The lead up to Fireworks Night can be very stressful on animal owners as they worry about how their animals will react to the loud bangs and lights in the sky. For most pet owners the answer is simple – find out when local public and private displays are scheduled and then shut your pets indoors and keep them nearby to reassure them. However, for horse owners the problem is less simple!
Although it is sensible to stable particularly sensitive and highly strung horses, or if there is a fireworks party in close proximity, I have found that by leaving horses in their normal routine, even if this means that they stay out in the paddock, presents the best chance of them settling after a period of excitement with the first fireworks. I know my older horses hardly bat an eyelid now, and this attitude transfers to the younger horses. However, I am extra vigilant with regards to fencing and tend to take rugs off if I can to avoid them being caught or ripped. I also like to take a quick walk round the fields before bedtime to check for any injuries. It is also important to not introduce new horses to a herd or move fields at this time as both can unsettle a group of horses and make them more prone to having a charge around!
If you do want to stable your horse during the firework period, and this represents a change in his management, it is a good idea to introduce this new routine before the fireworks start so he doesn’t make an association between being stabled and the loud fireworks in the sky. Horses are naturally claustrophobic animals, and you may find that if he suddenly finds himself stabled with load noises outside, he becomes very stressed.
If your horse does react badly to fireworks, there are some things that you can try a few things to help although it is a difficult problem to solve completely due to the unpredictable and sudden way that noise from fireworks occur. Try using ear covers as they will reduce the noise levels a little or I have heard of people using equine ‘ear plugs’. You can also try desensitising your horse to loud noises by playing music in the stable block. Start with it on a low volume and monitor how he copes. Once he is comfortable with a certain level, increase the volume. By playing the music at feed time, you will begin to create an association with loud noise and food, hopefully reducing the chance of him going of his feed during the firework period. In your general handling of your horse, keep noise levels up, be it your talking or singing. Do not worry about making some sudden noises as this will all go towards teaching him to cope with the loud noises of Fireworks Night.