Simple steps to keeping your horses safe on fireworks night

There are several steps horse owners can take to help ease the stress of Fireworks Night.
Photo by Brian Tomlinson Photography

Fireworks are the bane of every horse owner, and many struggle to keep their animals safe during the noisy annual nightmare that is Guy Fawkes night.

November 5 is fast approaching, with the annual “Fireworks Night” commemorating “the Gunpowder Plot” in 1605, when an attempt on the life of King James I was foiled.

A survey last year by British animal welfare charity Blue Cross found that 73% prepared their horses for fireworks, with 51% formulating a plan with the yard. Preparations included putting them into a stable early, playing music and distracting them with food. Some owners also used prescribed medication and herbal remedies.

But 35% of those who responded reported accidents as a direct result of fireworks, with several detailing how their horses had lost their lives.

“Fireworks are a noisy, bright explosion to your horse’s senses and can be at best unsettling and at worst utterly terrifying,” said Clare Bevins, Veterinary Supervisor at Blue Cross in Burford.

“Try to plan ahead to keep all your animals safe during fireworks season. It’s also important to behave as normally and calmly as possible around them so that they don’t sense any unease.”

Earlier this year a study in Europe found detomidine gel could be a useful tool to alleviate horses’ anxiety during fireworks. Detomidine, an alpha-2 adrenoceptor agonist drug, is used during minor surgical procedures on the standing horse, and is also  used for enabling management tasks such as clipping, farriery, dentistry and wound dressing.

There are several steps horse owners can take to help ease the stress, and the horse team at Blue Cross has put together the following tips for owners and carers:

• Try to make sure fireworks aren’t set off near your horse’s field or stable. Keep a check on plans for local displays and tell neighbours and local firework display organisers that there are horses nearby so they can make sure fireworks are set off well away from them.

• Anyone planning a display in a rural area should let neighbouring farmers know in advance.

• Your horse will cope best in a familiar environment, keeping to his or her normal routine and with any usual companions during firework season.

• If your horse is usually stabled, then keep them stabled. Do a full check of the stable for anything that could cause an injury, such as nails sticking out, before you leave them.

• If they are normally outside in the field, keep them there as long as the field is safe, secure, and away from fireworks display areas.

• If you know fireworks will be set off near your horse, make sure you or someone experienced stays with them. This way you can observe your horse’s behaviour and make sure they stay safe and as calm as possible. It also means that you can react quickly if your horse becomes upset.

• Try to keep calm and positive throughout any displays, as horses can sense unease in people and if you are worried your horse’s fear may worsen.

• If your horse doesn’t like loud or sudden noises or has become worried by fireworks in the past, speak with your vet before firework season begins or consider moving them for the night.

• Be careful yourself. Try not to get in the way if your horse becomes startled as you might get hurt.

• Never run the risk of riding when you think fireworks might be set off.

• If you need to leave your horse in another person’s care during a firework show, leave clear instructions and contact details for yourself and your vet in case of any problems.

• If there has been a display near your stable, yard or field, check the area for bits of used firework and put anything that could be dangerous to your horse in the bin.

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