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New Year’s fireworks lead to heartache for Nova Scotia horse owner

Dawn Golding of Canning, N.S., is starting the new year with a broken heart, and an empty stall in her horse barn.

On New Year’s Eve, Golding said neighbours set off fireworks around 6:30 p.m., just before she was about to bring the horses into the barn for supper.

The horses, some boarding there and others owned by Golding’s family, were spooked and broke through fencing into an adjacent pasture. They then went into a field, and other nearby farms.

Golding and her daughter, Lauren, raced along behind the horses. Eventually they came upon their oldest horse, Navar, with a compound fracture.

“I found him on the ground, with his bone through his leg dangling off. It was probably the most horrific sight I’ve seen,” Golding said.

A veterinarian came out and determined Navar’s leg could not be repaired. He was put down, and Golding said she was at least glad he was taken out of his “excruciating agony” as quickly as possible.

Navar, who was 16, had been with Golding for most of his life and was considered a member of the family. She said he had a successful career in show jumping.

A “force of nature,” Golding said Navar also helped her get through cancer treatment this past year.

“Navar would take care of me. He was my guy,” Golding said, her voice breaking. “I really am going to be very lost without him.”

new years fireworks lead to heartache for nova scotia horse owner
Dawn Golding raised Navar since he was a foal. Navar was put down on Friday evening after breaking his leg while running from a fireworks display. (Dawn Golding)

The other horses were checked over and returned to the barn with no major injuries, Golding said.

After sharing her story on Facebook, Golding said the post took off with thousands of shares and comments as of Sunday.

She’s heard from not only fellow horse owners, but people around the world, offering condolences and similar stories of how fireworks have affected their animals. 

Golding said she would like to see stricter regulations around the use of fireworks, and a requirement to notify people  within a certain range when they are to be set off. 

So-called “silent fireworks” would be an ideal alternative, Golding said. They are catching on in some jurisdictions.

“Out of this tragedy what I would only hope is that people just … give a thought,” Golding said. “If you’re going to use them, if you have to, tell your neighbours.”

On another farm in Lawrencetown, N.S., Kim and Blair Davis also had a traumatic New Year’s Eve.

The couple set up Ataraxy Farm to help treat Blair’s service-related PTSD. Their therapy goats have comforted him for years, and they recently opened up the farm to fellow veterans or others in the area needing support.

new years fireworks lead to heartache for nova scotia horse owner 1
Blair Davis sits with Fred, a goat he got for free with the purchase of a horse. (Brian MacKay/CBC)

But on Friday night, Kim said neighbours set off fireworks for the first time in about five years. The noise and the smell brought Blair right back to his service in Bosnia.

“I know people enjoy them, but at the same time, they don’t realize the impact,” Kim said. “My husband had a meltdown on the road.”

But the fireworks continued and Blair had an emergency session with his psychiatrist.

The fireworks also led one of their horses to injure its hip after it broke through its paddock to a larger enclosure, Kim said. Two goats were hurt when they raced out of the barn.

Kim said she would also like to see quieter fireworks displays put on in various parts of the municipality, so people can attend a show in their community and not set them off in a backyard.

This June, a municipal staff report looked at the logistics of bringing in such displays for municipal events, after Coun. David Hendsbee requested the report last February.

The report said while they are not silent, pyrotechnics are quieter than commercial fireworks and the “low-altitude, low-noise” products are being used in Banff and Canmore, Alta. 

Another animal that took off into the woods after hearing fireworks on Friday night turned out OK.

new years fireworks lead to heartache for nova scotia horse owner 2
A 12-week-old CNIB guide dog in training, Chesnut, went missing for nearly two days after fireworks sent her running into the woods of Greenfield, N.S. (CNIB Guide Dogs)

Chestnut, a 12-week-old golden retriever, bolted into the woods surrounding a property in Greenfield, N.S., around 8 p.m.

Laura Kennedy, a supervisor for CNIB Guide Dogs in Halifax, said Chestnut is one of 10 puppies in the city being trained. She was in the Greenfield area with her Halifax owners attending a New Year’s Eve gathering.

Kennedy said dogs getting spooked by fireworks is common, as the loud explosions can cause spikes of anxiety.

Fireworks are “unpredictable and so loud and, you know, dogs have very good hearing,” Kennedy said.

“A lot of anxiety, just stress generally, and … often that can lead to … a fight-or-flight response.”

The local community, CNIB staff, and a professional dog tracker came together to search for Chestnut over the weekend, and she was finally found just after 1 p.m. Sunday.

A Greenfield man noticed a small puppy sitting on his neighbour’s deck, which is currently vacant, and she came running over to him when he called her Chestnut.

“Barely even dirty,” Chestnut was quickly reunited with her puppy-raiser family, Kennedy said, and was checked over by a veterinarian but seemed to be in good health.


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