Firework season is nearly upon us — and it’s a worrying time of year for the owners of any animals, including horses.

According to a 2020 survey carried out by Blue Cross in the run-up to New Year’s Eve, 69% of horse owners are concerned about their horse’s welfare due to fireworks.

Supermarket chain Sainbury’s has continued its ban on the sale of fireworks at its stores across the UK — good news.

The major supermarket first banned the sale of fireworks in 2019 as part of its yearly review of products. It followed a number of petitions calling for stricter firework regulations that amassed over 700,000 signatures.

There are legal debates ongoing about reducing access to fireworks, but in the meantime other shops and supermarkets are continuing to sell fireworks.

With a bit of forethought, there are things you can do to make firework season easier for you and your horse.

The British Horse Society (BHS) recently shared six tips for helping to ensure the safety of your horse when there are fireworks:

1 Desensitise your horse

You can prepare your horse for loud bangs by playing the sounds on your phone; start with the volume low and gradually increase it. You can also use colour-changing LED lights to acclimatise him to the flashing lights. Again, build this up gradually over time so that you don’t over-face him.

If you share a yard, check in with your fellow liveries before doing this. If you don’t own/run the yard, you’ll need to get permission first.

2. Find out if there are any local events planned

Events can take place over a number of days, so keep an eye on what is happening locally so that you can make sure you’re prepared. Check for local events on social media, in your local paper and on posters/shop noticeboards.

Of course, not all fireworks displays are public and private ones are trickier to predict. It is a good idea to calmly enquire about any plans your neighbours might have.

Bear in mind that some people, especially those without horses or pets, may not realise the impact that fireworks can have on animals. You can’t stop them, but you can find out when they might be letting fireworks off.

3. Check your yard and stables are safe

Reduce the risk of a fire by ensuring your stables are clear and tidy. Check your fire extinguishers, fire alarm and evacuation plan so everyone at the yard is aware of the procedures.

4. Is he best in or out?

According to the BHS, there is no evidence to say whether your horse is safer in or out of his stable. Some horses may be better stabled, while others may cope better in a field with their companions; there are risks either way. Check your fields are secure and not too close to any displays if you do decide to turn him out.

5. Speak to your vet

If your horse particularly struggles with fireworks, then it could be worth discussing the matter with your vet so you can put together a plan to help keep him as safe and calm as possible.

6. Report any incidences

The BHS is urging horse riders and owners to report any incidents or near misses involving fireworks via their Horse i app. This helps the charity to better understand and monitor the rate of equine-related incidents across the UK.

The law about fireworks

In the UK, there are restrictions around when and where fireworks can be offered for sale and bought, and when they can be let off:

  • You can only buy fireworks (including sparklers) from registered sellers for private use on these dates:
    • 15 October to 10 November
    • 26 to 31 December
    • 3 days before Diwali and Chinese New Year

    At other times you can only buy fireworks from licensed shops

  • Fireworks must not be set off between 11pm and 7am, except for on Bonfire Night (5 November), when the cut off is midnight, and New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am.

Read the full fireworks advice from the BHS here.

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