With the evenings getting darker by the day, it’s time to turn our attention to the spectacular fireworks displays that come hand-in-hand with Bonfire Night, Diwali and, in a few months’ time, New Year’s Eve celebrations. However, it’s important to remember that along with the oohs and the ahhs also come the loud noises and flashing lights that can spook even the most placid of horses. With that in mind, we’ve put together some handy pointers to help keep your horse calm during this noisy fireworks season, to minimise their stress – along with yours – as much as possible.
Prepare in advance
Find out about local fireworks displays
Start off by doing some detective work. Find out when and where the local fireworks displays are going to take place, as well as the start times. Also, have a chat with your neighbours to see if they’re planning on letting off fireworks and, if so, let them know you have horses and that you’ll need to know the exact dates and time for you to be able to prepare. What’s more, check if anyone is planning to have a bonfire near your horse’s stables, so you can make sure you have an emergency fire procedure in place.
Stick to their routine
Horses respond well to routine. With that in mind, don’t alter your horse’s normal routine or familiar environment on the day of a fireworks display, as they can find this sudden change stressful. If your horse is usually stabled, keep them stabled. If you do decide to stable your equine companion during the displays and he’s currently living out, it’s a good idea to start bringing him in about a week before the event to get him used to the new routine. If they're normally turned out in the field, keep them there as long as it’s safe to do so, and there are no fireworks displays in close proximity. Plus, check the field is nice and secure, so there’s nowhere for your horse to escape if they get scared by the bangs.
In the rare event a rogue firework causes a stable fire, it’s important to be prepared, just in case. Stock up on fire extinguishers if you don’t have some already, and make sure there’s sand and water on hand. Keep your horse at livery? Then get clued up on fire drills and where you should go with your horse, should a fire break out.
On the night
Keep calm and carry on
Horses are highly perceptive and will pick up on changes to your mood and stress levels, so try to keep calm and positive to avoid making their behaviour worse. And check there are no sharp objects or anything sticking out in the stable that your horse could hurt themselves on – basically limit the potential risks to your horse as much as you can.
Stay with your horse
As their owner, your horse will trust you above anyone else. So, if you know that fireworks are going to be set off nearby, make sure you stay with them to help them keep calm. If you can’t be there for them for any reason and need to leave them in the care of someone else, make sure you let the person know exactly what to do and how to contact you if any difficulties arise.
Distract your horse
Distraction can work wonders at calming an anxious horse. Try putting a radio on or playing soothing classical music just outside the stable, to cover up the loud whistles and bangs, and leave lights on where you can. Plus, keep them topped up with plenty of hay to keep them busy, whether they’re tucked up inside or turned out.
Of course, your main concern is keeping your horse calm during fireworks displays, but it’s even more important for you to stay safe. A frightened horse can be dangerous and unpredictable, so stay outside of your horse’s stable, if necessary. Hopefully it goes without saying, but don’t ride your horse during loud fireworks – either of you could get injured if your horse suddenly bolts.
The next day
Check their field for stray fireworks
Before you let your horse out into their field the day after a fireworks display, don’t forget to check for used fireworks or any debris that could be dangerous to them. Also inspect the water troughs to make sure that nothing has landed in them which could injure your horse or other wildlife.
Check your horse for cuts or injuriesTo calm any nerves your horse may still be feeling the day after fireworks, the best things to do is carry on your horse’s routine as normal. But give them a good once over to check they haven’t sustained any cuts or injuries from panicked behaviour or sudden movements.
How are you planning to keep your horse calm this fireworks season? We’d love to hear from you over on our Facebook and Instagram pages.