Fireworks are a major cause of stress, panic and injury for horses and ponies, so it’s worth thinking about how you will keep your horse calm and safe this year. There’s a useful list of things to think about, composed by the British Horse Society, so here we highlight a few of their key tips to help you prepare for all eventualities. (We also recommend the best horse bedding to help your horse in times of distress…)
Stay with your horse
First, try and make sure that you can plan to be with your horse, or that someone familiar can accompany them if fireworks are scheduled near you. Visit local notice boards, check out Facebook pages and council websites so you are aware of any days you may need to stay a little while longer in the stable. Don’t stay in the stable or loose box with your horse though, for obvious reasons.
It is always recommended that horses remain in a familiar environment. Keep their normal routine, including contact with stablemates to make them feel secure. If you discover fireworks are going to be in close proximity and you are particularly worried about your horse’s reaction, it is worth exploring possible alternative arrangements for the night. You could also talk to your vet about sedation or the use of equine earplugs if you know your horse will react badly.
Check for Risky Objects
Second, remember that horses are ‘flight’ animals, meaning their instinctive reaction to a fright is to move away as quickly as possible from whatever they think is a threat. The loud noise, bright light and smoke of fireworks can cause them to react violently and even mean they try to get out of the stable.
That’s why it’s worth taking the time to check thoroughly for anything that could cause injury in the stable, or in the paddock if your horse is outside. To prevent the chance of injury, remove any protruding nails, string, broken or loose timber, and make sure haynets are safely secured. Bolting means any containers, feeders, or storage bins should be moved out of the stalls to keep them from getting knocked over and scaring your horse even more.
Play the Radio
If it is possible to play calming music on a radio or Bluetooth speakers positioned outside the stable, it can help to cover any sudden noises and distract attention away from the noise of any fireworks displays. This is a possible way to soothe your horse, as long as they have got used to the radio before the day of the fireworks being set off.
Making a comfortable bed
Lastly, we all know that, when nervous, a horse can release a lot of manure in a short amount of time. Stress and panic can induce rapid bowel movements, so working with a bedding that is easy to clean up will help keep the horse comfortable and calm. You could consider using an absorbent bedding such as Bedmax pine shavings. Our larger shavings help drain urine from the surface to be absorbed by smaller shavings at a lower level. This keeps the surface dry and reduces the risk ammonia poses to your horse’s lungs and hooves.