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.
Watching the fireworks over Boston's Charles River was a huge part of Four of July celebrations when I was growing up.
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 over—it'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.
This year, however, Dorado (now 21 and no less accident-prone) will be on stall rest for Independence Day. As I mentioned, he's never had problems in the past, but since our barn has switched to night turnout to keep the horses comfortable during the hot Kentucky summer, he'll be alone in the barn during the hours most conducive for an enjoyable firework display. So, my plan this year is to have a veterinarian-prescribed and -approved sedative on-hand and ready to go in case he appears bothered by any displays. I'm hopeful that, because he lives in a rural part of Lexington surrounded by farms, he'll spend the evenings munching on hay and blissfully unaware of celebrations taking place downtown and in nearby suburban areas.
It goes without saying that some animal owners have very different experiences with fireworks. Even though he wasn't a horse, my aunt's old dog had a harder time dealing with fireworks each year he aged. And I've known several horses that didn't handle fireworks well, regardless of what their owners tried to keep them quiet.
My parents and I are hoping once again that our horses continue to fare well during celebrations that involve fireworks. And I sincerely hope that you and your family have a very happy and safe Fourth of July!
But in the meantime, how do your senior horses handle fireworks, and what's your Fourth of July horse care ritual like? Please share your experiences below!