I know I have gotten several questions about it in the past week so here is a re-post of my firework safety and horses post from a few year back. I hope you all still find it relevant. Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!!!
Happy 4th of July to all my fellow Americans out there! For all my international readers who are not familiar with the holiday the 4th of July is a holiday that is supposed to celebrate the creation of our country. For some reason in order to do this we have BBQ’s and watch fireworks. And since horses and fireworks tend not to be a match made in heaven I thought it was a good topic for a post.
For many years I have worked a several different horse farms. I have always loved doing the night turnout shift in the summers. This means that I am in charge when the big booms start to happen so if injury occurs it is on my head. So of course being the responsible barn worker that I am I did a lot of research on this topic and I am going to share it with you.
My check list on what to do with your horses during a fireworks display…
1) Know your horses and where they feel the most comfortable. Some horses are not very spooky and don’t tend to be bothered by loud noises. My Genny, for example, does not get upset when he is turned out during a thunderstorm. He is perfectly content outside as the thunder cracks, but if he is in his stall during a storm he gets upset. Therefor my horse is better off outside (assuming the area is safe) during the 4th of July. Which he has been with no issues. He turned to face the boom, and when it first starts he will keep his head up, but Genny is just not the kind of horse to get upset by fireworks. The owner’s mare on the other hand is very sensitive to noises. If a thunderstorm is coming and you can hear the rumbling in the distance you can put money on the fact that the mare is tearing around her field in a state of panic. She is much calmer inside. Safety always come first so if one location if putting them in harms way you have to do the other, regardless of where your horses feel the most comfortable. Now keep in mind that this is where your HORSE feels most comfortable, not where you want them to be comfortable. If you want to have them in the barn because it makes you feel better, yet the horses are calmer outside just remind yourself that you are trying to keep them in the least stressful situation.
2) Know your neighbors. In both the farm I was working, and now the one where Gen lives now the neighbors see the openness of the pasture as a good place to aim the fireworks. So they aim the fireworks away from their homes and towards the horses. Therefor putting the horses outside is not an option because they might physically get hit with a firework. It is a good idea to pop over to say “hi” to your neighbors who set off fireworks on the 4th earlier in the day (preferably with a bottle of cheap wine as a gift for them) and just ask them when the fireworks are supposed to start and how long they think the show is going to last.
3) Be aware of your horses surroundings. Take the time today to check all the fence lines and door latches. Try and smooth out any rough terrain if you can and make sure that if your horses are inside that they have plenty of hay to try and distract them from the bombs going off outside. Also don’t forget to walk the field the day after and remove any of the debris from the fireworks.
4) Have sedatives around if necessary. There are TONS of herbal sedatives around like “Total Calm and Focus” and “Quietex” as well as veterinary prescribed sedatives that might be a good idea to keep on hand. As the farm owner you just want to take the edge off a sensitive horse so they don’t injure themselves. There are horror stories like this all over. Most sedatives take a little time to set in so if you think your horse might have an issue and you are concerned I personally feel that you should give them a single dose of a mild sedative as per the instructions on the package which can sometimes be hours before the fireworks display. It really depends on the horse, I know that Genny does not need a sedative.
5) If possible, buy a radio for the horses and leave it on playing relatively loud music. You don’t want to hurt the horses ear drums, but a radio that is on loud enough for you to sing along to it can help distract the horses from the big booms that are going off around them. If your horses are more comfortable outside and in no danger from being there it might not be a bad idea to leave the car with the radio on and the windows open in the driveway near their fields for the duration of the fireworks display. If your horses are going to stay in a barn radio can be purchased for cheap and left in the barn even after the 4th.
6) Desensitize all year if your horse really has a problem. Obviously, it is a little late in the game to be desensitizing for tonight if you are just reading this post now. This is something to keep in mind for next year. Police horses are trained thoroughly, and one of their training areas is fireworks and bombs. They start them small when it comes to getting used to loud bangs, like popping balloons, and work there way up so the horse does not bat an eye when they are out in a riot and people are throwing fireworks around.
So what should you do with horse if you know they are going to have a fireworks display near by?
KEEP YOUR HORSE COMFORTABLE!
Know where they feel the safest and keep them there as long as it is safe, know what time the display might start, keep your fields and stalls as danger free as possible, if necessary do not feel bad about giving a sedative to help keep them from hurting themselves, get a radio or some other form of background noise so the booms are not as prominent, and try and get your horse a little more comfortable year round with loud banging sounds so the 4th of July doesn’t seem like Armageddon to them. I hope these tips helped and stay safe everyone!