Two ponies have been killed by a suspected lightning strike at a Berkshire equestrian centre.
Devastated staff at Snowball Farm found six-year-old Blue (pictured, above) and 11-year-old Beau (pictured, below) dead in the field after thunderstorms hit the Thames Valley overnight on Thursday (15 September).
“All the horses had been really quite upset during the night and when the staff checked the ‘out’ ponies this morning, they found two of our best ponies had been killed,” said Snowball Farm director Nick Western-Kaye.
“We don’t know exactly what happened, but they had been standing very close together. There were no burn marks, so the lightning probably went into the ground and went up. We think they wouldn’t have felt much.”
The ponies had been turned out in a large field used to host dressage during Snowball Farm’s Burnham Beeches unaffiliated event on 4 September.
“Now the event has finished the ponies go down there for fresh grass in the evenings. It’s a pretty open field, although it does have a power line that goes through it,” said Mr Western-Kaye.
He added that 13.2hh black gelding Beau and 14hh blue roan Blue were very popular with staff and children at the centre, a riding school, livery yard and competition venue.
“People don’t work with horses for the money, when something like this happens they are all very upset. They were very popular with the children, who fall in love with the ponies they ride,” he added.
Blue was a rescue pony on permanent loan to Snowball Farm from the Blue Cross.
He had arrived at the charity as an RSPCA welfare case in October 2013, mostly unhandled. He was backed at the centre and rehomed to Snowball in June 2014.
Lightning strikes are rare in the UK, and the British Horse Society says there are measures owners can take to help minimise the risks.
“We are really saddened to hear that Beau and Blue were killed by lightning, it is a tragic case,” said director of policy, Lee Hackett.
“Lightning usually hits tall, isolated objects, so a single tree is more likely to be hit than a group. Because of this some owners choose to fence around single trees to prevent horses becoming too close.
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“Higher ground is more likely to be hit, so if possible it is always best to put your horse in lower fields. If you keep your horse in, a low wooden stable block is less likely to be hit. If any shelter has a metal roof, consider investing in lightning rods.”
Storms caused disruption this week as they tracked eastwards across the UK.
“Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were the first time the UK has seen three consecutive days of temperatures reaching 30 degrees in September since 1929,” said Met Office spokesman Graham Madge. “A weather front west of Ireland made progress into UK airspace, bumped up against the warm air and sparked conditions which developed into thunderstorms.”