As the beginning of November approaches with bonfire night just around the corner, for many of us with horses this can be a worrying time of year.
Fireworks can cause stress and fear in all animals and it is important that we try to minimise this as much as possible for our pets. Horses are flight animals and will generally try to remove themselves from a stressful or scary situation, which could result in injury if they attempt to jump a fence or climb over a stable door. However there are some simple steps that you can take to help keep your horses safe.
Know the dates, times and locations of local fireworks events
Find out where the local displays are going to be, on what days and at what time. It’s not uncommon for people to use fireworks to mark other occasions such as New Year or a wedding, so keep an eye out for public notices of such events. Speak to neighbours to let them know that you have horses and need to prepare for any fireworks displays. If any events are going to be held close by, consider bringing your horse into their stable during this time. However, if your horse is used to living out then he may be best kept in his normal field.
- Keep your horse in a routine
Don’t alter your horse’s routine on the day of a fireworks display as this in itself can be stressful. If you do plan to stable him during firework displays, and he is currently living out, then start bringing him in from the middle of October to get him used to it. You don’t have to keep him in for the entire night, just for a few hours covering either side of when the firework displays will be on. Set-up the stable exactly as you would on the night of the fireworks display, so if for example you plan to have the radio on, the top door of the stable shut and to give him a treat ball to keep him occupied then do this in the weeks leading up to the display too.
- Fire safety
Although the likelihood of a rogue firework causing a stable fire is low, it is every owner’s worst nightmare and being prepared for the event of a stable fire could save lives. Make sure you have fire extinguishers, sand and water nearby in case of a fire around the stables. If you keep your horse at livery familiarise yourself with the fire drills – make sure you know where you should go with your horse – and encourage other liveries to do the same.
On the night
- Remain calm
As an owner your mood and stress levels will have a direct impact on your horse, so it is important that you don’t get angry or upset in front of your horse if neighbours nearby have a display that you weren’t expecting. Try to remain calm and hopefully your horse will too. However, remember your own safety is paramount so do not try to handle your horse if he is acting in a dangerous or unpredictable manner. Limit the risks to him by ensuring there are no sharp or protruding objects near him but keep yourself at a safe distance and out of harm’s way.
- Use distractions
Give your horse plenty of hay to keep him occupied, even if he is in a field. If stabled, put a radio on to mask the noise of the fireworks, but make sure that the radio is positioned safely so it cannot be accessed by the horse.
- Check your horse regularly during the evening to make sure he is ok
If you can, it’s often a good idea to stay with them because your presence may have a calming effect. Make a night of it; you could bring a flask and picnic to the stables and do some of those jobs you keep putting off, like giving your tack a deep clean. If you are on a livery yard, encourage other owners to do the same.
The morning after
- Check your horse for cuts or injuries
The day after a display it is important that you just carry on with your horse’s normal routine but do check your horse thoroughly for any cuts or injuries just in case he has over-reached or run into something.
- Check your field for any stray fireworks which might have landed there
Fully inspect the entire field and water trough to make sure there is no debris left in the field which could injure your horse or wildlife, or contaminate the area.
For further information contact our Advice Line on 01953 497238.