It was still dark Sunday morning when Layla Thomson arrived on her father’s Rosedale dairy farm looking forward to seeing her best friend, her horse Conrad, and a day of barrel racing.
Conrad and Layla were headed to the Glow Slot Race at Heritage Park, an event they took first place in the 4D category in 2018, winning $7,812.
But there would be no barrel racing this weekend.
Layla went over to her “Connie-boy” as she saw him laying down in his covered pen.
“We were excited and then when we came out I checked on him,” she said Monday. “I normally go and check on him first thing and I found him. It was dark out. Connie sometimes stretches out on his bed. I touched his nose and I knew. It was cold. He wasn’t moving.”
Both Conrad and her father Shane’s horse Shade were dead on the ground, killed in lightning strikes in the dramatic overnight thunderstorm Saturday.
They couldn’t find Shade at first, but she was not too far away from Conrad.
“When Connie went, he didn’t even move,” Layla said. “He was laying right where he was standing. There were no other hoof prints, he just fell right where he was eating his hay.”
Both animals had unusual, almost lightning-shaped, marks on their bodies.
|Fifteen-year-old Layla Thomson of Chilliwack lost her horse Conrad to a lightning strike on the weekend.|
Layla’s dad Shane Thomson got Conrad for her as a rescue four or five years ago. He was skin and bones, but Layla took great care of him, slowly building up his weight and strength. Early on she could only ride him without a saddle.
But day after day she spent time with her friend, eventually able to race him with a saddle. She started with gymkhana events building up to barrel racing.
“Their love for each other was so obvious to anyone who saw them together!” said a friend in a GoFundMe page set up for Layla. “A girls first love taken from her in a such a tragic way.”
What exactly happened is hard for the family to understand, given that the horses were not particularly near any trees and were in covered pens. But they had recently had new shoes put on, and lightning can behave in mysterious ways.
According to the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, proper grounding of barns, tall trees and metal fencing is needed.
“Even when precautions are taken, lightning strikes can still affect cattle, horses, and other livestock,” according to a post on the CVMA website. “Trees within 10 feet of a barn which are taller than the barn should be grounded to prevent flashover, a situation where the bolt leaps from tree to building.”
“It’s really, really sad,” Layla said, sitting at her Greendale kitchen table looking at photos of her and Conrad.
While she’s grieving today, Layla said she will look to getting a new horse down the road if they can find one with the right personality.
“I’ve always been around horses. My grandma had them and then I did riding lessons. I’ve just always been around animals.”
Her mother Heidi is just glad no one was around when the lightning struck at or near where the horses were.
“We were very fortunate that her and her dad were not out there tending to those animals,” she said. “They very well could have been with those horses.”
In the end, Layla just really wanted to thank all friends and family for all the support and love after the loss of the horses.