Welcome back to KA Equestrian and to Part 3 of ‘Saying Goodbye’, our blog series lifting the veil on the unknown and unsaid about having your horse put to sleep. In part 1 we looked at the decision-making surrounding knowing how and when to have your horse euthanised, in part 2 we looked at the mechanics and practicalities of it and in this third and final part we look at how we cope with the loss and how we commemorate our equine friends once they’re gone.
One of the themes that came up time and time again in the research for this blog series, was how owners struggled to cope with the grief left once their horse had gone. A few people mentioned how they’d been expected by family and friends just to “bounce back” after a few days, with one person sharing the account of being told “You should be over this by now” 2 weeks after the loss of her horse. There was a feeling of not being permitted the time to properly grieve and that because, it was “just a horse”, it isn’t acknowledged as something that could affect you deeply.
When I began to look into this element of losing a horse, I was signposted to The Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Service. I must admit, I hadn’t heard of it previously, but I was really heartened to hear of it’s existence.
“We know that the loss of a pet impacts everyone differently. Feelings of despair, loneliness and even depression can be overwhelming. There may also be a strong sense of guilt and self-doubt, particularly when a decision has been taken to euthanise or re-home a pet. These feelings are normal and a testimony to the special bond between people and their pets. We often hear that friends, family members or colleagues don’t quite understand the upset that losing a pet can bring, and grieving for a pet can be a very lonely experience. Sometimes it helps to share these feelings with someone who knows from personal experience how distressing pet loss can be, and who will listen with compassion and without judgement.”
Run exclusively by trained volunteers, the helpline is open every day from 8.30am - 8.30pm and can be contacted on 0800 096 6606. Alternatively, they offer email support on firstname.lastname@example.org and, if you’d prefer to remain anonymous, a confidential email service is also available which can be accessed via their website www.bluecross.org.uk.
Quite often there isn’t time for much of a goodbye at the time your horse is euthanised and there is no ‘normal’ process for any particular ritual afterwards but part of the grieving process, and crucially, the ability to move on, is dependent on being able to say a proper goodbye.
Owners do a whole host of different things to help remember and commemorate their horses once they’re gone and *WARNING* I was an emotional wreck reading some of these! …
Suzanne said “There was no time to include any ritual, although we did give her a last feed, which she struggled to eat. I think this was more for us to have something to do while we were waiting for arrangements to be put in place than anything else. We had her body cremated but did not keep the ashes as we didn't want to have to decide what to do with them in the long term. I think I grieved over the previous 2 weeks as seeing her suffer was worse than making the decision and it was more of a relief once it was done. There was more mental anguish over the previous days trying to work out of anything else could be done. Once the realisation that there were no other viable treatment options for her it made the decision clear, and probably slightly easier. I did feel guilt over not increasing her PPID treatment but the vet had good reason to suspect this would not be tolerated and was unlikely to work for her. Friends, family and yard staff expressed their condolences for a few days after but I’ve had no other support. The yard manager was supportive with practical matters and the vet practice sent a lovely card which was appreciated. I have ordered a commemorative picture for myself and a picnic bench for the yard which will have a plaque on it. The yard manager has also ordered a plaque with her name on it to be put up outside her stable. My daughter has ordered a bracelet made of her tail hair and I have ordered a bracelet bead and paper weight with her tail hair. I wouldn’t change anything, my experience was the best it could have been. I think I was supported to make the right decision at the right time by the vet and close family.”
Sammy said “ Five months after Charlie was PTS, our son was born on 17th January. We named him Charlie Boothby. My husband said we named him after my old boy so when he’s older he can tell him he was named after my one true love!” Prior to having him put to sleep we had some stunning photos taken of all my boys and I have had the most beautiful bead made with his tail hair in it.”
Suzannne said “On the morning of the day she was PTS she had a full groom, mane tidied, tail trimmed, hoof stain on so she looked her best. A bucket full of feed and a pile of polos and carrots on her walk out to the field with the vet behind us. I felt a heap of guilt and still do wonder if I did the right thing. Although I know I did, there’s always the thought of ‘could I have done more’. My partner was a huge help a