Fireworks can be a problem year-round with holidays like the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve traditionally being celebrated with spectacular displays. But fireworks can be stressful for horses (and their owners). Horses spook and startle at loud noises. If your horse has difficulty coping, they may need extra support to stay safe and calm.
You can do a few things to make fireworks less stressful for your horse.
The Top 10 Tips on How To Calm Your Horse During Fireworks
1. Provide Hay, Hay, and More Hay
Keeping your horse busy and distracted is the easiest way to keep them calm during fireworks displays. When your horse is eating, they have less energy to focus on other things. If you know that a fireworks display is coming up, make sure your horse has hay in front of them at all times.
However your horse is used to normally getting their hay is fine. Whether it’s making sure there’s a fresh bale in the feeder, hay on the ground or stall floor, or some hanging in a hay net. If your horse gets particularly anxious, consider hanging a few extra nets around their stall or on fence posts in the field. This gives your horse the opportunity to move between bags of food and keep themselves busy, especially if they like to pace when anxious.
2. Speak to Your Neighbors
Presumably, your neighbors already know that you have horses, and if they don’t, they should. It’s okay to politely request that they don’t set fireworks off too close to your horses to cause panic.
It’s also a good idea to have your neighbors know what your horses look like and where they belong. If the unthinkable happens and one gets out of their paddock or field, they’re more likely to be returned home.
3. Stick to Your Horse’s Routine
Horses are creatures of habit and take comfort in their routines. An upcoming fireworks display is a reason to stick to your horse’s routine, not change it up.
If your horse is used to being stabled overnight, do so. If they live outdoors 24/7, this isn’t the time to put them in the barn. They will be calmer and more comfortable in their normal surroundings, accompanied by their herd.
4. Check Fencing
If your horse is kept in an outdoor paddock or field, double-check to ensure that they are secure. Fence posts, rails, and wires can easily come loose over time and increase your horse’s risk of getting injured or out of the fence. Knowing that they can’t will give you peace of mind and keep them safe.
5. Provide Extra Support
Some horses are naturally more anxious than others. While one horse might sit through fireworks without batting an eye, another will buck and run around the field like a wild stallion.
You should already know if your horse gets anxious with loud noises. If prepping and adjusting their surroundings isn’t enough, they may need extra support from a calming paste or supplement. These can be found easily at most tack stores and can relieve stress prior to the fireworks display.
6. Maintain Safety Boundaries
If your horse is worked up, it’s natural to want to calm them down, but startled horses can accidentally injure you. Be aware of changes in your horse’s behavior and how they are interacting with you, so you don’t put yourself in danger.
7. Don’t Ride During Fireworks
This should probably go without saying, but it’s best not to ride during a fireworks show. If your horse spooks, both of you could get injured.
8. Play Music in the Barn
If your horse is stabled, playing the radio or music can help drown out the noise of the fireworks. Fans also help. Many horses find the white noise soothing, and it offers a distraction from the loud noises outside.
9. Stay With Your Horse
If you know that fireworks are going to be set off, keep an eye on your horse. If your presence calms them, stay with them, groom them, and talk to them. Your company might just be enough to get them through it.
If they’re upset by fireworks, it’s a good idea to watch out to ensure that they’re not hurting themselves or other horses around them.
10. Thoroughly Check Your Horse and Their Surroundings the Next Day
The day after the fireworks, give your horse a once over and check the fence again for any damage. In most cases, your horse will make it through without injury, but if they didn’t, you want to know as soon as possible so you can treat it accordingly.
Signs Your Horse Is Stressed or Anxious
Knowing the signs that your horse is stressed or anxious can help you know when it’s time to intervene. Here are a few common signs that your horse is feeling stressed:
If your horse gets stressed during fireworks displays, you can do a few things to help them stay calm. Most of the time, keeping food in front of them and managing their environment is enough. For extra-anxious horses, a calming paste can help. Being prepared in advance is the best defense to prevent your horse from hurting themselves during holiday celebrations.
Featured Image Credit: Naletova Elena, Shutterstock