Yes, we're coming up on the fourth of July, otherwise known as that day when thousands of normally calm, rational pets will wind up hiding under a bed, shaking all over, peeing on themselves and thinking that the world is ending. I wish I could figure out why we still have to re-enact the rockets' red glare over 200 years later, and cannot just content ourselves with having a nice parade and taking bets on where a mini will choose to poop (if you have not seen this phenomenon, you need to get out of the city more!), but I can at least go over some tips for surviving this very loud holiday without ending up dragging your poor veterinarian away from his or her well-deserved third beer.
(I just thought this pic was adorable. I LOVE the elephant! This is from Sunny G Acres, mini donkey breeders. What a nice site. Definitely makes me want to buy one!)
For horses, this is one night when you might want to keep them in, even if they normally like to be out. By all means, don't keep a horse like my Buffy in - she hates stalls with a passion and would weave herself into a white sweat all night. (But then again, Buffy would stomp a firework to death if it annoyed her. She's that kind of mare.) However, for the average horse who isn't opposed to occasionally being confined, tucking them in to a safe stall with non-slippery bedding and a huge pile of hay to distract them is often the wisest choice.
Stall mats are great cushioning for a hard floor, but they're not always grippy. I have seen many a horse slip and slide on rubber mats, particularly if they get wet. Likewise, I like bedding pellets but if you don't wet them down to turn them into sawdust, they can also be a slipping hazard. You know this if you have ever gone ass-over-teakettle sliding on them yourself, as I admit I have! If there is any day your horse is going to slip and fall in the stall, it is this one, so be sure to provide the best footing possible in case your horse ends up putting on a show when he hears the ruckus outside.
If they are going to be out, what's your fence like? If you have iffy wire fence, the round pen might be a better choice tomorrow evening. If there is a chance the horse will be panicking, you want them on very visible fence that is unlikely to hurt them if they bounce off of it. If you can pair them with a horse that you know doesn't get upset, that's even better.
Please plan any riding for early enough in the day that you won't be mounted come twilight. As we've discussed before, there is something that will spook even the "bomb proof" horse and fireworks are often on that list. I know that with the holiday and family visiting, it is so tempting to put the little ones up for a pony ride. Just do it during the daylight hours!
The Fourth is a day when you have to worry about fire. I know I have readers here who've had pastures set on fire by illegal fireworks, and of course there is the same risk for your barn. If you tend to have herds of free-range drunks, feral teenagers, etc. in your neighborhood, you might want to park your own 4th of July celebration in full view of the horses as a deterrent.
I know many people still use the old trick of stuffing a cotton ball or piece of sponge in their sensitive horse's ears for the show ring. Well, that old trick will work tomorrow evening, too. Just make sure you get whatever you put in completely out afterward. I read a really cool idea online where the person puts the sponges inside old nylons and ties the nylon to the halter so that the sponge can easily be retrieved and there is no risk it will break apart and go down into the ears. I'm also told you can buy horsey ear plugs now. Those look pretty nice for three bucks!
I know some of you are going to say, hey, desensitize those silly horses - and you're not necessarily wrong. A horse who has been hunted off of or used for mounted shooting is likely to rest easy on the 4th. But that is easier said than done with some horses and my goal is to keep everybody's day safe and the vets on vacation!
Now, what about those small animals? Your barn cats will disappear into the hay and wait for the noise to be over. Dogs have more trouble with it, in general. Every 4th of July, many dogs run away in fear and many of those are never recovered alive. Please keep your dog inside or in a kennel/run he cannot escape from. Keeping him inside may not be that easy if you have guests over, so you might want to consider putting him somewhere more secure - the basement, a horse stall, etc. Remember that he may chew things when he's upset, so you might regret the tack room. Like horses, dogs can wear ear plugs, and tranquilizers are available from your vet for the pet who is truly terrified.
HSUS's page on keeping your dog safe on the 4th
Sometimes the best idea is to just board your dog! There are many completely indoor dog boarding facilities where there is no chance of escape and many are located right within the city where fireworks are confined to "official displays" and it isn't as loud as it is in rural areas. Especially if you are going out of town or will be out late at a party, this is a truly wise choice. As with everything, check the place out and make sure it is well-reviewed!
All right, now that all of that is said, have a fun Fourth and remember, if you're drinking, that's where you need to be sleeping!
I wanted to do a Friday Featured Rescue from the Midwest today, and I've heard some good things about Indiana Horse Rescue, so I checked them out. Look at the FACE! Love her.
This is a senior Tennessee Walking Horse cross mare, and she is adorable. Her page says she's supposed to be well broke (hopefully they've had someone up by now to check that out), so if she is, what a cool addition she would make for a family that loves the gaited horses and has a young rider needing a good old girl to start out on. Check her out if you're interested. Their adoption fees are very sensible - she's just $250.
This is something I'd want in my backyard just so I could kiss her nose and feed her carrots! I hope she finds someone to do that in her part of the country.
Early warning for the PNW'ers - the SAFE horseshow will be August 22 at Frontier Park in Graham, Washington. This is a show that has Rescue Horse Classes, so just bring your adoption contract or your "before" pics and you can compete against other rescues. It is a really great show if you have not shown before and want to be with other beginners. Stalls are available this year. They are looking for class and trophy sponsors - click here for more information. This is a great opportunity to help a worthy, well run rescue that publicly displays where every dime of donor money goes on their message board, follows up on all adoptions and does not have "OMG we have no hay money!" emergencies.