A Cheshire veterinary practise is seeking horse owners to help research a treatment programme to reduce the stress experienced by horses during the fireworks season.
Every year, many horse owners dread the coming of November as their horses turn from placid creatures into jumpy, nervous wrecks. Some horses have been known to suffer such extreme panic reactions that they inflict terrible injuries on themselves.
Spurred on by their success with dogs, cats and their own horses, vet Pete Coleshaw and the Fear of Fireworks team are trying to combat these problems by developing an equine-specific desensitising programme, which uses fireworks sounds recorded on to a CD.
“Most people have come across the bomb-proof horse who lived on a farm and doesn’t blink when a tractor comes towards her at high speed,” explains Pete. “She’s quite literally ‘heard it all before’. We intend to utilise this aspect of equine nature to help horses through their fear of fireworks.”
The desensitisation process takes place while the horse is in a calm and safe environment and begins by playing the CD at a very low volume. The CD is gradually played at louder and louder intensities, allowing the horse to become accustomed to the sounds without provoking any anxiety.
The team’s complete programme also includes guidance for coping with the firework season, and for longer-term “top-up” therapy.
“While the fact that horses become accustomed to sounds is well known and accepted, there is little hard scientific data to confirm the value of desensitisation in this species,” explains Pete.
“The Fear of Fireworks team of vets and equine behaviourists are conducting a project to collect clinical data using a short questionnaire. Every horse owner who completes the questionnaire will receive a free Vectin apple-flavoured wormer, worth £8.”
The CD normally costs £14.99 including postage but the first 10 Horse & Hound Online users who email firstname.lastname@example.org with “HHO equine fireworks CD offer” in the subject line will receive a FREE CD.