In many parts of the country, late afternoon thunderstorms are a regular feature of summer. You may be tempted to pull your horse into the barn as the skies darken, but is that really necessary?
The risk of a horse being hit by lightning in a field is low. The chances that he’ll be injured by falling tree limbs or other debris are equally slim, particularly if you’ve maintained the trees on your property and they are healthy.
The bigger risk is that a horse will hurt himself due to erratic behavior in response to the storm. If he regularly lives outdoors and has never seemed to be bothered by foul weather, there’s no need to bring him in. He may even enjoy a good downpour. If, however, he’s the anxious sort and/or has history of injuring himself when under stress, you may want to bring him in.
To learn more about lightning risks, click here!
How to handle your horse during a storm is a judgement call that you’ll need to make based on the available facilities and your horse’s personality. If your barn is structurally sound and the horse doesn’t mind confinement, a stall—perhaps with a good friend next door for reassurance—might be the safest place for him. If your horse tends to get agitated while cooped up in a stall and is likely to react badly to a loud storm, consider putting him in a small, secure paddock or even an indoor arena.
Do not scold or try to soothe an anxious horse during a storm, you could end up making him more upset or reinforcing the unwanted behavior. Instead, make sure he’s safe and let him ride out the bad weather himself. After a few good experiences he may learn that thunder isn’t anything to get worked up over.
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