I’ve come to accept that, as a horse owner with a herd at home, I don’t get to celebrate Independence Day like “normal” people.
Each year on July 4, as the sun begins to set and lawn chairs get turned toward Pilot Butte (which is basecamp for our town’s fireworks display) my husband and I pack up our potluck picnic items and head home, as is our tradition. For me, making sure my horses are safe when the first firework fuse gets lit is top priority.
Living on a small horse property with the middle of the dry high desert, my concerns are twofold: First, I worry about my horses becoming spooked at the sight and sound of fireworks and inadvertently injuring themselves. Second, wildfire sparked by fireworks is a very real threat in our area.
I often wonder what horses think as the sky lights up and they hear the big booms. From their perspective, it must seem like the world in coming undone. But, for the most part, my horses cope.
Atty, the youngest at just 4 years old, is my most stoic herd member. She does tend to internalize stress, though, and is prone to severe gastric ulcers. For that reason, this year she’ll get a preventative, over-the-counter dose of UlcerGard (omeprazole) to help her tummy through the stressful holiday.
Jack, my sensitive Quarter Horse, will at first freak out, run around with his tail tucked and nostrils flaring, and then he’ll stop and accept his fate. “Tonight we die,” is pretty much the expression he’ll wear until the night is over. He breaks my heart a bit, and I wish I could explain to him that everything is all right.
And, finally, my Hanoverian, Marathon, will worry and then turn to food for emotional support. As long as his face is in feed, he’ll be okay.
As for wildfire, that concern will keep me up until the booms fade into the night. Unlike a wildfire started by thunderstorms—which usually happen in the wilderness and work toward residences—fires started by fireworks are more likely to ignite near or in neighborhoods. But I’ll be ready, with the horse trailer hooked up and ready for evacuation if necessary. Plan for the worst, hope for the best, I say.
By morning, my horses, my husband, and I will be completely exhausted, but hopefully the herd will have made it through the evening injury free, and any fires (they’re more common that you might think) will be suppressed.
If your own horses need help through the holiday, Dr. Wendy Krebs (DVM) of Bend Equine Medical Center offers tips to help your horse get through the night in this week’s Farm Call, “How to Keep Your Horse Safe During the 4th of July." And, if you live in wildfire country like we do, take a look at our interactive guide, “Natural Disaster: Are You and Your Horse Ready?” and get prepared for the worst-case-scenario.
Do I miss fully partaking in 4th of July festivities? Yes. But the peace of mind of knowing my horses are safe is worth packing it up early.
How do you prepare your horses for a night of fireworks?