Fireworks are inevitable on the Fourth of July. While we humans may love getting to watch a fireworks show, your horse is probably less enthusiastic about the loud bangs and smoke that come with the event. Here are some ways to make sure your horse is comfortable and safe this upcoming holiday.
Create a Game Plan
By nature, horses are prey animals. When it comes to fight or flight, their instinct is flight. Unfortunately, we can’t communicate to our horses that the sounds of fireworks aren’t a threat and that there’s no need to fear. If your horse is especially spooky or nervous, it’s important to take extra precaution to prevent injuries or stress.
Before the Fourth rolls around, get in touch with your neighbors and others in your community to determine if they’re planning on setting off fireworks. If they are, politely remind them that you have horses and ask them to set off fireworks away from your barn. Being able to know ahead of time about fireworks around you can help you to prepare your horses.
Decide on whether or not you will keep your horses inside or turn them out. Horses crave stability and routine, so it may be beneficial to continue your normal turn out schedule. However, if you believe your horse may run and hurt themselves, make plans to leave your horse in that evening. If your horse is used to being around a buddy, don’t separate them. Horses are herd animals and do best when they’re with other animals.
Take Time to Prepare
If possible, get your horses accustomed to loud noises beforehand. Desensitizing your horse may take time, but it is the safest option for both you and your horse. Find a recording of fireworks and play it softly during an activity your horse enjoys, such as grooming or feeding.
Continue playing the recording for the next couple of days while grooming or feeding your horse, slowly increasing the volume a little each day. If your horse acts skittish when the volume is increased, decrease the volume for a couple of days and then work your way back up to the louder volume. By the end of this exercise, your horse should be completely accustomed to the sudden, loud noises of a fireworks show.
Take time to look over your property before the Fourth of July. Horses are experts at injuring themselves, and removing dangers is the best way to prevent a call to the vet. Check stalls for any loose nails or boards. Make sure that all double-ended snaps are clipped with all snaps facing towards walls so that your horse doesn’t get caught on them. Inspect pastures to make sure that all fencing is sturdy, gates latch securely, and that there are no large holes, rocks, or other hazards. If you have an electric fence, ensure that it is working properly and that there are no breaks.
If your horse is extremely skittish and spooky, consider the potential benefits of calming agents. If choosing to use a calming agent such as Daily CalmⓇ for Horses, it should be added to your horse’s diet a few days before the Fourth so that levels can build up in your horse’s system. Earplugs may also be a great option for your horse. Make sure that your horse is used to earplugs well before the Fourth of July.
What to Do on the Fourth of July
During the fireworks shows, make sure your horses are as comfortable as possible. Check to make sure that your horses have enough hay to keep them occupied during the evening. Consider playing music to help muffle the sudden noises of fireworks. Ensure that you’re able to check in on your horse during and after fireworks. If you’re not able to, make sure that someone knowledgeable is able to check in. Provide them with clear instructions as well as contact information for you and your veterinarian should an issue arise.
It’s important to use common sense in situations with a nervous horse. Keep yourself calm and positive, as horses can sense unease and this may make a situation worse. Watch out for your safety and make sure that you’re not putting yourself into a dangerous situation.
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