Horses and bushfires
Share | Print

Horses and bushfires

Whether your horses are located at home or on an agistment property you must plan and prepare for their safety.

  • Horses in a fieldHorses need a large open space to avoid bushfires
  • Move your horses to a safer location before fire threatens your property
  • Remove all gear, including rugs
  • Seek treatment for burns quickly

Safe places for your horses

Horses are quite good at avoiding bushfire if:

  • They have enough room to move freely in a large open space
  • There is minimal vegetation in the large open space

On Severe, Extreme or Code Red fire danger days, move your horses to a designated safer paddock or area. This may be:

  • A large well-grazed paddock
  • A series of smaller paddocks with the internal gates left open
  • A large sand ménage, provided there are no buildings or vegetation close-by that could catch fire.

Ideally the paddock should have a dam in it where the horse can seek relief from the heat.

Do not lock your horses in a stable, holding yard or similar environment. The horse may panic and hurt themselves if confined.

Do not let your horses out on the roads as they will be in more danger from traffic and fire.

A horse’s natural instinct is to run from danger including bushfire and they will quickly move to burnt ground to survive.

Ensure your property has a Property Identification Code (PIC) registered with the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) that indicates horses are there.

You may wish to move your horse to a property that is not in a high-risk area on days of Severe, Extreme or Code-Red.  The National Equine Database can bring together individuals and communities throughout Australia which can assist in the relocation of horses and smaller companion animals to a safer place before extreme weather or events impact.

If your property isn’t safe

Move your horses to a safer location before fire threatens your property. Once a fire has started, it is unlikely you will be able to safely move your horses to another location. Bushfires can travel quickly and roads will be dangerous, or possibly closed.

Agist your horses out of the area during summer (Fire Danger Period)

Develop your plan to temporarily move your horses on Severe, Extreme or Code Red days to:

  • A neighbour or friend’s property
  • Local showgrounds
  • Saleyards
  • Racetracks
  • Pony club grounds  

Arrange a group strategy with friends, other agistees or club members. If you agist your horses, find out what the bushfire plan is for the property.

Prepare your horses

On Severe, Extreme or Code Red fire danger days remove all gear, including rugs, from your horses. Some gear may melt or become very hot and cause serious burns, or get caught on fences.

Permanently identify your horses by microchipping or branding them. If your horse is difficult to catch, consider leaving a leather halter on with identification tags.
After the fire

Horses tend to recover well after a fire. They may suffer facial burns and swollen eyelids. Seek appropriate treatment to restore them to full health quickly.

A horse suffering from burns requires prompt veterinary attention. Until the vet arrives, you can:

  • Sponge affected areas with cold water
  • If legs are affected, try standing your horse in a bucket of water
  • Any first-aid administered should be anti-inflammatory.


Back to top