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Lightning and horse shoes.

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  • Lightning and horse shoes.

    I overheard a discussion going on last weekend about ALWAYS keeping your shod horses inside during a thunderstorm and that their shoes make them more prone to being hit by lightning. So I got to thinking. Yes, it makes sense, I guess. My horses are out 24/7 with access to good shelter which they use more to get out of the sun than out of the rain. Just wondering everyones thoughts on this.
    “And live like you ain’t afraid to die. And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride.” Chris Ledoux ~ The Ride

  • #2
    I've heard that, too, but most of the time it has been impossible for me to bring my horses in for a variety of reasons, so I've never worried about it more than I worry about my horses in a lightning storm anyway. I don't know whether there is any truth to it and will be interested to see what others think.
    exploring the relationship between horse and human

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    • #3
      My previous post was eaten so here goes another. . . I have a good friend who lost her horse to lightning last Summer and the biopsy determined that it was lightning. He was the only horse wearing shoes and the others were fine. She found him dead in the paddock, no sign of a struggle. The night he died was one of the worst storms I've ever heard, we had torential rain and lightning that was terrifying.

      I have lightning rods on my house, barn and all the sheds and I'm still a nervous wreck in a storm. This Summer will be especialy bad for me as my mare now has 4 shoes. I'm hoping the lightning protection is good.

      When I had the lightning rods installed we got a pamphlet explaining how lightning comes from the ground not from the sky.
      RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

      "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."

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      • #4
        I remember a TB trainer I knew had a broodie, her foal and her shod (aluminum plates?) gelding turned out in a large field together. Storm blew up before she could get home, and came home to find the mare and foal lying dead, and the gelding standing alive beside them. She wonders if the fact that he was in aluminum plates saved him, but had no science to back it up.
        Dee
        Founder of the I LOFF my worrywart TB clique!
        Official member of the "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique
        http://wilddiamondintherough.blogspot.ca/

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        • #5
          I hope someone with physics knowledge will chime in here. I don't see how having shoes on could make a horse any more prone to a lightning strike. There are plenty of trees that get hit and they are wearing metal shoes. Likewise, people get struck without metal shoes.
          Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

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          • #6
            My friend lost 3 horses in a single lightening strike. Two were shod one was not. So . . . we really do need a science whiz to answer the question. People die in lightening strikes and I doubt many of them are wearing metal shoes??? Cattle die from lightening strikes, no shoes there. Soooo . . . .Mr. Wizard!!!! I know we have some really smart folks here, perhaps they can shed some light on this.
            Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!!

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            • #7
              Did y'all know there's something called the National Lightning Safety Institute? I did not, until I started googling about this question. NLSI's website doesn't say jack about horses, unfortunately. But they do recommend that a person avoid all metal objects during a lightning storm.

              They also say one should avoid groups and people outdoors during a storm should stand at least 20 feet apart. Based on my observations of their behavior, I am sure my horses are unaware of this rule. But it might explain why an unshod horse could be at increased risk standing with two shod horses - if in fact horseshoes increase a horse's risk of lightning strike.
              I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

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              • #8
                Well metal conducts electricity, so I could see it making a strike more intense and possibly more fatal than it would be if a horse wasn't wearing shoes... but I agree; people are struck without wearing metal shoes, and I don't see that it would make much of a difference in between which horses are struck.
                Dapplebay - home of original equestrian clothing and accessories.

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                • #9
                  Lightening strikes happen. NOT having shoes on sure didn't save my horse... he was struck and killed.
                  Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

                  Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com

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                  • #10
                    Urban Legend

                    An unshod horse is no less likely to be hit by lightning than one with shoes. It just happens that most horses people care about are shod. A wet horse or person standing in the wrong place is good conductor of electricity.

                    Lightning follows the path of least resistance. What appears to be one flash of lightning can, in fact, be many. When the voltage difference between a storm cloud and the ground becomes high enough, multiple charged feeler or tracer probes work their way up from the ground and down from the cloud. When upper and lower connect, and several can do so close together, the result is the lightning strike or strikes proper. This all happens in a very short time period. Even these feeler probes can be fatal.

                    A whole lot more information can be found on the web _

                    NASA on lightning

                    National Geographic on lightning

                    NOAA on lightning
                    ------------------------------------------------------------
                    But all the finest horsemen out—the men to Beat the Band—
                    You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by His Greyness View Post
                      Lightning follows the path of least resistance. What appears to be one flash of lightning can, in fact, be many. When the voltage difference between a storm cloud and the ground becomes high enough, multiple charged feeler or tracer probes work their way up from the ground and down from the cloud. When upper and lower connect, and several can do so close together, the result is the lightning strike or strikes proper.
                      Agree with you so far. The "voltage" or potential difference causes a movement of electrons - kind of like the movement of water from a higher elevation to a lower one. A substance, like metal, that lets those electrons move freely, is said to be a good conductor.

                      So if I'm a horse, standing on the ground, wearing conductors on my feet, why am I not at a higher risk? I don't follow that part.
                      I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

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                      • #12
                        I don't believe having shoes on makes any difference. Lightning is wildly unpredictable, and it may just be a case of standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

                        I lost my once-in-a-lifetime gelding 2 summers ago to lightning, and he was unshod at the time. A friend of mine lost two horses from the same strike- 3 horses in the field, the two who were unshod were the ones who were killed.

                        It's an awful thing .

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by His Greyness View Post
                          An unshod horse is no less likely to be hit by lightning than one with shoes. It just happens that most horses people care about are shod.
                          I really disagree that people care more about shod horses than unshod ones. That's an absurd statement to make. I have a farm with 35 unshod horses on it..mares, foals, stallions and pleasure/sport horses and all of those horses are very cared for by us and by their owners.

                          OT...I have heard that horses tend to draw lightening because they are grounded in 4 places. I can't speak for whether shoes or not makes a difference but horses are very attractive to lightening.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                            I really disagree that people care more about shod horses than unshod ones. . ..
                            Yikes. Missed that statement - too busy worrying about physics. Neither of mine are shod - it's flat and sandy where we live - but yeah, I care about them.
                            I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' View Post
                              So if I'm a horse, standing on the ground, wearing conductors on my feet, why am I not at a higher risk? I don't follow that part.
                              Maybe because as a horse, standing on the ground (and likely out in the rain), you are already such a damn good conductor of electricity that adding conductors on your feet won't matter all that much? After all, how much deader can you get than dead?

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                              • #16
                                I lost a horse to lightning in the 80s. He and my other gelding (both shod all around) were in a field with an unshod mare. He was instantly killed when lightning struck a nearby tree, and the current basically zapped him through shoes-ground contact. Died instantly with a mouth full of grass, so I'm thankful for that- non-fatal lightning strikes are not something I would wish on anyone. However, I cannot say he would not have been just as dead had he been barefoot.

                                Now, no one knows where the two surviving horses were in relation to the deceased or the tree at the time of the strike. The mare was quite unscathed. My surviving gelding instantly went gray over both eyes and his hair stood on end for a good six weeks thereafter. Vet tests were negative for any internal organ damage, however. And again, the correlation between shoes or barefoot cannot be made due to insufficient data. I've known of plenty of unshod livestock, both horses and cattle, zapped by lightning. And, come to think of it, people wearing tennis shoes, too.

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                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by His Greyness
                                  An unshod horse is no less likely to be hit by lightning than one with shoes. It just happens that most horses people care about are shod.
                                  Well, from 'hear say', apparently struck by lightening is equal for shod vs unshod. However according to how someone explained it to me, shod horses are more prone to be killed by ground current from a nearby lightening strike then non-shod horses because of the current travelling to their metal shoes. The actual strike can be up to 1/2 mile away.

                                  True, not true, I have no clue, someone just told that to me once .

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                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by His Greyness View Post
                                    An unshod horse is no less likely to be hit by lightning than one with shoes. It just happens that most horses people care about are shod.
                                    Wow. I guess I best go out and tell my horses that I don't care about them as none of them are shod. And none of the horses in the rescue are shod, either, so I guess no one cares about them.

                                    If I seem a bit sarcastic - perhaps refer to my statement above. My UNshod horse was struck and killed by lightening. And believe me, I cared about him plenty and although it was nearly 20 years ago, I STILL mourn for that horse.
                                    Visit us at Bluebonnet Equine Humane Society - www.bluebonnetequine.org

                                    Want to get involved in rescue or start your own? Check out How to Start a Horse Rescue - www.howtostartarescue.com

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' View Post
                                      They also say one should avoid groups and people outdoors during a storm should stand at least 20 feet apart. Based on my observations of their behavior, I am sure my horses are unaware of this rule.

                                      Aha! This must explain my pony's strange behavior during storms. She will NOT let the big mare get anywhere near her. There is always much gnashing of teeth and flying of hooves in bad weather. She's actually a very smart little pony, and knows that having Fancy too close to her could get them both killed!

                                      Nope, my pasture horses don't come in during bad weather. No matter the weather, there's always a risk of danger. I'm much more concerned by my neighbor's tendency to use slash-and-burn farming techniques on hot, dry days.

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                                      • #20
                                        In EMS we learn about splash over ... the strike does not have to hit directly to cause an issue, hence the do not stand under a tree during a storm warning.

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