the most common cause of power outages is some type of weather-related incident. What if your power is out because of an ice storm that knocked down tree limbs? And what if this same storm damaged your barn roof or horse sheds? As soon as possible, you'll want to inspect your horse shelters to see what, if any, damage has occurred. Then make sure that the shelter is safe for your horse and that it will, in fact, continue to provide adequate protection until repairs can be made. Some things will be easy to repair-loose roofing materials may just require a hammer and nails-but other problems-broken windows or damaged walls-may need more planning and work. If you discover that your shelter will no longer adequately protect your horses from the elements, you'll need to make new arrangements right away. This may even entail temporarily moving your horses to a neighbor's barn that escaped unscathed.
After you've made sure that your horses' basic needs can be met for the next day or so, then you can relax. There's plenty of time to get in touch with neighbors or utility companies to figure out what happened and when power will be restored. This information then can help you make additional long-term plans, if needed.