Tornado Shelters…for Horses?

tornadoIf you live in an area prone to severe storms and tornadoes, you’ve probably faced the dilemma of whether to turn horses out or leave them in during extreme weather. We’ve never felt too great about either option ourselves, so we were interested to receive a snippet of an article from Show Horse Today on building storm shelters for horses via American Horse Publications. There are some great tips on building a shelter if you want to go that route yourself. Enjoy!

Give Me Shelter From The Storm
Building Safe Rooms for Horses

By Gabrielle Sasse, Show Horse Today


(May 29, 2014)-There is nothing worse than the devastation caused when Mother Nature becomes violent. Trying to protect your horses from natural disaster can be next to impossible at times. The debate between “turn them loose” or “lock them in the barn” is one that rages nearly every storm season. But we have found a third option, thanks to Mary Ellen Hickman.


Oklahoma resident and owner of Whispering Winds Ranch, Mary Ellen grew up in Ohio and moved to Oklahoma in 2006. “In Ohio, we wouldn’t really get any warning about tornadoes coming,” Mary Ellen begins. “Here, they have great ways to predict when the storms are coming, so we get accurate warnings. Even if you turned your horses out, you could get a tornado that was three miles wide and your horses may not be able to get away from the path of the storm.” Unable to avoid tornadoes in her Oklahoma home, she decided to build a safe room for her horses.


We first featured Mary Ellen’s story in late April on and got an enormous number of questions in response. We hope to give you answers and help others to build their own safe rooms.


“What really inspired me to create a safe room for my horses was the tornado that went through Moore,” she elaborates. On May 20, 2013 an EF5 rated tornado tore through Moore, Oklahoma and the surrounding areas, killing 24 people and injuring 377. “The tornado crossed over I35 into Moore on exit 116, and I live on exit 114. As the crow flies, the tornado was a mile from our farm and I watched it go by. It was scariest thing I have ever witnessed. We only had minimal damage to our farm, but we would have to drive through Moore on our way to Oklahoma City and that was the first time I really understood what post-traumatic stress was about. You would just cry driving through there. Even the smell in the air was just horrible. Pictures don’t do it justice.”


Mary Ellen considers herself incredibly fortunate that they did not experience the level of loss that many others did, both to property and animals. “I told myself I can’t live here and not provide a place of safety for my horses,” she says.


She approached contractor Terry Scrivner, who owns Terry Scrivner Construction and has over 25 years of building experience. “This isn’t the first safe room that I’ve built, but it’s the first one I’ve built specifically for horses,” Terry explains. “I thought it was a really neat idea. Mary Ellen was very knowledgeable about what she wanted, and did the overall design for the room. I built it to FEMA specs, which you can find on their website.”


Mary Ellen wanted her safe room to be able to withstand an EF5 tornado, the strongest tornado rating. “I started doing some research, and designed it to look like a horse trailer. You can’t build a safe room any wider than 12 feet, but you can go longer. Mine is about 35 feet, and is built strong, like a bridge,” she explains.


“The cost came down to $300 per linear foot for an eight foot tall structure with eight inch thick walls, and 4’x7’ storm door with three deadbolts. From there, you can make it as elaborate as you want. I designed mine like a trailer with individual stalls because our horses don’t always know one another. You can go the cheaper route and design it more like a stock trailer, or just set up tie rings.”


To continue reading, please visit our June/July 2014 Issue of Show Horse Today Magazine here and turn to page 78.


Posted on June 14, 2014, in Helpful articles and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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