How to create a safe New Year's Eve for your horse
New Year's Eve and other celebrations can bring mixed feelings for horse owners. Many people will be familiar with their horse’s behaviour. However, it can be difficult to know how they will react to fireworks, and other loud noises, especially if you have only recently become acquainted with your new four-legged friend. Here we share our best tips for you and your horse to have a safe and happy New Year's Eve!
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There is a lot of research about the fear of fireworks and noise in dogs, but very little research has been done on this subject in horses. Stabled horses generally cope with New Year's Eve well, but it is important not to forget that horses are so called ‘fight or flight’ animals.
Horses that have been frightened by fireworks outdoors, can unfortunately be seriously injured, which is both sad and unnecessary. Therefore, it is best to take precautions to avoid accidents occurring if at all possible. Bring your horse in from the field well ahead of it becoming dark outside, when fireworks are likely to start, and put them in the stable. It may also be appropriate to close barn doors (and windows) during the fireworks to reduce noise.
If you have a horse in an outdoor box, you may also want to close the upper door too. For horses that remain in the field, a field shelter may provide them with a safe and quieter place to stand. Horses should feel protected from the noise and lights outside. Neighbours and companions on the yard may also help to reassure them.
Prevent anxiety through distraction
New Year's Eve can feel very long for horses and it can therefore be good to keep your horse entertained in the stable. For example:
- Give them plenty of roughage so that they have lots of chewing to do
- Put hay/haylage in small-hole haynet(s) to slow down eating. Ensure that haynets are tied high enough so that your horse cannot get caught in it when it is empty
- Place large inedible objects on top of hard feed to make it last longer
- Offer your horse an activity ball or other toys to have fun with whilst in the stable
How to help your horses on New Year's Eve
Here are some useful tips for a safe and happy New Year's Eve for horses:
- Turn on the radio/music, which do not feature the celebrations
- Leave the light on, or cover exposed windows
- Sensitive horses may find a hood with or without earplugs helpful. However, preparation and training in advance of the event is essential
- Pheromone preparations: these are applied to the nostrils and can have a calming effect, for example Confidence EQ gel. They are applied to the nostrils about 30 minutes before the effect is desired, and lasts for about 2.5 hours
- For really anxious horses, ask your vet about prescription sedatives
Read more: Horse & Hound - 14 top tips to help horses cope with fireworks and The Blue Cross - Horses and fireworks
When should you contact a vet?
If you are worried about your horse, you should always contact a vet. Here you can book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our FirstVet equine vets for advice, treatment, and if necessary, referral to your local vet.