Lightning safety rules apply to all outdoor enthusiasts, not just horseback riders. If you are caught outside during a lightning storm, there are steps you can take to keep your horse and yourself safer. But understand that these recommendations will improve your safety, not guarantee it.
1. Before you start out, know the weather forecast. If there is a high chance of thunderstorms, stay home.
2. Know the weather patterns of the area. In mountainous areas, thunderstorms typically develop in the early afternoon, so plan to ride early in the day and be home by noon.
3. If practical, carry a portable Weather Radio.
If you are caught in the open without access to a fully enclosed shelter and lightning is occurring within 5 miles, stop riding. Do not try to outrun the storm on flat, open ground.
1. If you’re on high ground, get off your horse and head for low ground. Don’t go into stream beds for the lowest area; the lower one-third of sloping land or hills is best.
2. Tie your horse to a bush, not a tree. Move at least 50′ away. Do not seek shelter under tall isolated trees.
3. Remove and/or stay away from metal objects such as fences, poles and backpacks. Metal is an excellent conductor.
4. Crouch on your haunches. Make as little contact with the ground as possible. This is known as the lightning safe position.
5. Stay at least 15 feet apart from other members of your group so the lightning won’t travel between you if hit.
If you’re caught at a show or campsite and your trailer and tow vehicle are available, take these steps:
1. Put your horses inside and put the ramp up. Be sure the safety chains are not touching the ground.
2. Get in the tow vehicle.
Be very sure that nothing is touching the tow vehicle or trailer. Common conductors are metal chairs, lead ropes and buckets. The only thing touching the ground should be the tires, which insulate the vehicles.
Other lightning safety tips:
Do not seek shelter under partially enclosed buildings.
Stay away from water.
The 30/30 rule: To estimate the distance between you and the lightning, count the seconds between the flash of lightning and the bang of the thunder. Thirty seconds or less means you’re within the danger zone (one mile for every five seconds). Wait until there is a thirty minute interval between flash and bang before venturing out.