The end of the year is approaching and in many places in the country that means: fireworks! This can cause stress for horses and their owners. Can a horse get used to fireworks? And how do you make the turn of the year and the days preceding it as stress-free as possible for your horse?
Horses are prey animals, who naturally prefer to run before looking to see what's going on. It is therefore to be expected that horses are afraid of fireworks. Most horses will also not find carbide shooting very funny when they first hear it. But… police horses can handle all those bangs. And some other horses don't care much about it either. They are apparently used to it.
Start on time
Below we give you a number of tips to help your horse through the turn of the year more easily. It is useful if you introduce some of those things well before the turn of the year. Otherwise, you might just create more stress. You also have to build up some supplements a while in advance. So start preparing well before December 31!
Tip 1 – Routine
Horses function best when they are used to the daily routine. Therefore, do not suddenly put a horse that is always in the pasture at night in the stable on New Year's Eve. If you want, start it two weeks in advance. It is also not a good idea to suddenly treat your horse differently on the evening of December 31. That only creates more tension.
Tip 2 – Distraction
Make sure your horse has some distraction on New Year's Eve. A full hay bag, toys, willow branches, a filled hay ball... But here too: make sure your horse has already become acquainted with these objects and do not introduce any strange things when the fireworks start. Many people also feed their horses a tasty treat just before midnight. For example, a bucket of slobber. Then they are eating nicely when the fireworks erupt and it is a lot less scary.
Tip 3 – Mute sound and light
To keep out flashes of light and bangs, you can close the outside shutters and possibly tape the windows. In addition, you can turn on the radio in the stable to a quiet talk station and leave the light on. You will also be introducing these measures a few days before December 31. Then your horse is already used to it.
Tip 4 – Smart barn layout
If possible, make sure the frightened horses are not next to each other. Place a fearful horse next to a more 'bombproof' horse. Of course you also do this a week before old and new.
Tip 5 – Check pasture
Is your horse out in the herd for 24 hours? Make sure there are no objects that could injure the horses. So take the wheelbarrow out of the meadow and put the pitchfork away. Also check the fence and see if there are any strange protrusions that could injure the animals. Also make sure that there is enough power on the fence.
Tip 6 – Get used to it
At some locations, fireworks are set off weeks in advance. That way the horses get used to it a bit. You can also choose to play a video with flashes of light and fireworks sound on your phone. You can also train a positive association with fireworks sound by playing such a video when the horses are being fed. Start at a low volume the first time and then make it louder and louder over the next few days.
Tip 7 – Talk to your neighbours
Visit your neighbors in the days before old and new, possibly with a small gift. Explain to them that horses can experience a lot of stress from fireworks and ask if they want to take this into account, for example by lighting the fireworks on another side of their house.
Tip 8 – Stay calm yourself
Are you one of those dedicated horse owners who stays with your horses during the turn of the year? Or do you have the horses at home and do you check on them when the fireworks start? Then make sure you stay calm yourself. Do whatever you would otherwise do. Horses like fixed habits and if the owner suddenly acts strange, they are also immediately stressed.
Tip 9 – Soothing supplements
An anesthesia from the vet is not wise for most horses with old and new. Because your horse can hear and see the fireworks, but cannot physically react due to the anesthesia, this can actually reinforce the fear. A supplement that suppresses the stress response is therefore more effective. A herbal extract including chamomile and passion flower is very suitable for this. You should start this at least two days earlier. Preferably even a week in advance (possibly in a lower dose). The mineral magnesium also helps your horse to deal with tension, but this needs a few weeks to build up. You can also combine the herbal extract and magnesium.