Horses and Fireworks – What Can You Do To Prepare?
Understandably horses and fireworks don’t mix. Horses are flight animals and so naturally they don’t like the fact that there are these loud bangs and bright flashes up in the sky that they can’t run from. Even the calmest of horses can be effected because they have no warning of when the fireworks will be going off. This blog will offer advice on how you can prepare for firework season to keep your horse as calm and relaxed as possible. We’ve even highlighted in bold some important points to remember this Bonfire Night.
Where Should I Keep My Horse?
Horses are animals that like to have routines. Ideally, to keep your horse happy you would stick as close to their usual routine as possible. This means that if your horse normally lives out you could actually cause them more stress by bringing them in. However, if you know that your horse is happy to be stabled then you may choose to do so. Remember, though, that fireworks are not restricted to just bonfire night and so could be going off any day.
Stabling your horse could be the best option if you know there will be fireworks set off particularly close to the paddock they are in. You want to avoid debris injuring your horse and the sound and brightness levels will be at their highest close to the place that the firework was set off. Try to keep the horses and fireworks as far from each other as possible. It’s a really good idea to keep an eye out for the dates of any planned displays happening nearby. You can do this by looking online, on local noticeboards in shops and keeping an eye out for posters. Obviously you cannot plan for private events but at least you will know some of the times to expect fireworks.
If you are keeping your horse outside be sure to check the entire area is secure and safe as even a normally calm horse may try to run from fireworks. Similarly, if you have your horse stabled, be sure there is minimal risk of them hurting themselves. Make sure your hay nets are tied securely or you could even feed loose to avoid them getting tangled should they spook.
How Can I Keep My Horse Calm?
There are a few things you can try to reduce the stress that a combination of horses and fireworks can cause. Firstly, try to think of ways to minimise the sound issue. If your horse is stabled in a barn type of building make sure all doors are closed. Another great idea is to play music to your horse. Definitely don’t leave a radio inside the stable with them but find somewhere safe to place one where it is out of reach. You’re best off introducing the radio/speakers to your horse in advance of firework season. You want them to associate the music with the calm, familiar feeling of being in their stable and not be something new to also be scared of. You may even go so far as to try using horse ear plugs normally used for horses who are distracted by noise at competitions. You can find some online here.
Of course sound isn’t the only thing fireworks give off. In order to reduce the effects of the bright flashes you may want to leave the lights on in your horse’s stable. Having lights on may confuse your horse’s internal clock as it will appear to be day time to them but generally most of them will be happy to sleep with them on.
You may also want to consider the use of distractions other than music. Why not try distracting your horse with some treats and toys. If they are happy playing they may pay less attention to what is happening up in the sky. There’s a whole range of toys and treats available so you’re sure to find some that your horse likes. Remember to still try to minimise the risk of injuries too, don’t over fill your stable with lots of hard objects.
Is it possible for someone to stay near your horse as the fireworks take place? You don’t have to sit in the stable with them overnight but horses are herd animals and can be more stressed if they feel alone. Some yard owners are happy to make regular checks throughout busy firework periods. If you have the horse in a private stable or the owner is happy for you to stay with them later than usual it is important that you stay calm too. Horses are very good at sensing the emotions of those around them. Normally fireworks cannot be set off after 11pm however for bonfire night this is extended to midnight and for New Year, Diwali and Chinese New Year it’s 1am but most public displays finish long before then. Find out more about UK firework laws here.
What If Distractions Aren’t Enough?
There are other ways of calming your horse if distractions aren’t enough. You may want to consider the use of calmers. You can get them in paste form in a syringe similar to a wormer. This kind of calmer offers immediate, short term effects and is easy to administer orally. When we say immediate, they can take an hour or two to disperse round
the horse’s body but this is a much quicker option than other calming supplements that have to be used on a regular basis to have an effect. If you know that your horse has a spooky nature you may just want to buy some in ahead of firework season. If you think the distractions mentioned above will be enough to keep your horse calm but they actually aren’t then these calmers are easily accessed. Below are some examples of this style of calmer:
If your horse is always naturally on edge you may want to consider long term calmer supplements in powder or liquid form as a part of their regular diet.