The period around bonfire night (5 November) can be stressful for horse owners and horses alike, with fireworks seeming to be let off earlier and earlier every year. Even the calmest of horses can get frightened by the loud whizz and bangs, but there are steps owners can take to minimise the impact on their horses.
Follow the British Horse Society’s advice — from playing music to having the right insurance — so that the celebrations are as stress-free as possible for you and your horse.
Dealing with horses and fireworks
1. Look at local press and shop notice boards and listen to the radio to find out where the displays will be in your area.
2. Wherever possible, tell neighbours and local firework display organisers that there are horses nearby, so they can ensure fireworks are set off in the opposite direction and well away from them.
3. Decide whether to stable your horse or leave it in the field. It is sensible to keep your horse in its familiar environment, in its normal routine, with any companions to make it feel secure. If it is usually stabled, keep it stabled. If it is normally out in the field, keep it there as long as it is safe, secure and not close to the firework display area.
4. If stabled, check thoroughly for anything that could cause potential injury such as protruding nails and string.
5. If your horse is to stay in the field, check that fencing is not broken and that there are no foreign objects lying around.
6. Ensure that you, or someone experienced, stays with your horse if you know that fireworks are being set off.
7. If it is absolutely necessary for you to leave your horse in the care of another person during a firework display, then be sure to leave clear instructions and contact details for both you and your vet should any problems arise.
8. If you know your animal will be stressed, talk to your vet about sedation or perhaps consider moving your horse for the night.
9. Playing music on a radio positioned outside the stable can often mask sudden noise, distract attention and be soothing.
10. Try to remain calm yourself and keep positive, as horses will sense unease in a person and this may make things worse if the horse is startled.
11. It may seem common sense but be aware of your own safety; a startled horse can be dangerous.
12. Whatever you do, don’t risk riding when you think fireworks might be set off.
13. Check if there will be a bonfire near your yard. If there is, make sure you have an emergency fire procedure in place. If you have any doubts, talk to your local fire safety officer.
14. Make sure that you have adequate third party liability insurance. If your horse is frightened and escapes, causing an accident, then you could be held liable for compensation.
For all the latest equestrian news and reports, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday