Tips for a Safe and Sane Halloween for Your Horse

by Flossie Sellers

Halloween is a festive time with costumes, tricks and treats, and revelry for young and old. For well-trained horses that are used to people, crowds, and excitement, all may be well, but for other horses, Halloween festivities may cause them to spook.

Protecting your horse from Halloween spooks. For well-trained horses that are used to people, crowds, and excitement, all may be well, but for other horses, Halloween is a spooky time that may cause the horse to also spook.

If your horses are out where they will be aware of trick or treaters or other Halloewen activities, taking time to prevent your horse from spooking over unexpected surprises is important.

Caring horse owners will want to make sure that horses are protected from activities that might frighten them and cause them to spook which can lead to injuries to Halloween revelers and the horse.

The following tips are suggested and recommended by animal shelters and veterinarians designed to keep horses and other pets safe on Halloween.

  1. Trick or treaters can cause loud and excessive noise and frighten your horse, especially if he is exposed to general traffic going through the area, so put your horse in a barn or sheltered area where he is insulated from Halloween activities. With many people visiting the area in strange attire, even a normally calm horse may spook.

  2. If you plan on joining the trick or treat revelers on your horse, make sure that he is trained to accept unusual noises along with abrupt movements of costumed people who may appear threatening, especially as darkness approaches and strange lights appear carried by trick or treaters.

  3. Decorating for Halloween is fun and colorful, but be careful with lit pumpkins and candles. if they are on walkways or near paths that horses will be on, they could either spook the horse or the horse might knock them over and start a fire. This is especially dangerous if they are near hay, the barn or stable area where a fire could quickly get out of control.

  4. Make sure that your horse is secure during the Halloween festivities. Pranksters sometimes let horses and other animals out, just for the fun of it. Others have been known to tease, abduct, and torture unprotected animals under cover of Halloween darkness.

If your horse will be wearing a costume and participating in Halloween festivities, take some time in the next few days and weeks before Halloween to help your horse overcome any fears that might spook him on Halloween night. Also make sure the costume won't block the horse's vision.

  • Acclimate your horse to costume items slowly, especially if they are unlike anything he’s worn before. If he is skittish, stick to decorating his usual sheets, blanket and tack.

  • Avoid costumes held in place by rubber bands, which can be uncomfortable and cause skin irritation or injury.

  • Don’t let any part of your horse's costume droop, drag or unwind so it could be stepped on or entangled between your horse’s legs.

  • Use only nontoxic paints and dyes on your horse. Tempera paint, used in elementary schools, is nontoxic and washes out of coats easily.

  • Be prepared for your horse to be suspicious of his costumed herdmates. If he’s normally spooky, he’s likely to be extra reactive to unfamiliar sights, so consider going to the costume event on foot instead of riding your horse where you will meet unexpected Halloween surprises.