Firework season’s rapidly approaching this can be a difficult time for horses and owners. If you’re worried about your horse’s reaction and welfare, you’re not alone. 69% of horse owners are concerned about their horse’s welfare due to fireworks*. While there are ongoing legal debates about reducing access to fireworks, there are steps you can take now to help keep your horses calm.
Preparation is key
Helping your horse get used to loud noises and flashing lights can reduce your horse’s reaction to fireworks. Use any portable device you have to slowly introduce firework noises. Start at a low volume, then gradually increase the volume so your horse can get used to the sound. If you don’t have any firework sounds, brass band music can have a similar impact.
Another thing you can try is colour changing LED lights, to help your horse get used to flashing lights. As with the noises, these can be introduced gradually over time, building up steadily alongside the music.
If you share a yard with others, make sure that everyone is aware of your plans. They may want to do something similar to help desensitise their horses, or they may want to make sure they move their horse safely to another area to avoid distress.
If you know your horse has reacted particularly badly to fireworks in previous years, you may want to talk to your vet.
Know what’s happening near you
Don’t wait until Bonfire Night to find out what displays are happening near you. Many displays will happen before or after the day itself. There are also other events which often involve fireworks such as Diwali or weddings.
Social media and local papers are often useful sources for public displays and local events. It’s also worth talking to your neighbours to discuss private displays. Remember, non-horsey people don’t always realise the impact fireworks can have on horses and other animals. It’s always better to have a calm conversation before there are any issues.
Make sure your yard and stable are safe
Take the time to make sure stable areas are clean and tidy to reduce the risk of fire. This is a good opportunity to check your fire evacuation plan, fire extinguishers and alarms. It’s important to spend time making sure your horse’s stable area is clean and tidy to reduce the fire risk. It’s also a good idea to make sure your much heap is empty and to tidy away any unused hay or straw.
We also recommend checking your stables for any protruding nails or uneven edges that could cause injury to your horse.
What can I do on the evening of a firework display?
If there’s a fireworks display on a particular evening, try to stay as calm as possible. If you’re anxious, your horse will pick up on it.
Keep your horse’s routine wherever possible, but if you know when fireworks are starting, try to stay with your horse and play music to soften the sound. If you share a yard with other owners, you can set up a rota to check on the horses during peak firework season.
To stable or not to stable?
While you might assume your horse will be safer in their stable than out in a field, there’s no evidence either way. Some horses feel safer outside where they can see the fireworks with companions close by. Others prefer being in their stables.
A horse can still get scared in a stable and injure themselves. In a field, they can build up more speed when frightened, and potentially catch themselves on a fence or strain a muscle.
If you decide to turn your horse out, check your field is safe, secure and not close to where the display is happening. All it takes is one stray firework to prompt a horse to test boundaries.
* According to a 2020 survey carried out by The Blue Cross in the run-up to New Year’s Eve
Have you had a problem with fireworks?
We are urging all equestrians to report all incidents involving fireworks, regardless of severity, to us. Reporting your incidents helps us to better understand the rate of equine-related incidents across the UK.
Anyone can report their incidents or near misses to us; you don’t have to be a BHS member. It is vital each and every incident is recorded in order to be added to our national statistics.
Download our 'Horse i' app to your smart phone so you can quickly and easily submit details of incidents directly to the BHS.
Equestrians who do not use smart phones can record incidents via our online form on our website.
For more information, refer to the laws related to fireworks by visiting the DEFRA website or if you are based in Scotland please read the Fireworks FAQS Scotland.
Helpful tips for keeping your horse safe, as well as other pets can be found on the RSPCA website.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards has launched a firework safety campaign in 2020.