A single bolt of lightning can be hotter than the surface of the sun reaching 1 billion volts of electricity. Lightning occurs worldwide, most frequently along the equator and more so over land than sea. The United States for example sees an average of 20 million lightning strikes each year.
A person’s chance of being struck by lightning in a given year are one in 1 million. Those odds increase over a lifetime to 1 in 12,000. Strikes for animals are not well-documented but researchers theorize that 80 percent of accidental livestock deaths are caused by lightning. 70% of human struck by lightning survive but the fatality rate is notably higher for animals in part because their larger body mass suffers greater tissue damage and because treatment is seldom immediately available.
The best place to be in a lightning storm is in doors but if you are caught outdoors perhaps on a trail ride there are precautions you can take to mitigate your risk. Those precautions start with planning. Before you head out on a trail, check the forecast. If your ride is long, monitor the weather throughout the day. Should a storm approach, return to the trailhead and seek shelter in a barn or your horse trailer. If struck, electricity will travel through the trailer’s metal frame, around occupants, to the ground.
There is no safe place outside in a thunderstorm. Fatalities and injuries from a direct strike are rare, most occur from the exuding electrical current that travels along surfaces toward the ground. If you must bivouac outdoors, The National Weather Service recommends these actions to decrease your risk of injury or death.