As black clouds roll in and distant thunder rumbles, you might wonder if it’s better to bring your horses in or leave them to weather the storm outside. The answer depends on their past experiences and the severity of the storms forecast in your area.
Horses who have never shown any anxiety during light thunderstorms can be left outdoors without worry. In fact, a cool, bug-drenching shower might be a welcome respite on a hot day, so don’t be surprised if your horse forgoes the cover of the run-in shed to stand in the downpour. The risk of horses being injured or killed by lightning strikes is low. For the heaviest storms, when the risk may be higher, you need to assess the storm-worthiness of your barn: Does it have lightning rods? Is it strong enough to withstand winds? Is it on ground high enough to avoid flooding?
If your horse has a tendency to get nervous during storms, you might want to bring him in to a safe place. Some horses will weather the storm best in a stall with a friendly herdmate next door. Others, however, might feel too trapped inside the barn and would do better in a small, secure paddock.
Trying to soothe an anxious horse during a storm is unwise; your goal is simply to keep him safe and contained until the bad weather passes. Repeated “good” storm experiences, with a calm buddy nearby, may help your horse become less reactive in loud, dramatic weather.
Wherever you keep your horse during a storm, remember to walk the field afterward to check for downed fences, fallen branches and other hazards.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #443.