The Magazine June 2017

Firework-proof your horse

Posted 13th October 2017

There’s plenty you can do to reduce your horse’s stress levels during firework season, as Anna Saillet explains

While many people really look forward to bonfire night, plenty of animal owners find this time of year somewhat nerve-racking as we worry about how our beloved pets will cope with the firework displays. It’s difficult enough owning a dog who’s afraid of fireworks, but at least within your home it’s usually possible to shut the curtains, put the TV on loudly and create a cosy hideaway den to try to help minimise his stress. However, reducing noise-induced stress at this time of year is much more difficult with horses.

Plan ahead

Much of what you can do to help minimise the stress your horse may experience as a result of fireworks comes down to planning and preparation. Try to find out well in advance whether there are any planned displays in your area and the exact timings so you can prepare as thoroughly as possible. Of course, there aren’t any laws to stop people letting fireworks off whenever they wish, so organised displays are only one consideration. This means it’s worthwhile getting to know the local neighbourhood and speaking to households near your yard to find out their plans.

Treat him as an individual

Horses are flight animals, which means that if something frightens them they tend to run first and think later, which is why accidents sometimes happen when there are fireworks nearby. Many paddocks don’t allow much room for your horse, which can cause a frightened horse to run through the fencing, causing himself injury. The flight response varies considerably between individuals, meaning no two horses will react in the same way, so it’s important to get to know your horse’s natural behaviour well and gauge how he reacts in a frightening situation. A good understanding of your horse’s behaviour is important to help you decide on the best course of action. Typically, your horse will be less stressed if his routine is kept as normal as possible. So, while you may be tempted to stable him during firework season, if this isn’t something your horse is used to, the additional stress of this change in routine could cause him to react more intensely to fireworks. If you want to be able to keep your horse inside during nearby displays, ensure you’ve built this into his routine at

least a couple of weeks before the event takes place.

Firework essentials

The main things to aim for during firework season are to…

  • minimise the likelihood of injuries
  • try to provide enjoyable distractions for your horse
  • keep him as calm as possible

Anna Saillet gives her advice on how to achieve these aims and firework-proof your horse in December Horse&Rider, out now.

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