The U.S. is days away from celebrating Independence Day or as we commonly call it, the Fourth of July. For many, that means a day off, barbecuing, and fireworks after dark. Horses, on the other hand, don’t seem to enjoy the day as much humans. We live in Tennessee where fireworks, even big, bright, loud scary ones, are legal outside of city limits. And since we’re not in city limits, fireworks go off all around our property on the 4th of July. Years ago Mikki, the Kid and I were huge fireworks fans and up until owning horses enjoyed shooting off our own here at the house. But now that we have horses and a few dogs that are terrified of loud booms, we’ve nixed our home fireworks display. One year we left the television playing loudly and headed out to see a large town fireworks display. When we got home, one of our dogs was in shock. Unbeknownst to us, our next door neighbors set off a huge fireworks display, courtesy of visiting family for the holiday. We’re told it went on for a long time and I can imagine it seemed to our pets inside and our horses in the the pasture that something was attacking all around.
The Parelli’s teach the importance of thinking like a horse in order to understand how they’ll react to us and different scenarios and that advice makes perfect sense to me. As prey animals, they’re constantly on the lookout for something that could attack them and besides something running towards you, nothing says “RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!” quite like loud bangs and bright flashes of light overhead.
Needless to say, we no longer shoot any kind of fireworks at our place. Our neighbors, the ones with the large fireworks display, have since moved. And we now stay home and comfort our dogs while keeping an eye on our horses.
How do you deal with fireworks around your horses?
This may seem like an odd post when clearly the 4th of July is both a long time ago and a long time coming, but we have this new tradition of setting off fireworks to celebrate the new year, so this post seems relevant.
One of the neatest things about living in Tennessee is the ability of anyone (18 and older) to buy and light off fireworks. Our horses, however, vehemently disagree.
On the days leading up to the 4th we started stockpiling fireworks for the big night. Of course we couldn’t just wait until July 4th, so we set off a few small ones within sight of the barn. This location was chosen because there was a lot of non-flammable space up there and the horses were still in the pasture. Boom, crackle, whirrrrr…followed by the sound of hooves pounding the ground as our two horses galloped quickly to the rear of the pasture. Later that night I ventured out in the dark with carrots to lure them back in. Both horses reluctantly agreed and came the rest of the way to our barn without further incident.
Fast-forward to last night, New Year’s. We have some fireworks left over from July 4th and last year we discovered that some of our neighbors shoot fireworks at midnight. So after cleaning stalls, I bring a small battery of fireworks down to the paved road next to our house in preparation for midnight. Knowing the horses might not come in if we waited until after shooting off fireworks, we brought them into the barn first and fed them oats. I went through my usual “do I close the stall windows or leave them open?” wondering and decided to leave the windows open. I figured they’d want to see what was going on and they could hear us talking, which might help them to know everything is okay. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1….Happy New Year – BOOM! I glanced up at the barn and both horses were moving around nervously. Our fireworks display was short and afterwards we went up to offer Valentine and Moonshine some carrots and lovey dovey talk. They didn’t seem panicked, just a little concerned. We’ll have to work up to the much larger fireworks display we’d like to fire off for the next 4th of July celebration.
This reminds me of a story I’ll share sometime about Civil War re-enactment horses and how they train them to stand calmly next to firing cannons. Let’s just say the training involved fireworks.
Happy new year from ourfirsthorse.com! Here’s hoping 2007 will be the best year yet for you and (if you have any) your horse(s)!