Not So Frightening Fireworks

How do your senior horses handle fireworks?
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Growing up not far from Boston, Massachusetts, the Fourth of July was always one of the most celebrated days of the year in my family. Not only does my grandmother celebrate her birthday on July 4 (happy 94th birthday, Mommom!), it was also a day for us to celebrate our country’s freedom with a day-long cook out and pool party before heading inside to watch the Boston Pops play the 1812 Overture at the Esplanade in time with a fireworks display over the Charles River. Those celebrations were always ones to remember and I still look forward to watching the night sky light up when we celebrate America.

Fireworks
Watching the fireworks over Boston’s Charles River was a huge part of Four of July celebrations when I was growing up. | Photo: Photos.com

Not all horse owners are so eager for July 4 to arrive, however, and I fully understand why: Horses and fireworks don’t always mesh well together. Not only can our four-legged family members be injured by fireworks gone awry, the loud and sudden noises they make can send even the calmest of horses for a loop.

Over the years, my family and I have been very lucky. Even when they were younger, none of our now-senior horses have ever had a problem dealing with fireworks. Whether they’re in their stalls or grazing in their pastures, our horses are never any the worse for wear when the skies light up with color.

Despite the fact that our horses handle the fireworks very well in general, we always keep an extra close eye on them on nights we know will be “explosion heavy,” especially July 4, New Year’s Eve, and, in my parents’ area, Labor Day. We’ll typically let the horses out after they eat their dinner, however the option is always open to bring them back into their stalls if they start running around in a frenzy. The risk of them running through (or jumping overÑit’s happened before, although it had nothing to do with fireworks) the fence and either getting hurt or lost in the dark is too great; if they’re feeling nervous, I’d rather have them in the safety of the barn. Fortunately, we haven’t had to execute this “emergency” plan yet

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Written by:

Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

19 Responses

  1. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    I live in upstate NY, so fireworks are not permitted unless you have a license to display them. But that doesnt stop some people from having private displays around my neighborhood. For years, my hamlet has had a yearly picnic, ending with a huge firew

  2. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    Unfortunately, even though we are in a rural area in Texas, we are surrounded by roadside fireworks stands.  The noise starts as soon as the stands are open to sell their wares – usually a week preceding the fourth of July or December 31 and conti

  3. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    We live in an area where fancy wineries and other celebrants like to have fireworks shows – and they are fun. The explosions are not so much fun – but they don’t have to be so loud. Check out this info and encourage outfits sponsoring fireworks in your

  4. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    Heavy dread involved when it comes to July 4th, New Years, Labor Day, etc., anything with fireworks involved is very stressful for my 26-year-old Trakehner gelding.  I have tried leaving him out in the past and it has not worked well.  He wil

  5. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    My two geldings are so frightened by all the fireworks we have around that I finally started just boarding them at a wonderful farm in a fireworks-free area the week of July 4th and New Year’s Eve (our fireworks don’t occur just on the holiday; they go

  6. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    My 3 are out all the time so they’re used to weather events – when heavy rain or a T-storm starts, they just head for their shelter shed where they stand quietly and wait it out.  They’re also used to the sound of shotguns in our rural area. &nbsp

  7. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    We live in a narrow river valley high in the Catskill Mountains, when we get thunderstorms the thunder really rolls back and forth between the hills. We also live right next door to the town fire department, so got "free desensitizing" for al

  8. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    The church next door to our 4 horses has had massive fireworks the last few years.  we have always let the horses out in the large field in the past and while they ran a bit, it was not a problem.  This year our 24 year old quarter horse was

  9. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    I hope all your horses made it through the Fourth safely and happily! Our herd, as predicted, was more interested in grazing than the fireworks! 🙂

  10. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    We always go camping with our horses over the 4th. Not too many fireworks in a horse camp!

  11. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    Wow as a kid I never even about this. But we didn’t have to many folks who set fireworks off. We usually went elsewhere. Now I think i’d be with the animals. I think if they see you being calm and sense that it isn’t upsetting to you they’ll pick up on

  12. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    Murray, my 30 year old, has always been stabled in busy areas.  Loud motorcycles don’t seem to bother him much; just a glance up from eating and that’s all.  We just had a sensory clinic (desensitizing the horses with stimulus sounds and obje

  13. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    My horse freaks out with fireworks and hail. I always try to be home and hang out with him.

  14. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    I have 4 oldtimers and none of them seem to care. We are in a very rural area and the neighbors do set off fireworks but they are not that close by. I leave them out in the pasture and they just go about grazing.

  15. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with fireworks and horses! It always fascinates me to learn how different animals handle situations. And it’s great to hear that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep your horses quiet and comfortable…t

  16. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    I am fortunate to live on a ranch where fireworks are not permitted (huge fire hazard) but in years past I have had to deal with them, and my horses (Thoroughbreds) did not handle them well. I would confine them and stay close by until the fireworks we

  17. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    My horses don’t respond well to all of the noise. I usually have to leave them in their stalls with the barn doors closed, the fans running at top speed and the radio blaring. Often they will need to be mildly sedated. Thank goodness for Dormosedan gel

  18. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    Yes, I dread July 4th and New Years Eve, my horse also gets stressed out and either starts kicking the walls, and other times he has colied due to the stress of situation. I never leave teh house on those occasions, and usually just hangout in barn til

  19. re: Not So Frightening Fireworks

    4th of July brings lots of anxiety – 4 yrs ago our 12 yr old Appendix gelding had impacted secum colic. Fortunately we were able to operate & save him, but each holiday with fireworks (4th, New Year’s) brings stress to our "herd" of 3 &am

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