Fireworks and Horses0
As much fun as fireworks celebrations can be, it can be particularly terrifying for horses. If you are worried about how your horses will react, there are some precautions you can take to (hopefully) keep everyone safe this May long weekend.
Try to make sure fireworks aren’t set off near your horse’s field or stable. DO a check to see if there are plans for local displays, and tell neighbours and local firework display organisers that there are horses nearby so they can make sure fireworks are set off well away from them. Anyone planning a display in a rural area should let neighbouring farmers know in advance (hopefully your neighbours are either kind enough to do this, or find a different location to set them off!) If it is possible, you may consider moving them to another property away from the fireworks displays for the evening. If you need to leave your horse in another person’s care during the show, leave clear instructions and contact details for yourself and your vet in case of any problems.
Horses do best with familiarity, so try to keep his routine consistent. Although in most cases it is best to keep your horse outdoors where he won’t feel trapped but if your horse isn’t accustomed to being out at night, keep him in his stall . A large turnout area is preferable to a small paddock. If your horse is in a small area, there’s a risk of him running through the fence.
Check your horse’s stall or turnout area for any hazards such as broken boards or holes that could injure him if he does run around and ensure that all doors, latches, gates, etc. close properly . If your horse is in the barn, leave a radio on playing soothing music. The background sounds can help dull the shock of firework noises. Consider earplugs to help muffle the noise as well. Make sure there is plenty of hay to keep your horse occupied and that he has a buddy or two for comfort.
If you know fireworks are going to be set off near your horse, make sure you or someone experienced stays with them. This way you can observe your horse’s behaviour and make sure they stay safe and as calm as possible. It also means that you can react quickly if your horse becomes upset. Try to keep calm and positive throughout any displays, as horses can sense unease in people and if you are worried your horse’s fear may worsen. Even if your horse seems relaxed, don’t forget to check on them throughout the evening.
Be careful yourself. If your horse is inside, do not stay in the stall with him and try not to get in the way if your horse becomes panicked as you might get hurt or run over. Do not tie your horse to anything as he may panic and rear, possibly causing himself to flip over and get injured. It also goes without saying, but do not run the risk of riding when you think fireworks may be set off.
As a last resort, you can ask your veterinarian to administer a sedative/tranquilizer beforehand. Note that these are not 100% foolproof and horses can still get agitated and panicky.
Once the fireworks show is complete, do a walk around of the property to check for bits and pieces of fireworks or anything that could be dangerous if your horse was to come across it.
The best piece of advice I can give is start planning for next year. Even though horses will always be flight animals, there are a number of ways to desensitize your horse to unexpected sights and sounds using positive reinforcement.