With drought or near-drought conditions in many parts of the country, forest fires have recently become a constant part of the news cycle. This week, the popular resort town of Gatlinburg, Tenn. made headlines with mass evacuations and multiple fires that have destroyed homes, businesses and other structures.
One of the many things to do while in Gatlinburg is horseback riding. Whether hauling in your own horses to trail ride or visiting one of the many riding stables in the area, countless people take in the Smoky Mountain scenery via horseback each year.
So, what happens if a major natural disaster hits, like it has in Gatlinburg? One of the ways to protect horses, if you can't relocate them to a safer area, is to let them free. A horse trapped in a stall has a much less likely chance of surviving a fire or flood.
The aftermath of a disaster can be nearly as chaotic as the disaster itself, with loved ones trying to find each other and pet owners trying to locate their animals. Microchipping a horse, as many do with their dogs and cats, is an easy and cost-effective way to streamline the process of relocation after a disaster.
“There are a multitude of reasons to microchip a horse, and one important benefit can be to help identify them and return them to their correct owners after a natural disaster,” said Dr. Elizabeth Barrett, a sport horse veterinarian with Hagyard Equine Medical Institute in Lexington, Ky. “Microchips are a simple and easy way to accurately identify a horse.”
More dependable than lip tattoos (which can fade over time or be exceedingly difficult to decipher on some horses) and thought by many to be more humane than branding, microchips are becoming increasingly popular in horses, following the mainstream trend of microchipping dogs and cats.
Microchipping is becoming a common requirement for many breed and discipline associations as well. In the coming years, for example, both the U. S. Equestrian Federation and The Jockey Cub will require microchips in all horses registered with their organizations. This will allow them to verify a horse's identification, along with other pertinent information, prior to competition.
“When scanned, microchips will show a number, and some fancier ones will also display the horse's temperature. These numbers are then connected back to the horse through the records of the veterinarian who implanted it, the governing body the horse is registered with or the animal identification and relocation service with which the chip has been recorded,” said Barrett. “The microchip can be used to verify the identity of a horse in a number of situations, including pre-purchase exams, competitions or ownership disputes, just to name a few.”
The process of having a microchip implanted in a horse is quite simple. The chip – which is about the size of a grain of rice – is implanted into the nuchal ligament (crest) of a horse's neck by a licensed veterinarian using a hypodermic needle and syringe. It can be activated using a hand-held scanner and will last for 25 years or longer.
“Implanting a microchip is reacted to by the horse in a similar fashion to annual vaccinations,” said Barrett. ”Some require a bit of sedation for restraint, but most happily stand there quietly through the entire procedure without any significant reaction. There are typically no side effects to the procedure and only rarely will we see minor swelling in the day or two after the chip is implanted.”
So, the next time your veterinarian pays your horse a visit, consider asking them about microchipping. Even if you never plan to register your horse with a breed or competition registry that requires such identification, you may well be saving yourself (and your horse) from unnecessary stress, should you ever become separated from them during a natural disaster.
Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.
Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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