Simple Steps to Keep Your Horses Safe on Fireworks Night

Photo by Brian Tomlinson Photography

Fireworks are the bane of all horse owners, and many struggle to keep their animals safe during the noisy annual nightmare that is Guy Fawkes Night.

November 5 is fast approaching, with the annual “Night of Fireworks” commemorating “the gunpowder plot” in 1605, when an attack on King James I was thwarted.

An investigation last year by the British animal welfare association Blue Cross found that 73% have prepared their horses for fireworks, 51% formulate a plan with the construction site. The preparations involved putting them in a stable early, playing music and distracting them with food. Some owners have also used prescribed medications and herbal remedies.

But 35% of those who responded reported accidents resulting directly from fireworks, several detailing how their horses had lost their lives.

“Fireworks are a loud, bright blast to your horse’s senses and can be unsettling at best and utterly terrifying at worst,” said Clare Bevins, veterinary supervisor at Blue Cross in Burford.

“Try to plan ahead to keep all your pets safe during fireworks season. It is also important to behave as normally and calmly as possible with them so that they do not feel any discomfort.

Earlier this year, a study in Europe find detomidine gel could be a useful tool to relieve anxiety in horses during fireworks. Detomidine, an alpha-2 adrenergic receptor agonist drug, is used during minor surgeries on the standing horse, and is also used to enable management tasks such as shearing, farriery, dentistry and dressing.

There are several things horse owners can take to relieve stress, and the Blue Cross equestrian team has put together the following tips for owners and grooms:

• Try to make sure that fireworks are not set off near your horse’s meadow or stable. Watch for local exhibit plans and tell neighbors and local fireworks organizers that there are horses nearby so they can make sure the fireworks are set off well away from them.

• Anyone planning an exhibition in a rural area should notify neighboring farmers in advance.

• Your horse will do best in a familiar environment, keeping its normal routine and with its usual companions during fireworks season.

• If your horse is usually boxed, keep it in the box. Do a full stable check for anything that could cause an injury, such as protruding nails, before you leave them.

• If they are normally outside on the field, keep them there as long as the field is safe, secure and away from fireworks areas.

• If you know that fireworks will be fired near your horse, make sure you or someone with experience stays with them. This way you can observe your horse’s behavior and make sure that he stays safe and as calm as possible. It also means that you can react quickly if your horse gets angry.

• Try to stay calm and positive during all displays, as horses may feel uncomfortable in people and if you are concerned that your horse’s fear will worsen.

• If your horse does not like loud or sudden noises or has been worried about fireworks in the past, talk to your veterinarian before the start of fireworks season or consider move them for the night.

• Be careful yourself. Try not to be embarrassed if your horse jumps, as you could injure yourself.

• Never run the risk of driving when you think fireworks might be set off.

• If you must leave your horse in the care of another person during a fireworks display, leave clear instructions and contact information for you and your veterinarian in case of a problem.

• If there has been an exhibit near your stable, yard or field, check the area for used fireworks pieces and put anything that could be dangerous to your horse in the bin.


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