Horses & Fireworks

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What to do with my horse during New Year’s Eve and its fireworks? Stable, pasture, paddock, music or no music, windows open or closed?
For horse owners in the Netherlands, where we live, this is a subject that requires some serious thought every year and I get asked these questions a lot during this specific season.
A couple of questions to ask yourself when making your choice:

How busy is the neighborhood your horse is living and do you expect a lot of fireworks close by?
Are you new in the neighborhood? Then check this! Some streets that are normally quiet and have little traffic could be very popular during New Year’s Eve. Ask the neighbors and other people in your stable to share their experiences from the past years!

What are other owners in your stable doing? Will the other horses be in- or out?
Will all the other horses be inside? Than it will probably be a good idea not to turn your horse out on it’s own. This way he would not only have the stress from the fireworks but also from being alone. (Despite what he might be used to, don’t forget that your horses is a herd animal by nature). Of course the same is true the other way around; if all other horses are going to stay in the pasture, you might want to think about keeping your horse out with the others.

What has my horse experience the last couple of years and what was his reaction?
If your horse has always been kept outside during New Year’s and this went fine, then why change? But if you know that, the last time, he ran over every fence and totally freaked out than it might be a good idea to try something different this year.

How has my horse been kept in daily life (stable or pasture?)?
If your horse usually doesn’t ever stay inside, than be careful with suddenly locking him up inside the stable. (Remember; your horses is a flight animal and thus claustrophobic and a stable is a drastic restriction of his flight space).

imagesHow fast does my horse learn?
Of course we know all horses are different. Most horses learn fairly quickly by experiencing something repeatedly (for example; a truck passes by three times, he survives, and after three times his fear is gone). Some horses are a bit more complicated though and are not as able to learn by repetition alone (these horses need to survive a truck for at least 100 times before they trust it). These horses are definitely not less bright, they just learn in a different way. And so it might not be a good idea to expose them to something extreme like fireworks, and just expect them to learn how to deal with it.

How extreme does my horse usually react to fear (on a scale of 1-10)?
In this horses tend to be very different as well. Does your horse have the tendency to react very extreme to new situations or tension? Then try to make the whole happening as quiet and peaceful as possible for him to reduce the risks of accidents happening. (This is a good idea anyway, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet!) 😉

Can somebody that you trust keep an eye on your horse?
Unfortunately we’ve all heard about accidents that have happened with horses during New Year’s Eve. We also know that not everyone has the best intentions with our horse and that there are always people around that find it funny to have a bit of a laugh and a joke by putting our horses in harms way with fireworks.
So make sure there is always someone near that you trust to keep an eye on anything suspicious. Especially when your horse will stay out during the night it’s a good idea to put your neighbors to attention in case someone tries to approach your horse. Ask your neighbors to give you a call in case something weird happens.

*We usually advise people who want to keep their horses in the stable for the fireworks to then really shut the whole thing out. This means closing doors and windows (make sure they can’t even see the fireworks because this can scare them as much as the noise) and turn on some light radio or peaceful music to shut out the noise.
This way you have as little risk as possible that your horse will feel the need or possibility to flee and panic and he will not even be aware of the war outside.

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