Friday, June 6, 2008

Harvey gets older: Thinking of the future

This is some personal commentary on a tough topic, planning for the loss of your horse. Feel free to Skip to resources.

Last weekend, at a local horse show, Harv and I rode in a couple of training level tests. On the left is a video still from our training test 4. Our scores sort of tanked, but Harv received compliments and remarks about his youthful appearance. He is rotund, pretty well muscled, and he moves fluidly for an old geezer. At 21, Harvey Is just now starting to show a few signs of age. His wither is a bit more prominent, and the muscling of his topline has dropped. But that’s about it.

Harv should go on for a long time. But one day he will pass away. The thing about horses is, when you consider our lifespan, and theirs, the chances are we’re going to outlive them. My hope is that Harv will go peacefully, at home, surrounded by people who love him.

Years ago, a friend of mine had to make the decision to put her horse down. It went on longer than it should have. I remember her delaying the decision, saying "I'm just not ready to say goodbye." It sounds morbid, but horse owners need to prepare emotionally and practically for the eventuality of loss. There are resources to help horse owners cope with the death of a large animal – from the drugs, to the veterinary consultation, to the disposal of the body. I’ve compiled a few. Please feel free to add any you may know of...


Euthanasia of horses Ontario Ministry of Agriculture

National pet loss support hotlines compiled by Cornell U
Hoofbeats in Heaven
Do Horses Grieve? From TB Times
Grieving the loss of a friend from TB Times
Coping with your horse’s death from
Dealing with the death of a horse from Jessica Jahiel
Managing grief responses from DVM magazine
Coping with loss of your horse

Making the decision
Euthanasia: Helping you make the right decision from Liphook Equine Hospital
Older horses: The final decision from The Horse Magazine
Time to say goodbye from The Horse Magazine
Equine Euthanasia An Adult Responsibility from
Euthanasia: Guidance for a difficult decision from AAEP
Tough Decisions—Saying Goodbye from
Euthanasia from The Horse Magazine (informing owners and involving them in the decision to euthanize)
Euthanasia: What you need to know about putting a horse down from

Practical matters
Horse burial services news item from Columbia University
After goodbye from The Horse Magazine
Preparing for the final farewell UK Horse and Hound
Emergency euthanasia of horses from UC Davis
Horse euthanasia procedures from Equine Protection Network
When your horse dies from Bay Area Equestrian Network

Euthanizing: Home or hospital
How much does it cost to euthanize a horse?
Cost of euthanasia
Non-emergency euthanasia considerations
Methods of euthanasia: discussion please


  1. I try not to think about how I'm going to deal with losing Kaswyn. I know he'll go eventually, and I just hope that if it's my decision as to when he goes, that I make the right decision and don't prolong too long, or jump the gun too soon. It will probably be the former, because I'm really not going to ever be ready to lose my horsey soulmate.

  2. I live with the knowledge that my own horse is living on borrowed time and some day that will be over. Someday my horses tendon will snap and it will be time. It still makes me tear up knowing that I am going to loose him. I hope that this knowledge will make it easier on both of us when his time does come. I know it will never be easy for me to say good-bye to my horse...he is too special. I have always guidelines for putting a horse down. If my horse is in pain and will continue to be in pain, if he will never be allowed outside to run again, if he needs another surgery, and of course if he ever tells me he is ready.

  3. Always a good topic. No, this is something we don't tend to think about. I have only had to make the decision once in over 30 years of horse ownership.

    I had to euthanize my mare who shared over 20 years of my life due to a severe colic (surgery was not an option in her case) and never regretted it. Sure, I miss her but I don't ever have any thoughts of "what if?" It was the right thing to do for that horse at that time.

    The horse I have now is also in his forever home. He is in great condition and very active but has large melanoma growths on parts of his body. I know what the future can hold with this condition. The moment his comfort cannot be guaranteed or excessive measures are the only way to keep him alive I will euthanize.

    The inner peace I have from the feeling I did the right thing the first time I had to make the choice has given me the strength to feel I can make the right decision again. It's never easy, but I wish the same strength to anyone else who may have to make that decision.

  4. I lostmy old Appy gelding 2 years ago. Not a day goes by that I do not miss him, and feel the pain of loss BUT I know we did the right thing. At his age (38 when we moved farther south,) there was no way he could have coped not only with the haul down, but the increase in heat and humidity. My only regret? That I can not have his grave here to visit.

    Never an easy topic, and you did a great job with it.


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