The Animal Welfare Act (2006) states that it is an offence to cause any unnecessary suffering to any captive or domestic animal, which includes the setting off of fireworks. Failure to comply with this law can result in a fine of up to £20,000 and/or a prison term of up to six months.

When applying this to your beloved horse, It’s fair to say that it is incredibly difficult to distract them during celebratory nights that involve fireworks as the sudden bangs can be very stressful for them. Research performed by the RSPCA documented that 55% of horses show clear signs of distress during firework displays. This is an alarming figure and something horse owners are petitioning to reduce. 

How to Spot if A Horse is Distressed: 

The main thing to be aware of when looking for distressed signs of your horse is their body language. With this in mind, we have detailed the following signs to look out for:

Kicking/Rearing – 

If a horse’s fight or flight response is triggered by fireworks, they may start to rear up or kick out to defend themselves. It’s especially advised to avoid riding on the evening of Bonfire Night as fireworks are bound to be ignited. If you’re riding at the time, this can be particularly dangerous and could cause serious injury to you or your beloved horse. 

Tail Swishing –

When a horse slowly swishes its tail, it is generally to flick flies away from them. However, when a horse’s tail is vigorously swishing from side to side, it is generally a sign of anxiety and that something is bothering them.

Wide Eyed, Rotating Ears and Flared Nostrils

You can also recognise that a horse is anxious by the expression on their face, not just their body language. A raised head, wide eyes and flared nostrils are all classic signs of anxiety when a horse feels they are in danger. There is also some science to their wide eyes too as it helps enhance their vision while flared nostrils heighten the horse’s sense of smell. Rapidly rotating ears are also a sign of heightened alertness. 

Decreased Appetite – 

In general, horses stop eating for two main reasons: When they are sick or when their routine is disrupted. The loud bangs of fireworks is easily enough to cause distress to the horse and for them to lose their appetite and break their normal routine. 

How to Care For Your Horse


Be Prepared – 

A good owner is always prepared for their horse when they show any signs of distress, especially when fireworks are likely to be set off. Always assume that people are unaware of any animals nearby and make sure that you have all the necessary equipment you need in the event of your horse being overloaded with anxiety. 

Keep Your Riding Arena Safe – 

If you decide to ride your horse indoors to occupy them during firework displays, it is worth checking your riding arena for any harmful objects that may be present. If your equestrian surface has any loose nails or left over equipment from the day before, then any sudden movements caused by loud bangs could result in your horse injuring themselves. It only takes something small to cause serious harm to your horse so always be mindful of objects that can be easily overlooked in your indoor arena.

Distractions – 

It is best to provide your horse with as much as you possibly can during fireworks and celebratory nights. This can be done in a number of ways such as having access to plenty of hay or by playing music to muffle the banging sounds. Just make sure you position the source of music out of your horse’s reach and that you are playing calming, soothing music. 


Finally, your presence can sometimes be enough to alleviate any signs of anxiety for your horse. This is because they possess strong emotional intelligence which means if you display a relaxed attitude around them during stressful nights, they are less likely to show unusual behaviour. As such, you may need to set aside a few hours during the night to provide company for your believed companion.