The best listeners in the world and the only cure you know for a bad day, you can’t imagine life without your trusted horse. Sadly tragedy can happen and we heartbreakingly lose that special friend. Becky Murray looks at the things you should keep in mind...
1. Sometimes having a horse put to sleep isn’t always a black and white decision
A terrible accident can mean the decision is made, but what happens when the decision isn’t so clear? You could be facing making a decision on a horse that is going to have a lifetime of unsound, field rest. With the help of your vet, have faith that you will arrive at the best decision for your horse and you should never feel guilty for this. This isn’t your fault.
2. The hardest decision can be having your horse put to sleep, but the next agonising decision can be whether to stay with them while they make their last journey
This is a completely individual decision and there is no wrong answer. Some owners can take comfort in being there until the end but others might prefer to say their goodbyes beforehand. Never be afraid to do what feels right for you.
3. It’s ok not to be brave
Losing a horse can be as heartbreaking as losing a family-member. You don’t have to put on a brave face. It could take a long time to process things, you may have hundreds of questions, you might feel angry or that you didn’t do enough. Everyone deals with loss in their own way; you may want to hideaway or keep yourself busy and surrounded by people. You won’t forget your special friend, but with time you will feel better and know that you did your very best for them.
4. What happens after you’ve lost your dear friend?
You might quickly feel ready to fill that huge horse-shaped hole in your life. Looking for your next companion can help you move on and give you something positive to focus on. Horses can have a way of finding us and there is no time limit on how long you should wait. Guilt should never be felt for moving on to your next horse, it doesn’t mean you don’t think about the horse you lost or that you loved them any less.
5. Alternatively maybe your heart needs some time to heal
A friend may offer you a ride of their horse, or try to be helpful and tell you of a horse that they know would be just perfect for you… however it’s ok to take a break. It could be weeks or months or longer. It might be that you just aren’t ready to jump back onboard yet and that is perfectly acceptable.
6. After the sad loss of a horse your confidence can take a knock
You can doubt yourself as an owner after such a tragedy, perhaps wishing you had done things differently or blaming yourself. You might be scared history could repeat itself. Speak to friends, your instructor, or the yard owner and remember what a brilliant horse owner you are.
7. Memories of your horse can be painful for a long time
Photographs or even their headcollar can trigger all sorts of emotions. These memories will with time become happy ones. When you feel up to it you could look at having a photo-collage made, or even a keepsake bracelet of horse-hair.
8. Going into your horse’s stable after the loss can be very hard and feel very empty
It’s ok to ask for help and support while sorting their belongings or cleaning out the stable… and this doesn’t need doing immediately. Take the time you need before approaching this tough task.
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9. Dealing with people after a loss can be especially daunting
Everyone wants to be there for you and try to say the right thing, often leading them to say entirely the wrong thing in the process! Your horse friends will ask kindly what happened. Non-horse folk perhaps won’t understand quite so easily. You could hear, “It was only a horse!” or “Can’t you get another one?” which can be very testing at a difficult time. Often people don’t know what to say in these situations and don’t mean harm. Try and take some comfort that you have felt the special bond with such a beautiful animal and though you will never forget, you will be able to look back at all the happy times.