With the Fourth of July upon us, it’s officially fireworks season in the United States. Are you prepared for the potential effects of fireworks near your farm? Fireworks can be hazards in a multitude of ways, whether it’s the physical debris or the loud noise. Here are some tips to assess your fireworks preparedness level.
1. Know your neighbors. It can be difficult to keep up with neighbors in rural areas, especially if you’re on large properties. If you aren’t sure who lives next door, you might want to think creatively to introduce yourself. Search out their farm’s website if they have a commercial enterprise, and send them an email; or send them a note through the post office if it’s a private address. Offer your contact information and an invitation to connect if they need help, or spot any problems along your borders. This is a good start towards establishing communication with your neighbors. Then you can ask specifically if they have any plans to launch fireworks, so you can plan ahead for your horses and other animals.
2. Know your animals. Some animals really don’t mind fireworks. Horses, dogs, and other pets who are used to frequent loud noises, or regular thunderstorms, might shrug off a few extra explosions. Horses who are sensitive to thunderstorms should be on your watch list. Observe your horses to get an idea of their reactions and where they feel most comfortable. While your automatic reaction might be to put a horse in a stall for the night, they might be more comfortable in a herd of their friends. It all depends on the horse.
3. Safety-check your pastures and stables. Wherever your horses will be, you want to double-check fences and stalls alike, looking for signs of weakness, broken rails, or exposed nails or sharp edges. Anything that might catch, trip, or stab an alarmed horse should be repaired or removed before an expected fireworks show. You don’t want anyone crashing into a stall wall in a panic and finding out afterwards that a nail was poking out of the wood.
4. Turn up the music. If you have a barn radio, now is a good time to start turning it up a few notches louder than usual. You’ll be giving your horses background noise to help muffle the fireworks, much like a white noise machine.
5. Consider desensitizing with some clinics or activities designed to create a bombproof horse. A sensitive horse is always in danger of following his flight instinct at the least provocation. If your horse is so alarmed by fireworks, whether it’s the flash, the sound, or both, investing in some bombproofing exercises can help protect him should something scary happen when you’re not around to manage things. A mounted police course, such as the ones offered by National Mounted Police Services, doesn’t just help your horse — it can help you identify when your horse is actually frightened, and when he just isn’t listening. Find more information at http://www.mountedpolice.org/.
Planning for fireworks displays should be a yearlong commitment with horses, but we only tend to think about it during major holidays, like the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, and maybe at the last minute. Being mindful at every season of ways to protect and help our horses cope with fireworks will help prevent injury and stress, whatever the occasion.