The Fourth of July is a commemoration of American Independence, celebrated across these United States, often with the fun and excitement of picnics, barbecues and fireworks. The celebratory events are fun for many but can also leave our four-legged friends, large and small, feeling scared and nervous. Horses have a variety of responses to fireworks which range from those horses who barely notice the lights and sounds to those who experience high levels of anxiety (and everything in between). Special consideration should be given to each horse and their specific response level to fireworks when managing their experience. Congratulations if your horse is calm, cool and collected when it comes to coping with Fourth of July celebrations. However, if your horse is not a fan of explosive celebrations of American Independence, you have options to help them cope. Below are some suggestions to help you and your horses better manage the excitement that comes with Fourth of July celebrations.
Make sure your horse is in familiar, safe and comfortable surroundings. Some horses are used to being turned out while others are used to being stabled. It is best that your horse is in an environment to which they are accustomed and easily managed. Regardless, if they are turned out or stabled, confirm fencing and stabling is safe, secure and able to withstand impact from an anxious horse.
Stabled Horses - If your horse is stabled there are ways to help mitigate your horses sensory experience of fireworks.
- Close doors and windows - Limit your horse’s view of outside light by closing or blacking-out doors and windows. Closed windows and doors help limit your horses view of firework flashes. The flashes can often be as distressing, if not more than the booms.
- Turn on the lights - Use bright lights to illuminate the inside of your barn, drowning out firework flashes. This, in combination, with closing doors and windows should greatly reduce anxiety caused by the flashing of fireworks.
- Adding friendly noise – It is difficult to completely cover up the boom of fireworks, but we can mask them by adding to them. When turning up music in your barn, the fireworks may not sound as jarring to your horse. The music also provides a consistent loud sound filling in the gaps of sporadic sounding fireworks. While hard core metal may be your jam, this is probably a good time to check out classical or smooth jazz.
- Fan – Given it is summer many barns may already have fans in use however, if you do not, they may be a good addition to help settle an anxious hors on the 4th. The fan will not only move air on a presumably hot summer night, but it will also provide a source of white noise. An easy way to secure a box fan is with the Weaver Adjustable Box Fan Bag or the Classic Equine Hanging Box Fan Bag.
Horse Accessories – There are some accessories which may help reduce the noise of fireworks.
- Noise reducing Fly Veils – Fly veils or bonnets with thicker ears limit sounds heard by horses. These fly veils do not completely cancel noise, but they will help muffle sounds and likely reduce booms of fireworks for your horse. It is important that your horse is comfortable with the use of fly veils before use during fireworks. Some great examples of Nose reducing Fly Veils are the Schockemohle Air Silent Fly Veil and the Plughz Sound Off 2 ear Net.
- Ear Plugs – Ear plugs also reduce loud noise and may be more effective than noise reducing fly veils to limits anxiety caused by firework booms. It is also important to confirm your horse is comfortable with the use of ear plugs prior to using them during fireworks. Some great examples of ear plugs are the Plughz Equine Ear Plugs and the Pomms Smooth Style Ear Plugs 4 Pack.
Calming Supplements – A variety of supplements can help reduce stress and anxiety in horses. Calming supplements can do an excellent job taking the “edge” off and anxious horse. While they do not have the same effect as doctor prescribed tranquilizers, they are available over-the-counter and may provide needed calming when used by themselves or in combination with other above mentioned suggestions to help reduce your horses anxiety level during fireworks. It is important to follow feeding and dosing directions when using calming supplements as some may need to be administered 24 hours in advance. Please consult your veterinarian and follow all directions when using any supplements. Big Dee’s makes no claims, explicit or implied, regarding the use of supplements. Some great examples of calming supplements are Equi+Calm Syringe 30cc, Spectra Mega Calm Equine and Cavalor Calm.
Veterinary Support – Sometimes a horse’s anxiety is too difficult to mitigate without the help of a licensed veterinarian. For the safety of our horses and ourselves, it is important to call your vet if your horse’s reaction to fireworks is no longer manageable.
We would like to wish everyone a very happy and safe Fourth of July!