Considering Horses in Thunderstorms
Some horses seem to be unperturbed by thunder whilst others become seriously spooked. Either way, the threat of thunder and lightning poses a serious dilemma. Should you stable your horse or are they best left out in the paddock? Whilst storms rarely result in harm to horses, occasionally a tragedy can occur.
Horses are sensitive to electricity and may be spooked by thunder. It is possible that the arrival of a storm will causes your horse to gallop about in the paddock and this presents the risk of injury. If your horse bolts then it could smash through gates and fencing. Horses outside my also group together for protection and in heavy rainfall may choose to do this under a tree. This will increase the chances of their being struck by lightning.
You should also be aware that water troughs, streams and wire fencing are all good electrical conductors as is waterlogged ground. Horses with metal shoes are at the greatest risk.
So on the face of it, the paddock is a dangerous place during a storm. But you can make the paddock safer by positioning shelters on lower ground and away from exposed areas. You could also consider fencing off large single trees in exposed locations to prevent your horse from sheltering under them. But this will mean that the trees won’t be accessible when your horse needs to seek shade in the heat.
The paddock certainly isn’t a great place to be in times of high winds and heavy rain. On the other hand, horses would be out in all weathers when living in the wild and your horse may not appreciate being confined to their stall. This could make them restless and agitated which can be dangerous in itself.
If you do choose to stable your horse in a storm then do be aware that the stable can be a hazardous environment too. You should ensure that the buildings are well grounded and have lightning rods so that any lightning strikes are earthed and that the impact of power surges is reduced.
If you would prefer to stable your horse during storms then it is important to keep an eye on the weather forecasts and to take action early. Bring your horse in before the storm arrives because once the storm has developed it may be too dangerous for you to access the paddock and to bring your horse in.
In the Saddle
What happens of you are out riding when a storm strikes?
If you are close to home then head for the yard immediately. If you are further afield then find somewhere to shelter. Head for lower ground as this is safer. Do not shelter under isolated tall trees. If your horse is liable to spook then dismount whilst you wait out the storm. Be aware that lightning strikes can continue or return even when the storm appears to have passed over. One storm can also be followed quickly by another. It is best to shelter for a few minutes after things have calmed down so you can assess the situation.