Whirr, bang, fizzle… Any other night of the year you’d wonder what on earth was going on outside your window late at night, but during the week surrounding 5 November – the much-anticipated Guy Fawkes night – the commotion is not just expected, but relished!
Your horse, however, takes a different view. He has no idea what the loud, sudden bangs are all about, or why the night sky flashes with colourful lights…
Is it any wonder then that the very things we humans marvel at can cause serious injury in horses? “The flashes and bangs of fireworks create a massive change to the usual environment of any animal, which can be deeply unsettling and scary for them,” says animal behaviourist Julie Bedford, from The Blue Cross. But with some sensible precautions and good management practices, your horse can remain safe and calm over those noisy nights.
Spread the word
“We encourage owners to plan ahead in order to keep all their animals safe during the fireworks season,” says Julie. But you can’t rely on all firework events taking place on 5 November – the weeks prior to and after the official fireworks night are prime times for displays, whether it’s a large, organised event at a local park or a few rockets set off in a neighbour’s garden. So find out if any events are taking place near your yard by looking in the local paper and speaking to neighbours.
If you find that something is going on in the vicinity, have a word with event organisers and neighbours to let them know there are horses around. It doesn’t mean they have to stop the display altogether, but they can at least ensure fireworks are set off in the opposite direction and well away from the field or stable.
Luckily, the times are easier to gauge, as there are strict laws stipulating when fireworks can be set off. You won’t expect to see the flashes and hear the bangs after 11pm, although this is extended to midnight on 5 November itself.
What’s more, the Protection of Animals Act 1875 states that it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any domestic or captured animals. So it may be worth putting a polite notice in your village newsletter or local newspaper, asking people to consider horses when organising events.
Safe as houses
It’s best to keep your horse in the place he’s most familiar with and comfortable in. So if that means his field, don’t worry about leaving him turned out – with companions if appropriate, to help him feel secure. Remember, though, if startled, he could bolt around the field, which can be full of prime injury spots. So ensure there is nothing in his field that he could injure himself on – check fencing, troughs and gates for anything sharp or protruding. The same applies to horses who are more relaxed indoors, so make sure stables are as comfortable and injury-proof as you can.
You need to be prepared should the worst happen and your horse bolts and escapes from the yard or field, so ensure he is easily identifiable. This means attaching ID tags with your contact details on to rugs and/or headcollars, even if he is already freeze-marked or microchipped.
It may be that you need to leave your horse in someone else’s care during the fireworks season, so it’s worth making sure you leave clear instructions and contact details for yourself and your vet, just in case any problems arise.
Keep a close eye on your horse around the fireworks season, to ensure he remains as safe and calm as possible, and respond to his reactions appropriately.
That said, it’s wise not to wrap your horse up in cotton wool and over-comfort him, as he’ll only suspect that there’s something to be worried about.
The calmer you stay, the calmer your horse is likely to be, so try to remain as positive as possible so as not to transmit any feelings of unease to your horse. “The best thing owners can do is act as normal as possible around their animals, monitor their behaviour and remain calm,” Julie advises.
Fireworks checklist – Are you prepared for the big bang? Make sure you’ve ticked all the boxes in time for Guy Fawkes week…
- Find out if any firework displays are taking place near your yard.
- Let neighbours and display organisers know there are horses nearby.
- Make sure your horse is microchipped and has an ID tag attached either to his rug or his headcollar.
- Leave your horse where he is most comfortable.
- Keep a close eye on your horse, but avoid over-comforting him.
- Keep small pets and other animals indoors.
- Stay calm!