What to know and do to keep your horse from panicking and possibly hurting himself at the sound of Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks.
Courtesy of horseandrider.com / JENNIFER FORSBERG MEYER
Fourth of July fireworks can cause extreme anxiety in some horses, leading to panicked behavior and even injury. If your horse falls into this category, or if he’s new to an area where he’ll hear firecrackers this month and you’re not sure how he’ll react, take steps to make sure he stays safe.
Prep in Advance
Find out what you can about any upcoming, nearby fireworks displays. How distant are they? What’s the timeframe for them, and how loud will they be?
Safety-check your horse’s stall, run, paddock, or pasture for anything that might injure him should he panic.
If the extent of the fireworks and your horse’s likely reaction warrant it, think about moving him to another, quieter location for the duration of the display.
Consider sedation. “Talk to your vet, of course,” advises H&R’s consulting veterinarian, Dr. Barb Crabbe.“ Acepromazine is a safe standby, and the newer under-the-tongue gel is something you, as the owner, can easily administer yourself.”
On Day of Fireworks
Put your horse in a familiar, safe place. This might be his stall if he’s accustomed to that, or a turnout area with strong, safe fencing. “Be sure there’s no opening—a window, a half-door—your horse might be tempted to try jumping out of,” cautions Dr. Crabbe. “As a prey animal, he’s prone to the ‘act first, think later’ routine when frightened.”
Insert ear plugs if your horse will tolerate them. Sections of cotton wool or sponge can work for this, as can pieces of polo wrap. There are also a range of commercial options on the market.
Administer sedation if you’ve determined this will be part of the plan for your horse. Your vet will have told you how far in advance of the fireworks to give it in order for the sedative to work best.
If practicable, leave music playing on a radio to serve as a calming influence and to help mask the fireworks noise.
Whatever happens, don’t put yourself in harm’s way; a panicked horse won’t hesitate to hurt himself—or you.