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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—maybe with a horse motif 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," which you can easily find by searching online. You likely will cry more tears as you read it, but they will be good, healing tears.

The website www.hoofbeats-in-heaven.com 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

joyce    greencastle, PA

1/7/2018 10:27:01 AM

My beloved DOMINOE has passed away quietly at the age of 31! Although she was my greatest blessing for only the past 12 years, I came to very mindbending thoughts as I buried her yesterday by myself on our farm. She was that dream horse you never think you might even see let alone have. I believe she was given me for the care that I lovingly gave her to keep her healthy in her older years. 4 different coats, special care , food and
spoiling. She was loose on our fenced in 30 acres: slept near my front porch, leaning her head against the wood post, stealing the dry dog food out of my golden retriever's dish, eating all the loose alfalfa from the back of my kawasaki mule, with always adding that quiet muffled happy sound she'd make when she saw me with her goodies. I am grateful for the joy that only she could have filled my life with and I know she loved me just as much as I loved her.My greatest blessings; I thank God for my loving parents, my only son and my Dommie--
the most beautiful leopard appalossa mare. Singing & crying while I listened to a most befitting song by the group Selah/ "All my tears"

Jacqui    International

5/5/2017 4:26:05 PM

Reading about people's experiences losing their horses brought me to tears. Friends of mine lost one of theirs last year. Before they buried her, they took clippings from her mane and tail and sent them away so that they could get a memorial diamond made. They haven't decided what kind of jewelry they want to set it in yet, but having that small part of Red Beauty with them has provided a massive amount of comfort to them. I just wish their other horse, Russet, could gain the same amount of comfort from it. If anyone else is interested, I think they used this place: LINK

Jacqui    International

5/5/2017 4:24:51 PM

Reading about people's experiences losing their horses brought me to tears. Friends of mine lost one of theirs last year. Before they buried her, they took clippings from her mane and tail and sent them away so that they could get a memorial diamond made. They haven't decided what kind of jewelry they want to set it in yet, but having that small part of Red Beauty with them has provided a massive amount of comfort to them. I just wish their other horse, Russet, could gain the same amount of comfort from it. If anyone else is interested, I think they used this place: LINK

Dave and Deb    International

4/20/2017 12:53:33 AM

We lost our beautiful girl Missy yesterday to colic, we are absolutely devastated and heartbroken, we have lost a big part of our family.

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