Why Run-In Sheds Need Lightning Protection

If you have a run-in shed in your pasture, there is always a danger that the shed, possibly being the tallest structure in the area, may be hit by lightning. Run-in sheds can be grounded; discuss your options with a licensed lightning protection installer.

Trisha Keller lost a beloved horse to a lightning strike. After reading her letter to the Editor of The Horse in June, 2012, I contacted her and she was kind enough to provide this account:

“I just thought that I would share with you my experience with our shed in response to your article “Run-In Shed Rundown”. An early afternoon this past July, in Southeast WI, we experienced a short 10 minute storm that brought with it unexpected lightning. When there are storms in my area and I am home I will always bring my horses into their stalls. On this occasion there was no warning of a pending storm until it had already hit my area and moved on towards Milwaukee. After the storm, my mom went out to check on the horses and to her detriment she came upon our two horses in their shed, one dead and the other fighting for his life. She immediately called me as I have worked on horse ranches as a Breeding Manager for 5 years and have experienced many disasters and fatal circumstances. I was over an hour away so she had to handle this on her own which was extremely hard for her as she has never had a horse die before.

Beau, the one that ended up making it through all this, was pinned on his spine between Boomer, the horse that died instantly, and the side wall of the shed with his head against the back wall. He was struggling to get up but there was not enough room for him to get sternal or even to his side. In order to make room for him my mom got her truck and a tow strap and wrapped it around the support structure of the shed and slowly pulled the shed away from Beau. Once Beau was able to get sternal he stayed there for about 5 minutes, completely exhausted and not strong enough to stand up. Our vet was able to get to our farm in 20 minutes by which time Beau had gotten up and was slowly making his way to the barn with my mom.

Over the next few hours Beau’s body went through severe muscle tremors, continual blood drainage from his lungs in addition to irreversible damage to his left eye. Beau had struggled so hard to get up that he ruptured blood vessels in his lungs similar to that of a race horse being over exerted. His left eye was swollen shut from being ground into the dirt while trying to get up as well. Once our vet cleaned out his eye as best she could we got him started on antibiotics and anti inflammatory drugs in addition to eye ointments and drops all being administered every couple hours for the next week. The first night was the hardest as his body was so exhausted, but there was so much fluid in his lungs that when he laid down he could not breathe. Steroids were administered to help with this and by around 3 am he was finally resting comfortably in a sternal position.

Over the proceeding couple of weeks Beau slowly recovered, but to this day he remains blind in his left eye. This is not due to any abrasions or scaring but from the optic nerve being stretched or damaged when he was struck by lighting. The eye had shrunk in size within a month of the incident but remains “normal looking” to a person that is not looking for it.

The events that took place during the storm we believe go like this: Beau and Boomer were standing next to each other as they often did inside the metal and wooden beam shed. Their heads were facing the back wall of the shed and Beau was standing next to the right side wall. The beam that was burned and shattered by the lightning was the back corner beam that would have been next to Beau’s head. The lightning arched thru Beau and grounded out through Boomer stopping his heart and killing him instantly. Boomer dropped right where he had been standing, the ground around him completely undisturbed. The force of the electricity somehow got Beau upside down on his spine as he was found so close to the side wall that his legs were only able to get a foot above the ground kicking the side wall. With Boomer being directly to his left this left a total space for Beau’s body of no more than 4 feet. With him being in the middle of this space it left less than a foot of space to either side of the space taken up by Beau’s body. Everyone who was there that day, including our vet, know that I would have buried two horses that evening had my mom not taken the day off work to grieve the death of my Grandmother, who we buried the day before. As I was living in Texas at the time, I would not have been in the area had I not flown home for the funeral as well.

Of course after doing everything that we could to save Beau’s life I still had to bury my first youth reining horse, then retired to be my mom’s trail horse. My mom still has a difficult time talking about this day as she feels responsible for his death because she was home and she was not able to bring them inside before the storm hit. She has been looking for another horse, but of course it is hard to replace a horse that you loved as much as she loved Boomer. I am going to try and show Beau the summer at a few Reining shows and see if he can still get around the ring as I’m confident that he will. He has been an amazing horse and I am truly blessed to still have him in my life today.

If you would like any more details as I have left quite a bit out I would be happy to go into greater detail for your readers. If I can prevent one owner from going through what my mom and I did, it will be completely worth all of the emotions that come with talking about this day. Thank you for your time and for considering my experience to share with others.”

You may contact Trisha Keller by phone at 262-443-3780 or by email at tkeller262@gmail.com