Fireworks can be very frightening for many horses. Their safe home is invaded by sudden, loud noises, and they cannot get away from it. Horses have been known to run through fences or just run through the fields injuring themselves along the way. They can be in a blind panic and not be thinking about uneven ground. They can get tendon and ligament injuries, sprains or cuts.
When a horse is in panic mode, you do not want to go into the field or even the stall to try to calm them, unless you are sure they are paying attention to you, and you can control them. If a firework goes off and the horse jumps, you could be mashed into a fence or wall or be run over, and it would not be the horse's fault. They are big animals, and when they panic we are just a small object that can be run over.
There are a few simple things you can do that can help greatly. If your horse is severely affected you may want to get some tranquilizer such as acepromazine from your vet, which lasts for two or more hours from one dose.
There are two items you can get from most local health food stores. One is a homeopathic remedy called Aconite. It will come in a little container with tiny white pills. You will think there is no way these tiny things can help, but put aside your skepticism for an evening and give it a try. This remedy is for fear or terror of sudden things, especially noises. Give your horse about 6-8 of the little pellets on a handful of food or a treat. Give the first dose in the late afternoon if there are a few warm-up firecrackers, and then give another dose later in the evening just before the fireworks. You can give another dose or two through the evening if you need to--it is very safe. Once the noise has stopped there is no need to continue. Your friends may tell you that the remedies will not work if given with food, but ignore them because the remedies will work just fine.
Aconite may not stop every horse from being afraid, but it should settle most of them down at least to a manageable and safe level. Some will be very quiet and relaxed about the commotion.
The next thing to pick up is called Rescue Remedy. There are different brand names, but if you ask for Rescue Remedy, the store should know what you are talking about. This is a Bach Flower, which is a group of remedies for various emotional states. Rescue remedy is for any stressful situation. It comes in a little bottle. Put about 10 drops of the liquid into your horse's mouth or the same 10 drops into the water bucket or even the trough. Again, put your skepticism aside and give it a try. It is very safe and very diluted when you give it.
I would put 10 drops in the water source at the beginning of the day and refresh it with another 10 drops if you fill up the bucket/trough again. Then close to the time the fireworks start, you can give a squirt (that equals about 10 drops) directly into your horse's mouth or put it on a treat such as an apple. It is preserved with brandy usually, so some horses may not like the taste. You can also dilute it in some water and squirt it into his mouth. Repeat the doses 3-4 times during the evening if you need to and can get close to the horse. Or just be sure he has access to his water.
Give these simple things a try and see if your celebration is a bit more peaceful.
Dr. Joyce Harman is a veterinarian and respected saddle-fitting expert certified in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary chiropractic; she is also trained in homeopathy and herbal medicine. Her Harmany Equine Clinic is in northern Virginia. Visit her online shop.
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