Guy Fawkes image adapted from World Horse  Welfare

It is no surprise that a survey conducted by Massey University, NZ (2016) revealed that that 79% of survey participants described their horses as “anxious” or “very anxious” during fireworks displays.  Only 21% identified their horses as “not anxious”.  Almost 38% of owners reported that their horses had broken through fences, and a quarter reported injuries believed to have been associated with their animals’ reactions to fireworks (

So ESNZ has looked to the World Horse Welfare for advice and this has been adapted for New Zealand conditions.  However, we strongly advise you to use your own judgment as we cannot be held responsible for the unfortunate event of an injury.

In advance

In advance, find out the dates, times and locations of local fireworks events.  Speak to neighbours to let them know that you have horses and need to prepare for any fireworks displays so they can let you know in advance if they are planning any. If any events are going to be held close by, consider bringing your horse into a safe environment during this time. However, if your horse is used to living out then they may be best kept in his normal paddock. 

Keep your horse in a routine 

Don’t alter your horse’s routine on the day of a fireworks display as this in itself can be stressful. If you do plan to move them during firework displays, and they are currently living out, then start bringing them in a week or so ahead of the display to get them used to it. You don’t have to keep them in for the entire night, just for a few hours covering either side of when the firework displays will be on.

Fire safety 

Although the likelihood of a rogue firework causing a fire is low, it is every owner’s worst nightmare and being prepared for the event could save lives. Make sure you have fire extinguishers, sand and water nearby in case of a fire. If you keep your horse at livery familiarise yourself with the fire drills – make sure you know where you should go with your horse – and encourage others to do the same. 

On the night  remain calm 

As an owner your mood and stress levels will have a direct impact on your horse, so it is important that you don’t get angry or upset in front of your horse if neighbours nearby have a display that you weren’t expecting. Try to remain calm and hopefully your horse will too. However, remember your own safety is paramount so do not try to handle your horse if they are acting in a dangerous or unpredictable manner. Limit the risks to them by ensuring there are no sharp or protruding objects near them but keep yourself at a safe distance and out of harm’s way. 

Use distractions 

Give your horse plenty of hay to keep them occupied, even if they are in a paddock. If stabled, put a radio on to mask the noise of the fireworks, but make sure that the radio is positioned safely so it cannot be damaged by or cause damage to the horse. 

Check your horse regularly during the evening to make sure they are ok. If you can, it’s often a good idea to stay with them because your presence may have a calming effect. Make a night of it; you could bring a flask and picnic with you and do some of those jobs you keep putting off, like giving your tack a deep clean. If you are in a shared environment, encourage other owners to do the same. 

The morning after – check your horse for cuts or injuries 

The day after a display it is important that you just carry on with your horse’s normal routine but do check your horse thoroughly for any cuts or injuries just in case they have over-reached or run into something. 

Check your paddock for any stray fireworks which might have landed there 

Fully inspect the entire field and water trough to make sure there is no debris left in the field which could injure your horse or wildlife or contaminate the area. 

This advice is posted in association with IRT our Official Horse Welfare Partner.