The 4th of July holiday is a wonderful opportunity to remember all that is great about America. Across the country, we celebrate with parades, speeches, picnics – and fireworks. Some horses do not mind loud noises while others become stressed and spook easily. Here are some ideas on how to help your horse cope.
A SAFE PLACE
Inside or outside? This is a decision only you can make about your horse. Many feel that horses are safest and most comfortable in an enclosed 12 x 12 stall. Others feel that since horses are “flight animals”, keeping them enclosed is scary and prefer to turn them out. Whichever you choose, make sure that the area is safe of all hazards – loose nails, broken fences, holes, etc.
FRIENDS AND FOOD
If your horse is sensitive to noise, you may want to stable them or turn them out with a calm friend. Finding an extra special food treat during fireworks can also help keep their mind off the noise. If your horse usually gets local hay, try a flake or two of alfalfa. Put hay in a hay bag or slow feeder so that it takes longer for them to eat. Add an empty milk jug with a section cut out and add horse cookies. Your horse will soon be more interested in bumping the jug to get the cookies out than any bright flashes.
While the bright lights of fireworks are scary, it’s the loud “booms” that frighten horses most. Many people keep a radio on during the explosions. Choose a station that can help drown out the sound. Another option is a white noise machine or CD. These usually consist of ocean sounds or other repetitive sounds. It’s been found that dogs actually respond more to “pink noise” (yes there are colors of noise) so find out what works best for your horse. Finally, there are ear plugs you can buy for your horse that dampen the noise.
There are many ways you can de-stress your horse. You can try something holistic like aromatherapy or pheromones. Some over-the-counter non-drug calming paste can work for those mildly stressed. But for those truly terrified, talk to your vet about sedation. There are different drugs for different levels of relaxation. These may be in paste form or administered intramuscularly. Make sure you have what you need and administer it BEFORE the excitement begins.
RETURN TO SENDER
Most horse owners agree that horses in stalls should not have halters left on. But leaving a breakaway halter on that has your name and contact info can help someone catch your horse and return your horse if he is to escape. You can also braid your emergency information into your horse’s mane or write your phone number on his hoof.