The Fourth of July holiday, New Year's Eve, and other events that use fireworks displays bring a concern to horse owners around the country. Not only is it a great time to get together with family and friends but it is also a time for fireworks. This is celebrated by all and feared by many horse owners.
Make sure your horse has a permanent traceable ID so that if the worse happens and your horse gets away, that you have a way to prove ownership. You also want to give your horse a chance to help himself get home via equine identification such as a microchip.
Some horses are scared by big booms and flashing lights. Some are not. For those that are afraid desensitizing methods and a well-planned safety plan may help keep them at home safe.
Before the Event
- Take current photos of all sides of your horse (with you in them) to have on hand in case they were to escape.
- The 4th of July is also a great time to make sure your horse is microchipped. Be sure to visit our NetPosse Store to purchase microchip kits with not one but two, national registries.
- Speak with your veterinarian ahead of time. Discuss options that may include supplements or medication to help keep your horse calm during the fireworks.
- First aid kit - not just for the horses but also the humans should your horse get spooked and injure himself or you.
- Play recordings of things that go boom like fireworks, thunderstorms, gunshots, loud music, etc. for your horse. Start with the sound low and increase it gradually as your horse adjusts to the sounds.
Devise Your Plan
- Find out where and when fireworks will be displayed in your area.
- Develop your emergency plan of action.
- Are fireworks lawful in your area? You can report unlawful fireworks but you may or may not get a response from law enforcement on such a busy night.
- Don’t be surprised if individuals shoot their own fireworks in your neighborhood. Find out when and where they plan on celebrating with their display. If you can, move your horses to another area or desensitize them before the big event.
- If the fireworks are near your property, keep a fire extinguisher and/or water hose handy in case embers drop in your pasture or on your barn.
- Do you need liability insurance in case your scared horse escapes and causes damage or an accident? Plan ahead, especially if you have a horse that you know is prone to escaping his pasture.
Exposing your horses to loud noises before the firework fun begins may help them get used to the loud noises.
- Couple the sound with something that your horse enjoys, such as a treat, while he is listing to the sound.
- You can purchase recordings of these sounds online.
- If your horse is in the stall, play loud music to help drown out the booms.
- Provide lots of food to keep your horse interested in something they like and hopefully, they will ignore the fireworks.
- Check all gates, paddocks, stall doors. And then check them again a few more times. It is best to keep your horses as far away from the excitement and noise as possible and in a safely fenced area. However, if your horse is not used to being kept out at night it may be best to not change its routine.
- Keep the barn lights on and play music or watch TV. The background sounds can help dull the shock of firework noises.
- Add cotton to the ears to dull the sounds.
- Find a way to mimic flashing lights for short periods of time. This may take some thinking on your part but maybe a strobe light or disco ball are good choices.
Lights in the Sky
- Hay, hay, and more hay so that your horse is chomping away on its food and paying less attention to the sky.
- Make sure your horse is participating in an activity he enjoys when your start your light show. Start slow and increase the flashes.
- If our horse is in the barn, keep the lights on to minimize the flashes of light.
- To keep you from being injured in case your horse panics, stay out of the stall when you are working with your horse.
- Determine where your horse will feel safest—stall or pasture.
- Check for anything that can potentially harm your horse in his stall if you plan on keeping him inside during the fireworks.
- Check fencing to make sure that it is in good repair if you plan on keeping your horse in the pasture. Hopefully, your horse will remember where the fence is and will not crash through it.
- Have your veterinarian or an emergency vet hospital on hand in case something goes wrong.
- Have law enforcement and animal control numbers available.
- Pair your horse with a seasoned horse who has already been exposed to fireworks and pays them little to no attention.
- Contact your vet and have a plan of action for the horses that you know cannot handle bright flashing lights or loud noises. Your vet may recommend a supplement to calm your horse.
- Don't forget to check your pasture, paddocks, etc, after the fireworks for debris that could hurt your horse.
Don't be so preoccupied with the safety of your horse that you forget to watch out for your own safety. Don’t try to stay with your horse in his stall or next to him in the pasture to comfort him. If your horse does escape due to the fireworks, you probably won’t be able to stop him and will risk getting yourself injured in the process.FYI Cold Hard Fact Reminder (That Will Not Be A Popular One For Many)
It is a fact, not everyone is going to stop shooting off their fireworks because you think they should. One has to wonder what all of the pet/horse owners in the United States do when there are public fireworks displays in their community, especially if they are near your farm or home. Can you call up the event planners and halt a display because it upsets you or your animals? Of course not. So why do some people think they can impede the legal rights of other people?
There are many areas of the country where it is legal to set off fireworks. Although someone may feel it is inconsiderate or selfish, a person has the right to do so and is protected by the laws regarding fireworks. Knowing this fact, we hope that everyone does the best they can to prepare in whatever manner you choose to protect your animals.
We know this next fact is really not going to be popular with some horse owners, but it is the truth. We all worry about our own animals, especially ones that get upset during the fireworks events.
It will not be your neighbor's fault during this holiday if your animal is stressed or gets loose due to the legal fireworks and celebrations. It is your responsibility as a pet/horse owner to make sure your animals are properly trained and desensitized, and more importantly, contained. And if you have a particularly easily-stressed animal it is your job to get sedatives from a vet to ensure your animals are safe.
Don't be one of the people posting about how terrible your neighbors are if they have legal rights (depending on the area) to shoot off fireworks on their properties. If it is not legal to use fireworks in your area, call 911 and have the incident investigated.