While there are ongoing legal debates about reducing access to fireworks, there are steps you can take now to help keep your horses calm.
Preparing for fireworks
Desensitise your horse
Helping your horse get used to loud noises and flashing lights can reduce your horse's reaction to fireworks. You can introduce firework noises using any portable device you have to hand and can use colour-changing LED lights to introduce flashing lights.
- Start by playing the noises at a low volume, then gradually increase the volume so your horse can get used to the sound
- Introduce the flashing lights gradually, building them up steadily alongside the noises as your horse begins to get more comfortable and less reactive
- Remember to let others on the yard know what you are planning as they may want to do something similar to help desensitise their horses or want to move their horse safely to another area to avoid distress
- If you don't have any firework sounds, brass band music can have a similar impact
Talk to your vet
If you know your horse has reacted particularly badly to fireworks in previous years, it may be a good idea to talk to your vet.
Check what's happening near you
- Don't wait until Bonfire Night to find out what displays are happening, as many displays will happen before or after the day itself
- Social media and local papers are often useful sources to check for public displays and local events
- It's also worth talking to your neighbours to discuss any private displays they might be planning
- Remember, not everyone realises the impact fireworks can have on horses, so it's always better to have a calm conversation before there are any issues
- Keep in mind there are also other events which often involve fireworks such as Diwali or weddings
Make sure your yard is safe
- Tidy your yard to reduce the risk of a fire starting. It's a good idea to empty your muck heap and clear any unused hay, straw or other combustible material from the stable areas.
- Take the time to check your fire evacuation plan, fire extinguishers, and alarms
- Carefully check your stables for any protruding nails, sharp edges, or slippery surfaces that could cause injury to your horse if they do get spooked
- Check all the fences and gates are secure to help prevent your horse from escaping their stable or field
On the evening of a firework display
- 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
- Remember, you can report any incidents that happen to the BHS. This helps us collect evidence of common incidents and work towards making positive changes for equestrians and their horses.
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 prefer being in their stables, while others feel safer outside where they can see the fireworks with companions close by
- A horse can still get scared in a stable and injure themselves. However, 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
For more information on the laws related to fireworks, please visit Gov.uk.
If you are based in Scotland, please read the Fireworks briefing Scotland.
Keeping your horse and other pets safe
For helpful tips on keeping your horse and other pets safe, take a look at the RSPCA website.
Firework safety campaign
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has launched a firework safety campaign in 2020.
Here is some information on the laws in Scotland.