Thunder and Lightning
Maybe you have heard about some dogs who, in their fearful state during a thunderstorm, hide or do extensive damage to their surroundings. Horses can have a fear of thunderstorms as well, though much less commonly than dogs, probably due to the fact that horses are an outdoor species.
Homeopathy has a few helpful remedies for animals of this kind, whose level of anxiety may be way out of proportion, even though a fear of thunderstorms is a reasonable fear.
The effects of thunderstorms can be devastating. Wind, lightning, heavy rains, hail, and their emotional effects are all potentially damaging, and it is no wonder that they are feared. At any given moment, nearly 2,000 thunderstorms are active on the earth. Thunderstorms, which have the potential to be violent, are one of nature's great destroyers and killers. Each year, thousands of people and livestock are killed and injured by lightning alone and property loss in the U.S. is estimated in millions of dollars. Barns and stables have suffered losses from lightning strikes and resulting fires as well as wind and rain damage.
According to the National Board of Fire Underwriters, lightning is the main cause of farm fires. Lightning can damage electrical equipment by striking power lines and surging through a building's wiring system. Building damage, fires, personal injury and livestock loss usually result from direct lightning strikes.
Thunderstorms are a violent form of convection. Convection is a process of cold upper air sinking and warm, moist air rising. As the air rises, it expands and cools and the water vapor it contains begins to condense into cloud droplets. Continued upward movement can produce a cumulonimbus or thunderstorm cloud. These clouds bring strong winds, lightning, thunder, hail, and rain. Once a thunderstorm has developed, the falling precipitation creates downdrafts, and the storm dissipates.
Most thunderstorms consist of several storm "cells", each lasting up to 30 minutes. New cells may form and replace older ones, giving thunderstorms the potential to last several hours or more.
Lightning may be one of nature's most beautiful displays, but it's also a deadly surge of electrical current. Lightning always accompanies thunderstorms. Lightning is responsible for human and livestock deaths, airplane damage, and fires. A bolt of lightning is really the discharge of electricity occurring within a cloud, between clouds or between a cloud and earth. It is an uncontrolled, giant electrical spark with tremendous voltage and amperage. It happens when clouds are charged with negative electrons, and the ground is charged with positive electrons. The negative charges are attracted downward and upon contact with the ground, the positive charges move back upward toward the sky causing a flash of light. The upward movement happens so fast that it's unnoticeable. This process can repeat several times along the same path as a flickering effect.
Lighting always tries to follow the shortest, easiest path to earth. But because it has thousands of amperes and millions of volts, it often follows several paths to earth simultaneously, aiming for projecting objects like trees, building steeples, chimneys, poles or wires. Pastured horses are often the targets of lightning, especially if the horses gather on the top of a hill during a storm. The lightning can strike one horse and branch out to many others. Lightning appears to be very broad, but it is actually about the thickness of a pencil. Its strikes can run vertically for 5 to10 miles, and horizontally up to 100 miles across the sky.
For about 10 minutes or more after the rain ends, even when it brightens and the sun is coming out, lightning is still a threat; in fact, most fatalities occur at the time that the storm appears to be ending. These late lightning strikes can be very dangerous.
Thunder is the sound produced by the explosive expansion of air heated by lightning. When lightning is nearby, the thunder sounds like a sharp crack, but when it is far away, it sounds like growling and rumbling noises. Light travels about a million times faster than sound, so the lightning bolt is visible before the thunder is heard. To estimate how many miles away the lightning is, count the number of seconds between lightning and thunder and divide by five.
Thunder is what creates the fear in the animal who fears thunderstorms. The sudden, loud noise can induce a paralyzed state, start the animal trembling with fear, or send them into a panic.
Homeopathy is very helpful in the treatment of behavioral disorders from various causes, fears included. Though some conditions require the guidance of a veterinary homeopath when treating homeopathically, the following list may be helpful to assist the owner in the skills of observation. A Materia Medica will provide more detail. These remedies, when correctly chosen according to symptoms, have proven helpful in dealing with fear of thunderstorms.
Aconitum - a classic remedy for fear states which come on suddenly from any cause and may be characterized by inconsolable anxiety, restlessness, confusion, sensitivity to noise.
Gelsemium - trembling with apparent loss of muscular control, paralyzed by fear, tendency to crouch down or not move, hoping the danger will pass.
Phosphorus - fear of thunder, loud noises, fireworks, the dark; tendency to be hyperactive; often destructive when left alone.
Borax - nervousness; fear of downward motion; very sensitive to sudden noises; fear of thunder, gunshots.
Natrum Carbonicum - anxious and restless during thunderstorms; very sensitive to noise and changes in the weather; symptoms worse in summer heat, drafts, and thunderstorms.
Silicea - exaggerated reflexes; sensitive to noise; nervous exhaustion; faint-hearted, anxious; hates drafts, gets cold easily; lack of body heat, lack of moral and physical grit.
Rhododendron - dread of storms, fear of thunder; symptoms worse before a storm; all symptoms re-appear in stormy weather with improvement after storm breaks.
Learn the thunderstorm danger signs and watch the sky: dark, towering, or threatening clouds, distant lightning and thunder, and sudden wind mean trouble. If you are out riding and a storm is approaching, find shelter. You are in danger from lightning whenever you can hear thunder. Estimating how far away a storm is does not mean that you're in danger only when the storm is very close. In the woods, find an area protected by a cluster of low trees. Never stand underneath a single large tree in the open. Stay away from fences, tall trees, and tall structures such as towers, telephone lines, or power lines.
Hail, often a product of thunderstorms, can range in size from smaller than a pea to as large as a softball. These balls of ice, or hailstones, can be very destructive to plants and crops, animals, livestock and people. If the hailstones are large enough, property damage can also occur. Find shelter immediately for pets, livestock, and yourself.
For your barn and home, a good lightning rod protection system is recommended. If you use a fence charger, install surge protectors to avoid fence charger damage. Lightning naturally seeks ground by the path of least resistance, so give it an easy route to the ground (other than through your charger) by installing surge protectors along the fence line. Livestock loss, due to herds congregating along ungrounded wire fences during thunderstorms, can also be reduced by properly grounding your wire fences.
And last, but not least, if your animal has a fear of thunderstorms, treat him with an appropriate homeopathic remedy to avoid fright reactions, self-inflicted injuries from hysteria, and runaways.
During this time of year, when the changing weather often creates the right circumstances, thunderstorms are plentiful, and fear is justified. If your horse or pet fears thunderstorms, help them through it with homeopathy.