Total Eclipse of the Horse
Your horse is unlikely to take much notice of next week’s eclipse, but some animals might behave strangely when the sky goes dark.
What’s going on at your barn on a typical Monday around 2:30 in the afternoon? At my barn, there will be a lesson or two going on in the arena and we’ll be getting ready to do the afternoon feeding. This coming Monday, however, we’ll all stop what we’re doing to put on funny looking glasses and stare straight at the sky.
For months, everyone has been talking about the rare total eclipse that will make its way across the U.S. on Monday, August 21. The path of totality (a fantastic sci-fi-sounding term if I’ve ever heard one) spans a diagonal path across the continent beginning in Depoe Bay, Oregon, at 10:17 a.m. local time and ending in Charleston, South Carolina, at 2:47 p.m. Those along the path will experience a total solar eclipse, meaning the moon will appear to completely block the sun. But even if you’re not in the path, most of North America will see some degree of eclipse.
(Unless it’s a cloudy day. Then you’ll just see very dark clouds.)
The path of totality clips the southwestern corner of Kentucky. Here in Lexington, we’ll have a 95 percent eclipse. How will that affect the equine residents of the Horse Capital of the World? As previously mentioned, their human handlers might stop what they’re doing to don eye protection (hopefully) to stare at the sky. So they’ll have to deal with that.
For those in the path of totality, daylight will quickly dim to twilight. The temperature could drop approximately five degrees Fahrenheit. While it won’t be as sudden or startling a change as when, say, the power goes out in the indoor arena during your evening riding lesson, your horse might react to the change in light and temperature. You know, unless he’s too busy grazing.
How Animals Respond to an Eclipse
According to National Geographic, there are accounts of cows returning to the barn during an eclipse, as if the sun were setting. During a 2001 eclipse, Giraffes foraging near a watering hole reportedly stopped eating and started running around during the darkness, then resumed their normal grazing routine when the light returned.
Other species might share the human trait of stopping and gawking. Dr. Douglas Duncan, director of the Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado, tells TIME that he witnessed a group of dolphins and whales silently surface during a total eclipse near the Galapagos Islands in 1998.
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