There’s nowhere you’d rather be during wet weather than indoors…
preferably someplace warm and comfortable, right?
Many horseowners assume their horse feels the same way. And, truth be told, some horses do feel that way. But for the most part, the average horse really doesn’t mind a little wind and rain. They’d just as soon be left out to enjoy their pasture time during a storm as during a bright sunny day.
Of course, horses can pick up all sorts of ailments from wet weather, too: skin fungus, hoof infections, even injury from blowing debris or hail. So what’s a horseowner to do when the forecast calls for wet?
Assess the risk factor: the individual horse
Every horse is different. It might be their physiology: some horses are very susceptible to skin fungus like rain rot. It might be their psychology: some horses have stable vices that make spending time indoors just as dangerous as time outdoors during a storm. Assessing whether it’s safe for your horse to be outside in a thunderstorm or just a rainstorm depends very much on the individual horse.
Does your horse develop chronic skin or hoof conditions as soon as the first spring showers roll through? You can try to address it with feed supplements, therapeutic shampoos, or even a waterproof sheet. But very delicate horses might just be best off inside, out of the rain.
Does your horse weave, stall-walk, crib, or get stiff and creaky when kept in a stall? Or, worse, panic and spook during storms? A horse who kicks the walls until he’s damaged a leg is no better off than a wet horse out in the rain.
Assess the risk factor: weather severity
A gentle or even a steady rainfall likely won’t jeopardize a horse’s health. A cold rainfall would probably call for at least a run-in shed. A chance for severe lightning or winds could be life-threatening.
Lightning can be a killer in bizarre ways: horses have been electrocuted while standing under trees or even just touching a metal gate along a fence-line struck by lightning. Horsemen living in areas with severe, frequent lightning often choose to bring their horses in — while acknowledging lightning can strike the barn as well.
Severe wind or a tornado threat, however, nearly always makes the barn the most dangerous place for a horse — or anyone. Barns flattened by tornadoes are an unfortunate byproduct of severe weather outbreaks, while horses left turned out often seem to have an uncanny ability to avoid injury.
Deciding whether to keep your horse in or out during rain or severe weather is often an intensely personal decision. On either side there are stories of how it could have gone the other way, if the horse had just been in the barn or in the paddock. As the spring storm season approaches, take a look at your horses, your equine facility, and your area weather patterns, and start making those decisions now.
But if it’s just a little rain shower, your horse probably just wants to roll in the mud.