Severe weather can be a troubling event, especially when there are animals whose welfare and comfort is of concern as well. Small pets can usually take cover with their owners, but what precautions can an owner take for larger animals such as horses?
“The first step in protecting your horses and other livestock from severe weather is to realize what the severe weather risks are in your area,” says Dr. Brandon Dominguez, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) & Biomedical Sciences and member of the CVM Veterinary Emergency Team. “For many areas, springtime brings threats of severe thunderstorms, lightning, flash floods, and tornadoes.”
“Generally, if horses are in a pasture with trees or near a lightning rod, the risk of the horse being struck is greatly diminished. A three-sided shelter can help to keep them warm and dry during a storm in addition to shielding them from lightning strikes,” says Dominguez.
Dominguez believes that when storms become more severe, to possibly include tornadoes or high gusts of winds, horses are even safer outside of their stalls.
“It is wise to keep barnyards and pastures clear of debris before storms are due to strike. If a tornado were to hit a barn with horses secured in stalls, the likelihood and severity of being hit by debris would be considerably increased,” says Dominguez.
Dominguez explains that rapid drying may cause hooves to crack and become brittle, but keeping feet cleaned and picked out and applying hoof conditioners will help minimize the harm from flood waters. Additionally, flooding may cause toxins to spread from storage areas to pastures where horses are gathered exposing them to contaminants that they would not ordinarily contact.