Decorating the barn for the holidays is fun, for sure. But be careful to avoid introducing hazards in the process.
Make sure, for example, that live wreaths and garlands contain no toxic plants. Branches from yew, an evergreen ornamental shrub, are often used in holiday decorations. Yew, however, is highly toxic---just a mouthful can kill a horse. If you don’t know exactly what a live wreath or garland is made of, don’t hang it. Don’t even discard it on your property. Give it to a non-equestrian friend.
If you’ll be using holiday lights, make sure the bulbs and cords are in good shape; hang them well out of any horse’s reach and unplug them at night. Also hang stockings out of reach. Not only will a curious horse destroy the decoration, but any fabric or plastic he ingests could lead to colic or choke0.
Finally, a word about sleigh bells: Acclimate your horse to their sound slowly. As festive as they may be, “jingling” bells can spook horses who’ve never heard them before.
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #471, December 2016.