Nothing on this earth causes more distress than fireworks do to horses, dogs and most farm animals Loud bangs, whistles and flashing lights can be quite intolerable to horses. Evidence abounds about horses stampeding in blind panics through (not over) gates, rails and electric fences – often escaping onto busy main roads and even single barrier railway crossings.
The laws concerning fireworks (in brief)
• It is illegal for anyone below the age of 18 to possess a firework in a public place
• Fireworks cannot be set off by a private individual between 11pm and 7am except on certain nights of the year
• It is an offence to cause unnecessary suffering to any captive or domestic animal
• Unless retailers possess a special licence they may only sell fireworks from 15 October to 10 November and 26 to 31 December Detailed legislation on fireworks and their use can be found at www.berr.gov.uk/fireworks
What can you do to limit the effect on your horse?
• Find out if there are any commercial displays planned near to where your horse is kept • Contact the organisers to explain your concerns and see if there are any measures they can take – for example, moving to the far end of a site and ask about timings so you can manage your horse appropriately to keep the situation as safe and calm as possible
• Check with your local council that the organisers have applied for and been granted the appropriate licence for a commercial display. Display the BHS Fireworks Awareness poster (available to download at the specialised horse accidents website, www.horseaccidents.org.uk/
Advice and Prevention/ Fireworks.Ask in local shops, schools and village notice boards to try to explain to non-horse owners why horses are frightened by fireworks
• Display a notice alongside the poster asking private individuals who are planning to use fireworks in your vicinity to inform you so you can manage your horse appropriately
• It may be beneficial to try to desensitise your horse to loud bangs and there are various CDs available that can be played to your horse at low level, slowly increasing the volume as they become comfortable with the noise
• Discuss and try to agree a strategy for dealing with fireworks with the yard owner and fellow liveries – that way, everyone has support
• Ensure you have contact details to hand for all horse owners and vets should problems arise
• Make preparations to secure your yard in case a horse does manage to break out of a stable or field that ensures they cannot get onto a public highway which could cause serious problem.
During the firework season
If you are unfortunate enough to have a problem caused by fireworks, please report it to The British Horse Society on its dedicated fireworks accident online form at www.horseaccidents.org.uk
• If your horse is kept in a barn or enclosed stable area it might be possible to limit the effect of fireworks by keeping barn doors closed..
• Playing music within the barn or stable area may dull the sound of the bangs depending on the distance – NB: This should be introduced before the event so the music is itself not something for the horse to worry about.
• Leave stable or barn lights on as this may help lessen the effect of the bright lights and flashes in the night sky
• Unfortunately we can do nothing about the burning smell that accompanies fireworks except hope the prevailing wind direction takes it away from the horses. Try as far as possible to keep your horse in its normal routine so it feels secure • Ensure an experienced person who will remain calm, stays with the horse until the fireworks have ended.