We also know that people often make last-minute decisions in a fire situation, decisions based on their emotions and connections with their animals. These decisions can have devastating consequences.
Community-based bushfire management work being undertaken in Benloch and Hesket Kerrie in the Macedon Ranges Shire as part of the Safer Together Program has highlighted the large number of horse properties in the area and the need for targeted information and advice specific to this passionate group.
A community event targeting local horse owners was recently held in Lancefield covering horse and horse property management, before, during and after fire, as well as drought - as the needs in drought are not dissimilar to fire. Read more about planning and preparing for the safety of your horses during a bushfire.
Sharon Merritt, a CFA Vegetation Management Officer and passionate and experienced horse enthusiast, has a wealth of knowledge on the topic and was the perfect guest speaker for the event.
Sharon had people enthralled with the stories and anecdotes she shared, particularly when she showed footage from a tanker driving through smoke to demonstrate that driving in these conditions with a horse float is not a plan.
It was also stressed that horse properties need to be registered with Agriculture Victoria for a Property Identification Code, which can help agencies greatly, particularly following a fire event.
The event's second guest speaker was David Nash, a well-known stock horse breeder, horse nutritionist and author of Drought Feeding of Horses.
David also has first-hand experience, having had fires come close to his properties when living near Sunbury and in Gippsland.
He shared tips with the attendees, stressing the importance of planning for both drought and fire and showing a powerful image of a helicopter drawing water from his dam, with his horses tied safely in his round yard fitted with sprinklers.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with everyone taking away plenty of literature, links and much to think and act upon, including the importance of making a plan promptly. Armed with new information, many with existing plans also took away ideas for improvements. There was a definite desire for future events and gaining further knowledge and skills, which is exciting.
A special thanks to all involved, including the seven Hesket Kerrie brigade support members who catered the event. Whilst it it not a large brigade, Hesket Kerrie has 23 dedicated support members who are only too willing to help with such events.