So sorry about your unexpected and tragic loss, Pat--like Kathy, I have enjoyed reading of your driving adventures w/ Phoenix and his daughter...along w/ the "Polish Driving Ponies", over time, in the various online driving forums we all frequent.
Lightning is one hazard we can have no control over. As a teen, I saw a QH foal that had been struck down in a treeless West Texas pasture while running out w/ its dam and the rest of the herd. Only the one was killed...a demonstration of the total capriceous nature of lightning.
I am re-posting this with permission in hopes it can help someone else and perhaps alleviate any guilt of those who have lost beloved pets to lightning:
From the research meterological results we have seen - lightning strikes are extremely rare in the same place unless there is some unusual geologic feature (mountain peak, antenna, particular soil or rock makeup). However - it is NOT unusual to kill more than one horse or cow at a time. There was a super story yesterday on 21 cattle that were killed by lightning out west - you should be able to google it - at the SAME time - under the SAME tree. And Nicole Walukewicz (also cc) has the pictures of the FOUR horses standing quietly in a field that she OBSERVED getting hit by a bolt of lightning in the middle of a pasture - all of them hit the ground, two never moved again. She has more information on the details. NICOLE and PAT B. - was there a necrosy of those horses for cause of death? Pictures of the injuries?
Other research with electrical engineers that study these things for people (and I have talked to) has seemed to indicate that it is more the ORIENTATION of the horse and particularly the fact that no matter WHICH way the horse is standing - that it's heart (which is normally the cause of death - stoppage or interfering with the heart rythym causes death - along with commonly hitting at the highest point (the head of the horse). Upstrokes are usually fatal - the stroke leaves out of the horses head. But who cares? You can't regulate which stroke you are going to be hit with - and wearing horse clothing isn't going to change that either.
What is important is that wearing horse shoes or not is NOT a factor in whether the animal will die. Whether the horse is EXPOSED to lightning is. Whether he is standing under a lone tree that is exposed is. How many FEET are on the ground at the time of the strike is! Think about it - the electrical stimulation in a human when the charge leaves the ground and passes up one leg, then goes back down the other leg to ground - DOES NOT CROSS THE HEART. But in horse - unless it goes up the back leg and down the other back leg - it ALWAYS crosses the heart - because their heart is in their chest between the front legs and they stand on their front legs too.
But what we tell people is this - LEAVING YOUR HORSE COOPED UP IN A BARN HIS WHOLE LIFE BECAUSE OF YOUR FEAR OF LIGHTNING STRIKE will surely make him miserable, exposure to ventilation problems, cause him to become upset with possible ulcers and colic more often, minimize his ability to exercise. So turn them out and stop worrying about it. The will be healthier and happier in the end. (plus - horses and livestock have been killed in barns that were lightning struck, started a fire and they all burned to death.... this happened a few days ago http://www.springfieldnewssun.com/ne...ls-cows/nP3N4/ and http://www.wkyt.com/news/headlines/L...163989696.html )
The young summer intern who wrote the article also include several beautiful photos. I have been amazed at the response! It seems almost everyone I know has either lost a horse or other livestock to lightning - or knows of someone who has. Very scary!!
In fact, at the doctor's office today the receptionist shared with me that she had been out trail riding with friends a couple of weeks ago when a storm suddenly blew up. The horse two in front of her was struck by lightning and killed right out from under the rider!!! No one else was injured but everyone else felt a tingle and upon returning to the barn discovered all of the horses' shoes were loose!!!
Seems this is far more common and something definitely deserving more research. My heart goes out to all who have suffered such a loss and my sincere thanks to all who have shared our grief.
Pat, that is a wonderful and informative post. Thanks so much for posting it. I agree with your philosophy--my guys have the freedom of a couple of acres and, while I hate seeing them standing outside during lightning storms, I know they would be no safer in the sheds (even if I could keep them there, which I can't and won't do). They are happy and healthy, and if I should lose one or both, I would certainly be devastated, but I would also know that they had the best life I could give them.