What to do with the horses during a lightning storm!


It’s a tough call between keeping them out and bringing them in during a lightning storm. There’s no easy answer to this, but a lot of things to consider. Knowing how lightning “works” and how your property is designed and your horse’s preferences and personality will determine your best plan. You may find that keeping your horse outside during lightning storms is the best bet.


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When outside might be best


  • If your horse freaks out during storms in the barn, perhaps you should leave him out.  You can mitigate any stress your horse feels with hay nets, horse toys, ear puffs, soft music in the barn, and closing windows.   Your vet can also help you with supplements and pharmaceuticals to alleviate stress.  


  • Many accidents happen in horse stalls, and chances increase dramatically when you have a panicked horse. If the storm is severe enough to be slamming doors, breaking windows, and 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 away instead of being in a 12×12 box.


  • You will need to see what your horse does during rainstorms to understand what he will do during lightning and thunder. But first – a few things about lightning.


barn with lightning rod properly grounded



Lightning loves tall and isolated things


  • Lightning can also travel along fences, and streams, and it can even jump from trees to your horse.


  • It also likes ridgelines, so if you are trail riding, get away from a ridgeline.


  • 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. Hence, an isolated small shelter in your pasture is a more tempting target than a shelter in a grove of similar-sized trees or around other shelters.



barn with lightning striking



Where is the lowest point that your horse could hang out? 


  • Think about the lowest points where your horse could hang out in a lightning storm – but not so low that a flash flood or water pool is created.


  • Water is a great magnet for lightning. 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 frolic 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 during a storm, leaving him out may be the best.


Lightning does strike twice


  • If a target was so awesome the first time, lightning will come back! If lightning has hit your farm once, it probably will again.


barn with two lightning rogds

This shelter has properly grounded lightning rods


Protect your farm and your horses from lightning.


  • One is to have a grounding system for all structures on the farm. Metal buildings (and all buildings 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 structures do not have lightning rods – it may be best to put your horses out instead of 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.


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