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Coping With Loss

Coping with the loss of your horse: 15 ways to honor the bond you shared.

By Kara L. Stewart | November 2003

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The grief experienced over the loss of a horse can be deep and profound. Even if you made the decision to euthanize your horse to release him from pain, it does not make your loss any easier to bear.

While we all will grieve and heal in different ways, rest assured that grieving over the loss of your horse is completely acceptable—and honorable. After all, your horse was likely a member of the family and you spent many wonderful hours together. So, let yourself feel the pain and grieve the loss. When you are ready, you'll be able to move on and cherish the gifts that your horse gave you while you were together.

Along with the memories you'll have forever, here are some ways to keep your horse close to your heart.

  • Make photo frames from the last set of shoes. Sand and paint the shoes, then glue a photo to the back of the shoe and weave a ribbon hanger through the nail holes.
  • Plant a variety of flowering bulbs that come up in the spring. Every year, when the flowers poke through the earth with their fresh and vibrant colors, you'll be reminded of your horse.
  • Hold a ceremony to celebrate your horse's life. There are no rules here. Do whatever you deem appropriate, and invite those you know were important in your horse's life—or celebrate all by yourself. It's up to you.
  • Plant a deciduous tree or flowering shrub in a location where you can watch it during the year. The progression through the seasons can be a metaphor for the shared experiences you had with your horse and the growth you both experienced.
  • If you've saved some of your horse's mane or tail hair, braid a bookmark, a window ornament, a wristband or whatever item would be most meaningful to you.
  • Buy or make a special piece of jewelry—with a horse motif or not or engraved with your horse's name—that you wear all the time. Whenever you notice the jewelry, you'll be reminded of your horse.
  • Create a keepsake memory book of photos, written stories and recollections.
  • Horses change our lives and teach us exactly what we need to learn ... if we listen. Jot down the lessons you think your horse taught you. The good, the bad and the not so pretty.
  • Do something good to honor your horse. You might volunteer at your local equine rescue organization or therapeutic riding center. Choose a cause that speaks to you, and think of your horse as you participate in whatever activity you choose.
  • Commission a drawing or painting of your horse from photographs you have, or create one yourself.
  • Donate your favorite horse book to your local library, with an inscription dedicated to your horse. Or donate a year's subscription to your favorite horse magazine or breed journal.
  • Start a new 4-H club or Pony Club chapter to introduce kids to horses, or become a leader of an existing club.
  • Donate time, money or a needed item to your local vet clinic in memory of your horse.
  • If your vet euthanized your horse, send them a card expressing your thanks for their support through this trying time. Vets are people, too, and they find it just as hard to say goodbye to a beloved animal as we do.

Finally, as you're grieving, it may help to read the story titled "Rainbow Bridge." There are several links to it on the Internet with a search for "Rainbow Bridge." You likely will cry more tears as you read it, but they will be good, healing tears.

The Web site offers support, resources and links to other worthwhile sites for those grieving the loss of a horse.

Remember, as you're grieving, you may feel like you'll never get over the loss of your horse. It will take time, but eventually the thought of your horse will bring good memories to mind and a smile to your face rather than tears to your eyes.

Until that time comes, nurture yourself in healthy ways and spend time honoring your horse in whatever manner best suits you.

"No heaven can heaven be, if my horse isn't there to welcome me."
--Author Unknown

Further Reading
Dealing with the Loss of a Horse
Grief Counseling for Horse Owners

The author dedicates this article to her childhood equine partner, Surino, a true friend who passed away in 1985.

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Reader Comments

caroline    International

11/7/2014 8:19:45 PM

Thank you so much for this article, it has helped a lot. My horse was diagnosed with severe colic early this evening. It came as such a shock, put him to bed and he was absolutely fine, his usual cheeky self. Went to check on him and he was rolling around in pain, 2 hours later he was euthanised. One of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. What was most difficult is how painfully quick I had to decided whether to take him to surgery or let him go. I chose for him to be euthanised because I know that was the best thing for him. I will never ever forget him and I love him so much.

Sue    Caledonia, OH

8/27/2014 3:11:17 PM

Does it ever get easier? I'm on day two of my loss, and I grieved before he was even put to sleep. My horse, Stormy, had the kindest soul of any animal I've ever know. His eyes were so beautiful and kind. When we went on trail rides, we took care of each other. I read where someone wrote, that everytime a person spent time with her horse, the world stopped, and all the problems just dissolved. That's exactly how it felt with my boy Stormy. My heart is so heavy right now!

Annette    Manitowoc, WI

3/17/2013 9:11:51 PM

December 10, 2012 I lost my horse. I say lost because I still feel tremendous guilt over the word euthanize even though I know we had no other choice. Over the summer, my horse was stung by a bee making his face swell up. Our vet came out and was pushing around the area. This then caused discharge and breathing issues. Our farrier came out and told us to try a new vet. We did. We then found out our 40 year old horse had a rare form of cancer found in young horses. We were told he would live at most six months. We could try chemo but the cancer was aggressive. Within three weeks, my baby lost sight in his eye (he already was blind in one eye). He became easily agitated with falling snow. He started eating less. I would hurry home from work to clean his mane and tail every evening. I loved talking with him and spending time together. I've endured several losses the last couple years but I always had my horse to talk to, actually, all I had to do was be next to him and the world stopped. It was him and me, there was no pain, no fear, no hurt, nothing but us. And I know what everyone means when they say nobody understands, because they really don't. I lost my best friend, my true soul mate. My husband understands because he was close to him too. It's March now and I still wake at night and cry. I've lost my balance....

Lara    Eatonia, SK

11/28/2012 8:38:43 AM

Our horse Boy Oh Boy aka teddy passes last night on nov 28 12:45 am. He has a severe case if colic and we just couldn't keep him alive we tried everything we though he was getting better cause he was standing on his own and then he just quit breathing. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to experience, but I am glad he is out of pain. I just can't believe he is gone because it happened all soo fast. Rest in peace little guy.

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