The Fourth of July is tomorrow and that means barbecues, HOT DOGS, (Mmm mmm mmm) and of course fireworks! Fireworks are magnificent and a great way to celebrate. But in a horse’s mind, the loud sounds and bright lights can mean “something is attacking me!” and trigger a horse’s flight response. This can be very dangerous for the horse and people around them, too.
When any creature (even humans) is put in an unexpected and fearful situation, the body triggers the “fight or flight” response. This means you either stay put and fight whomever/whatever is attacking you or you run away as fast as you can with your tail between your legs. Since horses are prey animals, we tend to run more than fight. When the other “Horse Heroes” pins their ears back, I know I’m in trouble and the first thing I do is run.
During the fireworks display, there are bright lights and loud noises that can startle your horse. We can pose a danger to ourselves as well as others close by whether in a stall or out in the paddock. Horses try to get away as fast as possible and that can mean a frightened 1200 lb animal charging through a stall door or jumping over a fence and into a potentially dangerous situation.
To help your horse manage its “fight or flight” response during the upcoming Independence Day celebration, remember the following Fireworks Safety Tips:
Fireworks must not be set off near livestock or horses in fields or in stables
It is best to keep your horse in its normal routine
Risk assess your stable and plan to limit disturbances
Ensure whether or not there are any planned displays nearby
Warn local organizers and schools that there are horses in the area
Organize your plans in advance
Remain calm and positive as horses will sense unease in a person
Keep your horse in a familiar environment
Safety for everyone is key – do not put yourself in danger
You can also prepare for fireworks by softly playing music in the barn a couple of weeks before and gradually increase the volume. When the time comes, hopefully the music will mask the fireworks popping noises in the sky. Also, le aving the barn lights on can help decrease the effects of the bright lights of the fireworks. If these techniques won’t work for your horse, consider contacting your veterinarian to get a sedative for them. Remember, safety is the first priority! For more information about firework safety, click here.
Now, it’s time to enjoy hot dogs, corn on the cob, and watermelon (drools) all weekend!
Happy 4th of July!
See you soon,