The sights and sounds of fireworks are probably going to be pretty commonplace until the New Year. While Bonfire Night may have been a blast for you, there might be some lessons to be learned if you’re a horse owner. The bright lights, loud sounds and strange smells of fireworks can be frightening for your horse. With this in mind, our horse health expert has offered the following insight.

1. Prepare well

Predicting when fireworks will be going off is tricky at this time of year but do check to see if any displays will be going on, such as around the Christmas and new year period. To be on the safe side, it’s best not to ride or travel with your horse at dusk, especially around urban areas. Typically, horses instinctively flee if they think they’re in danger, which could lead to injuries. What’s more, the surge of adrenaline could cause other physiological effects that lead to issues such as diarrhoea and colic. As well as this, fireworks can cause serious burns and are a risk to grass-kept horses.

2. Keep things normal

It’s a good idea to keep things as normal as possible for your horse. If they usually stay in a stable then keep them there and, if they’re usually turned out then let them remain in the field. You could stable your horse for firework season but do adjust their routine gradually in order to get them used to staying indoors before the season begins. Wherever you decide to keep your horse, it could also help to have other horses nearby to give them reassurance.

3. Secure the area

Just in case your equine tries to bolt, make sure all stable walls and fencing around your horse’s field are safe and secure. Tie any hay nets high, in a quick release knot, to reduce the chances of them getting tangled. Provide them with plenty of bedding, with banks around the walls to stop them from doing themselves an injury if they panic. You could consider placing a grill above their stable door for safety. Closing the top stable door might also be worthwhile but only if your horse is accustomed to this and their stable area is well ventilated.

4. Occupy them

Having something to take your horse’s mind off the loud noises and bright lights outside could be useful. If your horse stays in a stable at night, give them some forage to keep them occupied. You could also give them a stable toy, such as a treat ball or a lick, to distract them. Music could also help to mask the sudden sounds of fireworks. However, you should make sure that your four-legged friend is comfortable with music and volume before any nights when fireworks might go off.

5. Safety first

If you rug your horse, make sure all straps are fastened correctly and securely so that your four-legged friend’s blanket doesn’t slip if they panic. It’s important to look out for your own safety too, so don’t go into your horse’s field or stable if they’re alarmed. That being said, it’s worth staying with your horse or having someone knowledgeable on hand if you’re not available. Plus, make sure the phone at the yard is charged and the number for your vet is on hand. Ensure you know the full address and postcode of your yard to ensure a vet can get there quickly in an emergency.

6. To sedate or not to sedate?

Contact your vet before any firework displays are expected if you think that your horse might need sedation in order to keep calm. There are a variety of types of sedatives available for horses, so don’t simply accept whatever you’re given by somebody on the yard. Your vet could advise you on the correct type and dosage. They should also check over your horse, listen to their heart and make sure that they’re fit to be sedated. If you’re insured with us, we wouldn’t cover sedatives because they’re classed as being used to control your horse’s behaviour.

After firework displays have been on, check the yard and fields for any debris that has landed and dispose of it. While this time of year can be stressful, it’s important to stay calm in case your horse picks up on your anxiety. If you’ve had your horse for several years, you may already know how your horse might react and how effective certain comforting measures are. Above all else, stay calm, prepare well and try to stick to your usual routine. If anything goes wrong or you need any health advice for your horse, be sure to contact your vet.

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