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One month to Bonfire Night: how to get prepared

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With just one month until the fireworks season begins, the RSPCA shares tips on preparing your horse amid fears that displays are set to soar this year

With just one month to go until fireworks season kicks off with Bonfire Night (5 November), the RSPCA is urging pet owners to start preparing their animals.

The RSPCA fears this fireworks season could be the worst for animals for decades as lockdown cancels public events and Government restrictions prompt more people to have DIY fireworks displays at home. Over the last four years, the animal welfare charity has received 1,543 calls about fireworks – and it fears this year could be the worse if people go ahead with more, smaller displays from their gardens.

Around 55% of horses and 62% of dogs in the UK show signs of anxiety when they hear fireworks. However, there are steps that you can take to make the situation less of a drain. RSPCA animal Welfare Expert, Dr Mark Kennedy, said: “Firework phobia is treatable and we recommend seeking advice from your vet or from a clinical animal behaviourist if your pet finds Bonfire Night especially frightening.

“While it may take months or even years for treatment plans to take effect for some pets with more severe phobias, for others, there are simple steps you can take at home in the weeks leading up to [the event] to help them.”

Planning ahead can help them find fireworks season less scary so why not start putting in some groundwork now?

  • Introduce changes to your horse’s routine slowly It’s sensible to keep your horse in a familiar environment, following his normal routine with his usual companions. If you’re planning to bring him into a stable or barn overnight during fireworks, start to introduce the change of routine now so he’s accustomed to it.
  • Speak to neighbours If you want to plan for dates of local displays then check local press and websites and speak to your neighbours and local councils/schools to find out dates ahead of time so you can plan now to help your horse. Ask organisers to site fireworks as far away from your horse, and any neighbouring equines, as possible away – ideally aimed in the opposite direction.
  • Start desensitising him to sounds Teach your horse to deal with the sounds by using training CDs. We recommend Sounds Scary, which comes with guidance on how to use it. You can also muffle the sound of fireworks by using calming music like classical playlists but start to introduce this now. This is a long-term approach so may be worth starting now ahead of next year.
  • Get help If your horse has a severe firework fear then speak to your vet or clinical animal behaviourist now to come up with a plan or to discuss whether there are any treatment options to help them.

For more information about the RSPCA’s #BangOutOfOrder campaign and to support its calls for more controls over fireworks displays send a letter to your council here. And to support the FAB Firework Abatement UK, please sign the petition online.

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Horse&Rider Magazine December 2020

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