Flight Fight Freeze

Firstly, let me apologise for the slightly grumpy tone that may come across in this post. I am beginning to run out of the milk of human kindness. Also, I in no way intend this to criticise anyone else for the way they keep their own horses. . However, I am completely fed up with people who know nothing about horses, and care even less about them, telling me how to look after our horses.

Horses are prey animals. Their sole job in life is to survive from one day to the next without becoming lunch for somebody else. . As a result of this, over millions of years of evolution they have a deeply ingrained, instinctive response to being frightened. Run away fast! Only stop to ask questions when you are absolutely sure you have outrun the danger. . . . To help them identify potential threats, and escape routes, a horse’s eyesight, hearing and sense of smell are completely different to our own. .. Without going into too many complicated details, they see movement before detail. While they don’t actually have 360 degree vision , they do have have a large field of vision. Horses also have amazing night and distance vision. Those two great big pointy satellite dishes on top of their heads are not only able to swivel around independently of each other, so horses can clearly hear what is going on in 2 different directions. , but horses have extremely sensitive hearing, and can hear clearly at a much greater distance than us feeble humans. . Also, noises that are merely loud to us will be ear shattering to them.. . In addition, lath though not as complex as that of a dog, a horse’s sense of smell is far more sensitive than their own.. .. Being herd animals who have evolved to live in social/family groups, horses are insecure, and vulnerable when isolated from others. In addition, they would naturally inhabit plains, prairie, sevanna, and moorland, in other words, wide open spaces. This is why some horses object to being enclosed in trailers, horse boxes or stables. They feel trapped, thdre is no escape route, they are alone, and therefore in danger, and probably going to die.

All mammals, ourselves included, have the same physiological response to fear. It’s what’s kept us all alive for so long. It’s called the Flight, fight, Freeze Rexponse.
Flight. The first response of long legged herbivores like the horse. Basically, as I said above, run away fast, don’t stop to ask questions.
Fight. Turn round and attack what’s attacking you. Cats and dogs spring to mind here. A horse will resort to this when they feel trapped. Rearing, plunging, bucking, kicking, biting, striking out with their front feet. Kill or be killed.
Freeze. . Those species, and indeed individuals, who aren’t blessed with speed or fighting ability, use a different tactic when vulnerable to attack. They freeze or play dead. This is rare in horses. However, it’s not unheard of for a terrified horse that is exhausted, or prevented from running, to actually drop dead. Thankfully it’s very rare, but it does happen.

So, taking this all into account, why would I shut my horses in their stables, where they are trapped with no room to run, have no escape route, and are not fully able to interact with each other, when I know something bad is going to happen?

I am dumbfounded by the selfish thoughtless stupidity of people who think that it’s going to make it OK , and nobody will get hurt, if horses are trapped in inescapable isolation while being subjected to absolute terror.

I am of course, once again talking about some peoples obsession with Fireworks.

I am completely at a loss as to why, in the 21st Century, it is still possible for your average Joe to be able to buy and handle Firewors. They are after all explosives. Some of the most innocuous activities are so stringently wrapped up in Health & Safety Legislation that they are near impossible, but anyone can walk into a shop and buy what amounts to a box of insengery bombs! Some lack of balance here surely. Fireworks are dangerous! Every year we hear of people being burnt, or even blinded . , killed even, by fireworks. Buildings, cars, trees and hedgerows catch fire. Elderly and vulnerable people , as well as young children are frightened, horses, cattle,sheep, dogs, cats, and all manner of wildlife are terrified, injured and killed.. So far, in the last fortnight, I have heard of 4 horses having to be destroyed as a result of injuries as a result of being frightened by fireworks. Some idiot thought it would be fun to let a firework off in a packed railway carriage – can you imagine!? Sadly, as well as the human casualties, there was a Guide Dog in the carriage too. Meanwhile, here in Devon a little girl has been scarred for life after an accident at a family bonfire party. Fireworks are dangerous.

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if it was only on November 5th. You could make arrangements and take precautions. Sadly it’s a free for all, any time, any place, anywhere, and those of us who are adversely effected are expected to suck it up.

So here we are, it’s 11th November, but we are not expecting peace. Instead we are awaiting another night of torture thanks to people’s strange fascination with loud bangs and bright lights. At least this time we had more than half a minutes warning. I don’t really appreciate the bully boy tactics that were used though. I do not know the people for whom tonight’s display is being held, but allegedly it is as a memorial to a loved one who has recently died. Therefore they genuinely have my sympathy. Whatever gets you through. However, while told in very good time that there would be fireworks tonight, the precise location and time was not known, or at least not shared until yesterday. . This seems strange to me. Why is it not happening at a place that is special to the family? The announcement was toned in a way that that emotionally forced people into feeling they were unable to raise their concerns. The announcement was made on a Face Book page that a lot of people I’m the area have access to, I’ve spoken to several people this afternoon who will be impacted but were completely oblivious… So when several people enquired as to the location, myself included, and got the response. You’ve been given enough warning, shut your animals in and get over it, I wasn’t very tactful I’m afraid. This resulted in me being sworn at, called all kinds of unpleasant names, and generally made out to be the psych-bitch from hell.

We are now on the far side of th salvo of what sounded like antiaircraft artillery. Thankfully we seem to have got away with it. I’d love go be able to say we won’t be subjected to anymore until next November – yeh right.

The sooner fireworks get banned the better

Fireworks part 2 – inconsiderate Neighbours

So , in this village, every 5th November, the local bell ringers turn The Devil’s Stone. They do this to ensure that the Horned One is kept at bay for another year. If the stone doesn’t get turned, well, who wants to risk that?! It’s a big thing here, and much fun is had. It also means that fireworks are a rarity round here. Hal and I have never yet made it to the Turning of the Stone. The first year year we were here we didn’t know what the firework situation was going to be like, an so didn’t to leave cats, dogs and horses unattended. Last year I was only a few days post op, and really not feeling well. So this year I was really looking forward to finally going.

It wasn’t to be.

The people who own the field next to ours decided to have fireworks! At the bottom of their field! Right next to our horses! They gave us 30 minutes warning! Mind you, we were lucky. They didn’t bother telling the people who own the field on the other side of them, where 9 sheep live, at all! Or anyone else for that matter.

So Hal froze his bollocks off monitoring 4 terrified horses, while I attempted to ignore 2 terrified dogs with the combined weight of 57kg while they tried to climb onto me while shaking violently, hyperventilating, and barking hysterically!

Luckily we seem to have got away with it. Nobody’s hurt, and no colic. The sheep are OK too thankfully.
I am quite sure that this little fireworks display was all arranged well in advance. I am also sure that these individuals have been fully aware of the horses on one side of them, and the sheep on the other. So not giving us advance warning of their plans is at best thoughtless, selfish and inconsiderate. It may also be construed as a deliberate act of animal cruelty.

The people who did this aren’t youngsters. In fact they’re grandparents. They also have animals of their own. You’d think they would have more sense and decency.

Thankfully, due in no small part to the amazing temperaments of our horses, nothing bad happened last night. It could have been so much worse.

Fireworks – A Plea From the Heart

It’s often said that the last person to enter the House of Parliament with honest intentions was Guy Faulkes.
“Rememver remember the Fifth of November
Gunpowder treason and plot”

So here we are. Tonight is Halloween, Saturday is Guy Faulkes Night, and, I understand, this week , this year, I understand, it also happens to be Diwali. All this adds up to a fabulous week of fun and celebration. A jolly good time will be had by all!

Well no actually .

There at least two groups of people , and I belong to both, who dread this time of year.

They are?
Horse owners, and dog owners, and more specifically, Guide Dog Owners.

The reason?


Now, OK, I grant you, fireworks aren’t traditionally integral to Halloween, but for some people it’s any excuse to party with a bang. Also, while fireworks are a big part of Diwali, it is a festival of light after all, Diwali itself is a moveable celebration, so happens at a slightly different time each year. However, most people would agree that the celebration of Guys Faulkes takes place on far more days than just the 5th November..

There are supposed to be regulations controlling when, and to whom, fireworks can be sold, as wel as when, where, and by whom, they can can be letoff
Yeh right!

I don’t know of many Guide Dog Owners who don’t actually dread this time of year. I expect it’s the same for other Assistance Dog Owners too. A frightened, anxious dog can’t work safely. So what do you do? Do you reach for the white stick and leave Fido at home? OK if you aren’t going to be very long, or there’s someone at home to look after the dog; and if you’re a confident cane user. Do you stay at home and live like a recluse for the duration? Hardly practical, or possible, especially if you have to get to work or take the kids to school.do you carry on as normal and prey/hope/trust that nothing bad will happen?

Guide Dogs often have to hang up their harness for good as a direct result of being terrified by fireworks.

For horse owners it’s just as difficult.. Even if you know that there is going to be an organised display or private party close to where you keep your horse, you have very few options. Very few, if any, of us, are able to take our horses elsewhere for the duration. Even if we could, there’s no guarantee that there won’t be fireworks there too! So, do you leave your horses out, or shut them in? There’s no right or wrong answer here. Horses, being prey animals instinctively flee , or bolt, from scarey, things. Their mantra is, ‘Run first, ask questions later – Your life might depend on it!’. A terrified horse is dangerous, both to themself and anyone who gets in their any. They are runnin on pure Adrenalin and they are not engaging their mind.

Every year horses die as a direct result of fireworks. I’ve already read about one this weekend. Usually horses have to be put to sleep, or even sometimes shot, because of injuries they sustained while trying to run away. Often , prolonged exposure to adrenalin from the fear, stress and anxiety that prolonged or repeated fireworks cause, leads to a lethal bout of colic. Some horses just drop dead because their heart just can’t take it anymore. Whatever, the result is the same, a dead horse, and a decastated owner. All because of fireworks.is it worth it? If it was up to me fireworks would only be allowed at organised public displays, and those Chinese Lanterns that float off indescriminately with a lit flame inside them would be banned outright. It’s not up to me though.

So please, if you are planning a fireworks party this year, let people know. Then, they can at least try to make it easier for their animals.