What should I do with my horse during a thunderstorm?
Ah, a tough call. There’s no easy answer to this, but a lot of things to consider. Knowing how lightning “works” and how your property is designed, along with your horse’s preferences and personality will determine your best plan of action. You may find that keeping your horse outside during storms is the best bet.
If your horse freaks out during storms when in the barn, perhaps you should leave him out. Many accidents happen in stalls, and when you have a panicked horse the chances increase dramatically. If the storm is severe enough to be slamming doors, breaking windows, removing roofing, then definitely moving the horses outside to avoid flying debris should be considered. There may still be flying debris to contend with, but outside they have room to move themselves away instead of being in a 12x12 box.
Is your barn protected from lightning?
There’s also a lot that you can do to make outside paddocks safe, and knowing your horse’s habits can help you create a safer situation. You will need to see what your horse does during rainstorms to get an idea of what he will do during lightning and thunder. But first - a few things about lightning.
Lightning loves tall and isolated things. It can also travel along fences, streams, and it can even jump from trees to your horse. It also likes ridge lines, so if you are trail riding get away! Lightning also prefers metal shelters over wooden shelters (take note if you are constructing some loafing sheds!!). Lightning also prefers smaller targets over larger ones, so a teenie shelter in your pasture that’s isolated is a more tempting target than a shelter that’s in a grove of similar sized trees or around other shelters.
Think lowest points here - but not so low that a flash flood or pools of water are created. Water is a great magnet for lightening. This means that low lying wet areas can be just as dangerous as tall isolated trees and buildings. You want your shelters to blend into the topography of your property. And this is where knowing your horse comes into play. If he wants to frolick in the stream that goes through his paddock during a lightning storm, you may want to bring him in. If he chills in his shelter, leaving his out may be the best.
Another interesting tidbit about lightning is that is does strike twice! If a target was so awesome the first time, of course lightning will come back! If lightning has hit your farm once, it probably will again.
This shelter has properly grounded lightning rods!
You can do two things to help protect your farm and your horses. One is to have a grounding system for all structures on the farm. Metal buildings (and all buidings really) can literally explode when struck by lightning - that’s a lot of sharp debris flying around. There is also the chance of fire. Adding a lightning rod takes the energy of the lightning strike and guides it into the ground, saving your structure.
Another farm tip is to fence off single trees with non conductive materials so your horses don’t seek shelter there. Give them other, safer options. If you live in a lightning prone area and your structured do not have lightning rods - it may be best to put your horses out instead of putting them in a barn or structure that can explode or catch fire if struck by lightning. If you are unsure of what your barn and structures have in the way of lightning rods - time to call an electrician for a checkup.
What do you do during lightning storms with your horse?