When the weather forecast calls for thunder, lightning, and pouring rain, what will you do with your horse(s)? While some of them never seem to be bothered by a storm, others react in ways that can cause harm to themselves and your property. Conditioning a horse to feel safe and secure during a storm often relies on trial and error. As you try to keep your horse calm during inclement weather, remember to carefully observe your horse for its habits and body language, which can serve as clues for you to know how it is feeling.
If you know there is an impending storm, you may want to stable your horses prior to the storm’s arrival. You can try adding music or talk radio to the horses’ environment; extra noise in their enclosure can serve as a distraction from the sound of rain falling on the rooftop or from the crash of thunder that may cause objects to rattle inside the stable. Flashes of lightning can easily unsettle a horse. For this reason, you may want to leave the lights on in the stable. Furthermore, attaching lightning rods to this structure may save the lives of your horses in the even that the building is struck by lightning. If you care for multiple horses, try keeping favorite stablemates together so that they may comfort each other until the storm passes.
Many horse owners find that their horses do best in a storm when they have the freedom to roam about in the pasture. This can be especially beneficial for young horses or those that are recent additions to your team. When they are in the open pasture together, they can observe how the others react to the storm. If a frightened horse sees others remaining calm when lightning strikes or thunder claps, they may begin to learn that the weather is not something of which to be afraid. Instead, they may take to grazing as many other horses tend to do during a storm.
As an owner, you must naturally weigh the potential severity of the storm when deciding whether to shelter your horses. The possibility of them getting hurt while outside in a storm should not be ignored. Horses have been known to be swept away by flash floods, lacerated by blowing debris, and even killed by bolts of lightning. A lightning strike is particularly worrisome to the owner who observes his herd gathering underneath trees during an electrical storm.
Another option you have is to give your horses the ability to shelter themselves when the weather turns bad. Allowing a horse access to a three-sided shelter can make a tremendous difference. It lets the horse freely roam throughout a fenced area if the horse likes. When the horse wants to escape from rain or pelting hail, it can enter the three-sided shelter at its leisure for protection. Keep in mind that just as the stable needs lightning rods, so does a three-sided shelter.
Many believe it is best for a horse to decide for itself where it will be throughout the course of a storm. Those, however, who have foals or prize-winning competition horses may never want theirs to be outside when weather is threatening their safety. Making this decision is ultimately up to you.