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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

Dianne    Imnaha, OR

2/26/2015 5:54:19 PM

I write a blog, so I wrote a lengthy piece about my horse Hadarah and her life and posted it online, complete with several photos of her and me riding her. I also saved mane and tail hair for making articles, such as bookmarks or bracelets, and I have my favorite framed photo of the two of us on the wall above my desk in my office.

gillian    london, NJ

2/6/2015 10:57:41 PM

I had to make my decision to sadly say goodbye to my best friend in the world, Savannah 25 years of partnership, fun and laughter together. I could talk to him and he would, sort of understand but never judge me, always greet me. I have lost a big part of my world when I said goodbye. I will never forget him. and I will see him again. my heart gos out to all who have lost a dear friend like this it hurts.

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!

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