Horses Like Rain But Watch Out for Thunder and Rain Rot

Horses running in the rain are magical, but there are steps to take before, during, and after a downpour to keep your horse happy and healthy.

Published August 12, 2023
Horse on meadow when raining

While every horse is different, most don't seem bothered by a light shower or even a heavy downpour. Some horses get excited and just seem to love the rain. You might find them trotting about, playing in puddles, or simply standing still, enjoying every raindrop. Even if your horse loves it, though, there are still some steps to take to make sure they have an opportunity to stay dry and a place to go if they get scared.

Horses Like Rain, But Thunder Can Be Scary

Wild horses are used to facing the elements head-on. Rain is just another day in their world, and domesticated horses have inherited this natural reaction. Not only do they appear comfortable in the rain, but many even enjoy it as long as the thunder stays distant. What's so great about the rain to horses?

  • A refreshing break: Rain provides a cooling effect, offering a refreshing break from the heat. Think of it like you getting in and out of the shower after being sticky from wandering around all day in the heat. You feel better after your shower, right?
  • Mud play: After it rains, muddy patches that are left behind are playgrounds for horses! Rolling in the mud not only provides entertainment, but it can act as a protective layer against bugs and even the sun.
  • A natural massage: Imagine the gentle patter of raindrops on your back. For horses, this could feel like a light massage, stimulating and relaxing at the same time. I don't know about you, but sometimes I stay in the shower for a few extra minutes just to get that light massage from the water.

Just watch out for thunderstorms. The loud clap of thunder can spook your horse. Keep them inside if you think you might hear some loud booms soon.

Keep Your Horse Safe During Thunderstorms

While rain might be a welcome experience, thunderstorms are a different story. Here's how to ensure your horse's safety:

  • Provide shelter: Always ensure there's accessible shelter where your horse can retreat if they choose. Even a rain-loving horse might want a break during a heavy storm.
  • Lightning safety: Open fields and tall trees can attract lightning. If there's a thunderstorm, it's best to bring your horse inside to reduce the risk.
  • Secure fencing: Storms can damage fencing or lead to flooding. Regularly check and repair any damages to ensure your horse stays contained and safe.
  • Stick to the stable: If you believe there's a severe thunderstorm coming, it may be best to stable your horse until the danger passes.
  • Stay calm: Horses pick up on our energy. In a stormy situation, staying calm and composed can help your horse feel secure, too.
Need to Know

Your horse's shelter doesn't need to be enclosed completely, but it should be able to keep them dry from head to hoof.

Cold Conditions

If it rains when it's cold outside, your horse being out in the rain isn't the best idea. When a horse is cold and wet, their body temperature could become dangerously low. Putting them in the stable before the rain comes, or directly after if you didn't make it out before the rain, is necessary to protect their health.

Drinking Enough Water

Horse drinking out of a water trough

In the wild, staying alert during a storm is a survival instinct. Drinking requires your horse to lower their head, which might make them feel vulnerable during what they perceive as a potentially dangerous situation. That's why, during a thunderstorm or intense rainstorm, you may notice your horse not drinking. But this can lead to health problems, especially if it takes some time for the storm to pass.

Ensure that fresh and clean water is available for your horses at all times, regardless of the weather. And, if you notice your horse has the habit of not drinking during storms, stable them before the storm to make them feel more secure.

Rain Rot in Horses

Rain rot is a relatively common skin condition that shows up after too many wet and humid days, making your horse's coat look like it has patchy, crusty spots. Essentially, rain rot, or "rain scald," is a bacterial infection that thrives in damp environments. While it's usually not super serious, it can be uncomfortable for our equine buddies.

Quick Tip

Think of rain rot as the horse equivalent of athlete's foot for us humans.

How to Prevent Rain Rot

A bit of proactive care can save you and your horse a lot of itchiness and discomfort. There are several measures you can take to help prevent rain rot in your horse from developing the first place, including:

  • Removing moisture: Think "dry and clean." Whenever your horse gets drenched, try to give their coat a good grooming once they're back in the stable, helping to remove moisture and prevent that environment where bacteria thrive.
  • Remove the mud: Remember how we said some horses use the mud for playtime? That mud can trap moisture, so regular grooming is essential. You don't have to stop them if you notice them playing, but once the storm clears up and the mud dries, brush it out.
  • Waterproof blanket: If you're expecting prolonged wet weather, consider a waterproof blanket. Not only does it keep them cozy, but it also acts as a barrier against prolonged dampness. It's kind of like a coat for horses.
  • Disinfecting tools: Don't forget to disinfect your horse's grooming tools after you're done with them. If you use the same tools to groom your horse after every rainfall, bacteria can thrive and spread to your horse.
Quick Tip

Remove your horse's blanket immediately after the rain stops, just in case moisture is trapped between your horse's body and the blanket.

Treating Rain Rot

Close up of hand grooming horse

If your horse has a minor case of rain rot, giving them a bath with anti-microbial soap can help. Use a curry comb and brush your horse to promote healing and prevent rain rot from getting worse. Ask your large animal vet about microbial products to keep on hand in case your horse develops a minor case after rain.

If your horse has a severe case of rain rot, they may need antibiotics from your veterinarian. To make sure it's rain rot, the vet will probably take skin biopsies.

Need to Know

Rain rot can cause secondary infections to develop if not treated quickly. Take it seriously if you believe your horse has rain rot.

Watch for Pests After Rain

After a good downpour, it feels like every tiny critter comes out to play, and not in a fun way, especially for our horse friends. Standing water is basically a VIP party invitation for mosquitoes. They prefer to lay their eggs in stagnant water, and before you know it, you have a huge mosquito problem. Not only are they obnoxious, they can transmit diseases like West Nile virus to horses.

Then there's the mud left behind by rain. It's a perfect hideout for pesky flies and parasites. Always be on the lookout after it rains. Clear out any standing water ASAP, and consider some preventative fly sprays, especially if it stays hot and humid after the rain falls.

Enjoying the Rain Safely

Unless your horse isn't a fan of the rain, don't feel the need to bring them to the stables for a light rainfall. Rain can offer both physical and mental stimulation to your horse, which can be healthy for them, as long as you care for them properly during and after the storm.

Observe your horse during the next rainstorm and watch their behavior. If they're easily frightened or already have skin problems, bring them inside. But if they adore the rain, enjoy the sight of watching them play.

Horses Like Rain But Watch Out for Thunder and Rain Rot