Take The Stress Out Of Bonfire Night

Many people enjoy bonfire night, but for us horse owners it can be an extremely stressful time of the year. Horses are flight animals which means that anything unexpected can startle them. Individual horses’ reactions can vary greatly and knowing what’s best for your horse can be a real challenge.

So how can you make bonfire night less stressful?

Firstly, find out when local displays are going to take place and stay in touch with your neighbours to find out if and when they are planning to let off fireworks.

Decide whether to stable or turn your horse out on the night of the fireworks. This of course will depend on how close the fireworks are and whether turnout is safe. Horses are creatures of routine, so keeping things normal is going to reduce stress and make them feel secure. Some horses are happier in the field as they can see what is going on, however this can make certain horses even more stressed. Bear in mind that it is difficult for a stressed horse to injure himself in a stable, while they can seriously hurt themselves in the field if when frightened they run through fencing.

If you know that your horse will be really stressed out follow these top tips to take the stress out of bonfire night for both of you:

  • Use a calmer supplement, see our section below to help you choose the right supplement for your horse 
  • Rug your horse with a rug that will wick sweat away, but keep them warm, such as a fleece 
  • Give your horse plenty of hay to keep him occupied 
  • Giving your horse a treat lick such as Nettex Tastylyx which can be hung in the stable will keep them interested and take their mind off noises outside. Nettex Tastylyx come in three delicious natural flavours; apple, carrot and mint 
  • Leave a radio on playing music to help mask the noise and keep your horse calm. Getting your horse used to a radio before will really help 
  • If you are concerned that your horse may have an extreme reaction discuss this with your vet before the night as oral sedation might be appropriate or consider moving your horse for the night 
  • Make sure that someone experienced either stays with your horse or checks on them frequently during the evening. Make sure that emergency contact details are to hand 
  • It is important to stay calm yourself as horses will sense unease and this will make them more stressed 
  • Most importantly be aware of your own safety, a startled horse can be dangerous 
  • Likewise, make sure that you have adequate third party liability insurance, if your horse is scared and escapes causing an accident, you will be responsible for any compensation 
  • Check fields the following morning for any stray fireworks that may have landed there, as they have the potential to cause injury to your horse

What to do if your horse does get upset

The most important point is to be aware of your safety as well as other people on the yard. Put a fleece or cooler rug on your horse to wick away any sweat. Try to distract your horse with a big net of hay or his favourite lick or treats. Try to keep calm yourself as your horse will feed off your anxiety. If your horse is becoming dangerous to himself or you then you are best advised to call your vet and seek their advice as he may be best to be sedated by them.

How to choose a calmer supplement

Choose a supplement containing magnesium. The direct relationship between stress & magnesium is well documented. Poor magnesium status has been shown to cause a heightened stress response in horses. Research has shown that magnesium supplemented horses had lower heart rates in stressful situations, such as after transportation. Magnesium is safe and has no adverse effects so is ideal to use a calmer supplement.

However, some magnesium compounds are not absorbed very well by horses. This means that the magnesium can’t be absorbed and get into the bloodstream, so the calmer won’t work. Make sure that you read the label and choose your magnesium supplement carefully. Avoid supplements containing magnesium oxide as this is very poorly absorbed by horses and so won’t be effective. Choose a supplement containing magnesium aspartate hydrochloride as this is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ magnesium that is best absorbed by horses. Chelated magnesium is also well absorbed and an effective supplement.

Nettex Calmers contain magnesium that is bioavailable & quickly absorbed. Nettex Calmer Syringe Paste Boost & Calmer Maintenance Liquid both contain Magnesium Aspartate Hydrochloride the gold standard magnesium. Nettex Calmer Maintenance Powder contains chelated Magnesium which is also readily absorbed.

Is a calmer liquid, powder or paste best?

Nettex Calmer Maintenance Powder is formulated to maintain magnesium levels using chelated magnesium giving long-lasting effectiveness.

Nettex Calmer Maintenance Liquid contains magnesium aspartate hydrochloride, the gold standard of magnesium and is quickly absorbed for a rapid and long-lasting effect. They both encourage wellbeing & concentration.

If you have a nervous horse that is stressed over the entire bonfire night period then either product would be ideal to feed daily and then top up with Nettex Calmer Syringe Paste Boost for nights when there are big firework displays.

I advise using a calmer paste on the night of a firework display. Nettex Calmer Syringe Paste Boost is ideal as it contains magnesium aspartate hydrochloride and L-Theanine, an anti-stress amino acid active from green tea, for a rapid calming effect during times of stress.

Top tip – get the best from your calmer supplement

Absorption rates of calmer supplements can vary between horses which can affect the results of the calmer. This means that some horses may need a slightly higher or lower dose for desired effect. Trial your calmer supplement before a stressful night such as a firework display to make sure that you are happy with the results and know whether you need to feed a slightly higher or lower amount.

Dr Becky Lees BVSc Cert AVP (EM) MRCVS

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