Horses and fireworks are not a good combination as even the calmest of horses can get frightened by the loud noises and sudden flashing lights. As a result the period around bonfire night (tonight, 5 November) can be stressful for horse owners and horses alike.
With the pandemic preventing public firework displays this year, there are concerns this might lead to an increase in back garden displays, 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. Wherever possible, get in touch with your neighbours to find out if they plan to let off fireworks. If they do, explain the dangers and ask them to set fireworks off in a direction that is well away from your animals. Knowing in advance when fireworks are likely to be set off enables you to prepare.
2. 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.
3. If stabled, check thoroughly for anything that could cause potential injury such as protruding nails and string.
4. If your horse is to stay in the field, check that fencing is secure and that there are no foreign objects lying around that they might injure themselves if they run around.
5. Ensure that you, or someone experienced, stays with your horse if you know that fireworks are being set off.
6. 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.
7. If you know your animal will be stressed, talk to your vet about sedation or perhaps consider moving your horse for the night.
8. Playing music on a radio positioned outside the stable can often mask sudden noise, distract attention and be soothing.
9. 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.
10. It may seem common sense but be aware of your own safety; a startled horse can be dangerous so do not put yourself at risk when trying to deal with a spooked animal.
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11. Don’t risk riding when you think fireworks might be set off.
12. Check if anyone is planning to have a bonfire near your yard. If so, make sure you have an emergency fire procedure in place. If you have any doubts, talk to your local fire safety officer.
13. 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.
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