Helping Your Horse to Cope with Fireworks
Between Bonfire Night and New Year both scheduled and unplanned firework displays can cause upset to horses, pets and livestock, resulting in stress, fear and potential injury. Managing our animals with forward planning and consideration can lower the risks and repercussions - particulaly when dealing with a flight animal such as a horse.
Regardless of training and your horse's normal behaviour it's important to remember that their natural instinct is fight or flight. A scared horse can be dangerous, with the potential to cause injury to people and other horses around it as well as damage to its surroundings. We've put together an advice guide to help get you through this festive season.
Both the sight and sound of fireworks can be a stressful experience for your horse around Bonfire Night and beyond. By planning ahead you can help to make this time of year as stress-free as possible, both for your horse and yourself. Check in advance when firework displays are arranged for your area and contact the organisers to advise that horses are nearby. Contacting neighbours will also make sure your more prepared if they are having a private display.
If you know your horse is stressed by the sight or sound of fireworks it may be sensible to talk to your vet about sedation. Consider moving your horse for the night under circumstances where putting your horse through a firework display is not worth the risk.
As an alternative to sedation have you considered using a calmer? Calmer powder/liquids, or faster-acting syringes, can help to relax your horse during stressful situations. Shop our range of calming supplements and products here.
Stable or turnout?
Decide ahead of the event whether your horse will be stabled or in the field. To keep stress levels down, it makes sense to stick to your horse’s regular routine and to keep him in a familiar environment. Ensure that the risk of injury is kept to a minimum with whichever you decide – if your horse will be turned out it’s important to make sure that the fencing is secure and there’s nothing that could cause injury. Likewise, if your horse will be stabled, remove any hazards. Feed your horse as normal and keep to any routine patterns you have so as not to cause any additional stress.
On the Night
Plan to stay with your horse if you can, but if you need to leave your horse with someone else it’s essential that you ensure they are sufficiently experienced when dealing with stressed or frightened horses. Leave contact details for yourself and your vet with that trusted person in the event of an emergency.
Playing music close to the stables can also help. It will distract and soothe the horses before any fireworks are set off while also masking the sudden loud noises and helping to prevent your horse from panicking.
Think about your actions and behaviour when your horse is showing signs of stress. Try your best to keep calm – getting stressed yourself can make the situation worse and stop you from dealing with your horse in the most sensible way. Be aware of keeping yourself safe too – a startled horse can be dangerous and your need to protect yourself from injury. The best advice is to leave your horse where he is, either in or out, until the fireworks have finished to lower the risk of injury to yourself or your horse.
After the Event
Once the fireworks have finished it’s worth keeping an eye on your horse’s behaviour shortly afterwards to assess for signs of stress. Keep an eye on his breathing and heart rate - if you are concerned about shock or your horse is taking an abnormal amount of time to recover contact your vet for advice. Make sure your horse is eating and drinking, passing droppings and behaving normally. Check beneath his rug to ensure he’s not hot or sweaty.