What are your community's plans for the Fourth of July? Do you know? How about your neighbors, are any of them planning big-bash parties complete with fireworks? Is a symphony planning to perform the 1812 Overture, complete with cannons and fireworks?
This week is one that proves the importance of a community of horse owners within a town or region. If you know about a fireworks display, post a sign at the feedstore. Ask vets and farriers to spread the word. Better yet, get on the phone and start calling other horse owners. Start an email list of local horse owners. If your horse is with a trainer or at a boarding barn, make sure caretakers know what is going on in that town and that they are aware if your horse has a history of panicking during thunderstorms or fireworks.
If your horses live out in the field, there's no better time to check your paddocks and fences for dangerous debris or weak fencing that could injure a panicked horse.
And if there are fireworks in your area, make sure that local authorities know that you have horses. Some people who have fireworks at private parties never even think about the horses down the road. Some towns require fireworks permits, and that can be helpful; call your fire department and see who has taken out permits.
Fireworks are illegal here in Massachusetts, but 20 miles away in nearby New Hampshire, they are legal, and the other side of the state border is lined with fireworks stands this time of year. Anyone who lives here and wants fireworks can just go and get them. And they do.
I'd like to direct your attention to a chilling account of a barn fire started by a malicious prank. After a night of partying, some young people threw fireworks into a barn. Nineteen horses paid with their lives. You can read the CourtTV transcript of the trial, if you dare.
If you'd like to read some horror stories about just how badly horses, dogs and other animals have been affected by fireworks, the web site stopfireworks.org has assembled a long list of articles and links.
The International League for the Protection of Horses (ILPH) offers these suggestions to horses' owners:
- make sure you are aware of firework parties in the area
- stable your horses and ponies if there are going to be fireworks nearby
- give them plenty of hay to keep them occupied
- check on them during the evening to make sure they are okay
- leave a radio on to camouflage the noise
- check the field in the morning for any stray fireworks
- have sand and water available in case of fire.
And then there are the parades with all the sirens...maybe we could design equine headphones for this time of the year. Be prepared, and have a happy Fourth of July!