New years eve is often a nervous moment for horse owners. Because how do the horses get through the night? Won’t they be shocked by the noise and the flares? There will be a fireworks ban in 2020 (in the Netherlands), but carbide shooting is not prohibited in many places. There are also people who will not care about the fireworks ban. How do you help your horse through the New Year? We have five tips for you!
A horse is a flight animal, so its instinctual response to scary things is always to run! Whether that is with a scary place in the arena or a chipped firecracker. How can you ensure that these kinds of shock reactions are somewhat contained?
Acute stress in horses
Fright reactions such as fireworks or unexpected events are referred to as acute stress. This stress comes on suddenly and is short lived. When the “danger” has passed, the horse comes to rest. The heart rate and breathing go up for a moment, the horse tightens all its muscles and expands its nostrils, but quickly returns to normal. During short-term stress, there is a brief peak in the release of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol.
There are a few things you can do to help your horse through such a stress moment more easily and to reduce the “stress peak”.
Tip 1: Social contact
Make sure your horse is with other horses or at least can see, hear or smell them. This is reassuring for a herd animal.
Tip 2: Enough roughage
A horse that has roughage in its stomach usually reacts less violently to scary things. An empty stomach can be painful and cause extra stress. So make sure that your horse has sufficient roughage available for old and new.
Tip 3: Normal rhythm
In the run-up to New Years eve, try to keep to the “normal” rhythm as much as possible. Feed your horse at the same times, take him outside at the usual times and train at the same time. This will not always be possible, but the more your horse can stay in his normal rhythm, the more relaxed he will be.
Tip 4: Provide extra magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that is necessary for many processes in the body, including for the muscles and the optimal functioning of the nervous system. A horse that has a magnesium deficiency is less able to dissipate tension. The need for magnesium differs per horse, but a horse consumes extra magnesium during moments of stress. The body does not make it itself, magnesium must come from the diet. It therefore doesn’t hurt to give a little extra magnesium around the turn of the year.
Tip 5: Herbs
Herbs and essential oils can also help combat stress. Heltie Horse® Stress includes passion flower, chamomile, agnus and sunflower. It has a calming but non-narcotic effect and is doping-free. For short-term stress moments such as the New Year, the farrier or a competition, you give 50 to 100 ml 48 hours before the expected stress moment. You repeat this after 24 hours. Your horse is then ready for the exciting moment. In the case of New Year’s Eve, we recommend dividing the 100ml over 2x 50ml in a day.