New law bans fireworks in popular equestrian community

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Jun 22, 2021 5:10 PM

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Thousands of horses in part of Wellington will be protected from the bright lights and loud, startling noise of fireworks after the city got an exemption from a state law that loosened fireworks restrictions.

Fireworks are now banned in the 9,000-acre Equestrian Preserve, where 13,000 horses are stabled. Wellington still will continue with its regular Fourth of July fireworks show, a city spokeswoman said.

The ban only applies to the preserve, which includes numerous show grounds and polo fields and the International Polo Club Palm Beach.

State Rep. Matt Willhite, who represents Wellington, spearheaded the new bill, which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday.

Last year, the state approved a fireworks rule allowing people to legally set off fireworks on three designated holidays — Fourth of July, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Wellington pushed for the local ordinance protecting the preserve as a response to the state’s loosened fireworks regulations, which they feared could lead to potential dangers for the thousands of horses, according to a city document.

“Wellington receives many requests for assistance from those within the equestrian community, who are very concerned about the stress and anxiety experienced by their horses during these events, and who fear for the safety of their horses,” according to a city document.

“It is very common for horses to gallop, sweat and tremble when spooked by the loud noise and flashing of fireworks, and this can result in cuts, strains and sprains in these prized animals.”

A spokesman for Willhite said there wasn’t one inciting event that triggered the legislation but added that horses often had to be babysat or sedated during fireworks shows.

While Wellington isn’t the only city in Florida with an equestrian community, no other city pushed for an exemption to the new state law that loosened fireworks restrictions.

In addition to the safety benefits, a spokesman for Willhite said the legislation is crucial because equestrian sports aren’t an economic driver for just the Village of Wellington, but because of the tourism it attracts, the county and state too.”

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