The lead up to the 5 November and following days can be a very worrying time for pet owners, especially for those with horses. As prey animals, horses can often be affected by the loud bangs and flashes that generally take place on Bonfire Night.
Dr. Courtney Miller BS BVetMed MRCVS, Technical Director at Dodson & Horrell tell us about her top tips for keeping your horse calm:
1. First of all, Bonfire Night is a good occasion to spend a little bit more time with your horse - something that many of us will see as only a perfect excuse to be with them. If this is something that you are planning on doing, a top tip would be for you to remain as calm as possible, as this behaviour can subtly rub off on your horse. If you are thinking about staying around a little longer why not take this opportunity to have a stable tidy up - as long as you also remain safe!
2. Many of us keep our horses outside throughout the year and if ahead of Bonfire Night you’re thinking about making a change to their routine (i.e. stable them for the evening), ensure that you give yourself and your horse plenty of time to implement the change, so that it becomes the norm by the time of the event – any sudden and unfamiliar change could have the opposite effect, so be sure to keep this in mind before making any rash decisions to change their environment
3. For horses that are usually stabled in the evening and are comfortable with artificial light and the radio, it can be a good idea to leave some sound playing in the background and an outside light shining, as this may help to dull the impact of the potentially sharp and loud noises that come from displays.
4. If your horse doesn’t have access to stabling and is comfortable in turnout boots, it’s a good idea to put them on overnight to help prevent any minor scratches as a result of any stress-related reactions. Ensure all structural risk areas (i.e. fences and/or potential snags in stables) are tended to in order to decrease the risk of injury ahead of leaving them for the evening.
5. Lastly, and regardless of whether your horse is in the field or in a stable, it is a good idea to provide as much alternative enrichment as possible: For example, if there is no medical reason not to provide extra hay overnight, a favourite fibre product, or a lick, this might be a good option to help provide some distraction. Check out Uni-block for distraction, Placid, Be Calm Balancer, Hedgerow Herbs to top dress fibre and boost palatability, Kwikbeet, Fibre Fusion, Fibergy, Just Grass, Alfalfa or Alfalfa Oil Plus for fibre product ideas!
As well as our very own in house Vet, Brand Ambassador and Paralympic dressage rider Sophie Wells MBE, also has some tips on what she does to ensure her horses stay calm on Bonfire Night:
“It is important to keep your horse somewhere familiar on Bonfire Night to help curb their stress levels. They are creatures of habit and thrive on routine, so suddenly changing this could add extra anxiety on the night. However, safety is paramount and if this means stabling for a few nights while fireworks take place it should be considered.
I like to keep your eye on local notice boards and social media groups for Bonfire Night events in the area and find out their proximity to the yard to help plan ahead. If the events are particularly close it may be best to stay with your horse to be on hand if there are any issues.”