When the snap, crackle and pops of the Fourth of July light up the sky, a horse’s reaction can range anywhere from scant acknowledgment to an all-out panic. As creatures of flight, a horse can become easily startled by the evening’s festivities and have unpredictable behavior. Vets and horse owners alike have witnessed when the holiday goes awry – from minor nicks or a full lather from sweating to the more serious injuries of broken limbs and gashes. Strong reactions to loud noise and random flashes of light increase the risk of injury – but by taking a few precautions – we can lessen that risk and help ensure a safe holiday!
- Avoid fireworks displays on property where horses reside. Not only do fireworks cause a risk to horses – it can also cause tragic property damage with the level of flammable items in a barn (hay, shavings, etc.) should a stray flame hit or smolder.
- If your neighbors are planning on firing off some, ask that they avoid setting off fireworks towards the horses.
- Keep horses inside if at all possible. If your horse is not used to being kept inside in the evening, spend a few days prior to the holiday to acclimate them to the schedule to avoid undue stress. Having hay handy will help keep your horse settled as well as keeping a more nervous horse near a quieter, calm buddy.
- For outdoor horses, consider moving them to a quiet facility if you know fireworks will occur in your vicinity. If this isn’t an option, be sure to check fencing to ensure there is nothing a frightened horse might readily catch itself on (loose nail, board or other objects). A startled horse is likely to spook and run so checking the ground for any holes that may present a hazard.
- Cotton or horse ear plugs can be used to help muffle the sound and keep anxiousness at bay. Music can also be played to help as a distraction and barn lights can be kept on to help lessen the impact of the fireworks.
- Talk to your vet if you’re concerned your horse may still react in a way that endangers itself or others. Sedation may be an option if your vet feels it is the best course of action. There are other calming products on the market too that may be a good alternative.
- A stressed out horse increases the risk
- Have a first-aid kit handy – just in case!
- Check your horse and property the day after to ensure there are no injuries or stray firework pieces in any paddocks.
Taking such precautions will help ensure your horse’s safety and comfort. May your Fourth of July be both happy and safe for you and your equine friend!