4 Tips for safe holiday decorating

Make sure your efforts to bring holiday cheer to the barn don't put your horse's health in jeopardy.

Decorating your barn for the holidays is fun. But you’ll want to take some precautions to keep your horses safe for the season.

horse in stall

• Avoid holiday greenery and garlands that incorporate toxic plants. Yew, for example, is commonly used in wreaths, and even a small amount can be rapidly fatal to horses.

• Hang tempting decorations out of reach. A stocking filled with carrots, for example, will likely be pulled into the stall and eaten within minutes---worst-case consequences could include choke or colic. If your horse is the sort who will nibble at anything new or unusual, keep all decorations well away from his stall door and turnout space.

• Inspect all wiring on lights. The insulation on older light strings may deteriorate over the years, and pests may chew on the cords. When buying new lights, select those labeled for outdoor use with bulbs that do not heat up. Shut off all lights when you leave the barn at night, or use a timer or remote device to turn them off from the house before you turn in.

• Don’t frighten the horses. Large, rustling red bows, jingling sleigh bells and singing Santas may put you in the holiday mood, but for horses unaccustomed to the sights and sounds, they can be terrifying. Approach your horse cautiously with any unfamiliar decorations, read his body language carefully and respect any fears he may have.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #459, December 2015.