This year, with the Covid restrictions reducing the number of organized displays, it is expected that more families will opt to stay at home with a bonfire and fireworks in their back garden. This could mean even more displays close to areas where horses are kept.
Many of us love firework displays, and are prepared for, and even enjoy the loud bangs and colourful flashes of light!
However, horses and ponies are “fright and flight” animals (and of course they don’t know its Bonfire Night) so unexpected loud noises and flashes of light in the night sky can cause severe stress reactions in some horses, and they may try to run away from the loud noises and flashes. In severe cases they may crash through fences, or try to jump out of their stable.
Luckily, there are some things that you can do in preparation, to help your horse remain as calm and relaxed as possible during a firework display.
- Look online, in the local press and radio, and on school or shop notice boards so you know when there may be a display near your yard. Talk to neighbours in case they intend to hold a private display, and then you will have a better idea of the dates and timings when you need to be extra careful and provide additional support for your horse.
- If your horse is usually stabled at night, it is generally advisable not to change an established routine, as this in itself can be stressful. Try to ensure his usual companions are around him, and ensure his stable is safe and secure, with no areas where he could injure himself if he became agitated, such as low haynets or racks. A little extra forage or some treats may ensure he is kept occupied longer than normal, and eating may distract him from the loud bangs and flashes.
- You may wish to check with your yard whether anyone will be staying later than usual, to check on the horses, or may wish to offer to do this yourself with a friend. Don’t be tempted to sit in the stable, but rather find a suitable safe spot nearby, and you need to remain calm, as horses will quickly react if they sense you are concerned. You need to stay out of danger as an agitated or startled horse can be dangerous!
- Be careful not to over-rug, as an agitated horse will quickly become sweaty, so a lighter weight, wicking rug may be preferable for a few days.
- You may wish to introduce a yard radio well before any displays are planned, secured safely away from all horses, and not set too loudly, but that will have become a normal and familiar sound, and may distract from the loud bangs.
- If he is normally field kept at this time of year, and you know he will be happier out, try to ensure that there is no likelihood of firework debris landing in his field. Check all fencing and gates are strong and secure, and that he has his normal companions around him.
- If you don’t already use one, consider introducing a calmer into his feed a few weeks before, to ensure you get maximum benefit. Equine America’s Super So-Kalm provides magnesium, calcium and vitamin B 1, all of which are reported to provide nutritional help with maintaining healthy a healthy nervous system, and have been used successfully to help maintain a calm temperament in stressful situations by horse keepers all over the world!
- On the day of the display, you can safely double the dose of Super So-Kalm, in two different feeds, or consider using Super So-Kalm paste, provided in a handy, easy to use graduated syringe, with 3 x 10 ml doses, in case you have more than one display locally. Super So-Kalm paste should be given approximately 2 hours before the fireworks start.
A little time spent in checking firework display locations and timings, managing your horse’s environment to ensure optimum distractions and safety, and using a high quality calmer from one of the UK’s biggest supplement manufacturers can help to ensure a stress-free fireworks night for you and your horse.
Consequently, if nervous tension is left unchecked, gut health could deteriorate and this is where a top pre and probiotic combination like Pro Gut Balancer comes into play. So, for the ultimate support this bonfire night, combine Super So Kalm and Pro Gut Balancer for a happy, healthy and calm horse.
By Deborah Lucas MSc.Eq.S.,CBiol., R.Nutr.