Saying Goodbye to a Horse

Last night was a sad night in our little corner of the world. Yesterday afternoon, our pastor was doing some groundwork with a young horse, Nipper, when Nipper spooked, reared, and fell, hitting his head on the ground. You can tell by the title of the post how it turned out. The fall apparently caused a brain injury; he was bleeding from one ear and didn’t rouse for quite a while. He eventually came to, ate hay and neighed to his stablemate but couldn’t control his head movement and couldn’t get his back legs off the ground. After 11 hours of sitting with him, watching him periodically struggle to get up, they decided it was best to let him go. The vet came back around 11 p.m. and put him down. It was very, very sad. They have two little girls, 9 and 8, and it was just heart-wrenching to see them cry over their horse. The pastor’s wife took it even harder. They got this horse when he was only 6 weeks old and raised him. He was two years old.

And as rough as yesterday was, guess what they have to deal with today? A thousand-pound horse that’s laying in their pasture. I can’t remember if I’ve addressed this issue here before – I think I have – but a sad fact of horse ownership is that you need to have a plan in place if your horse dies. The reality of it is, a horse is really big and really heavy. You can’t just get the shovel out, dig a little hole and lay him in it like you would the family dog. So what do you do? There are a couple of options.

Our pastor (and we) own a big piece of property, so a good option is to bury the horse on the property (that’s what our pastor will do, and we would too). The problem with that is, most people don’t own the equipment necessary to dig a hole large enough for a full-grown horse, and to move that horse to the burial site. Luckily, we know people who do.

Another option is cremation. There are companies who will come and get the horse and cremate the remains. I imagine it might be kind of expensive, but I haven’t checked into that. There are also agencies – municipal, county or state – who will dispose of an animal for you (again, probably for a fee). And for those of you who aren’t as soft-hearted as we are, there are even companies who will take the body and render it for goodness-knows-what. I’m all for recycling, but I’ll have to draw the line there.

Whatever you think is the best choice for you, plan ahead. You think it won’t happen for a while, you pray it won’t, but it does. And it seems that things like this happen at the most inopportune time – late on a cold night during a holiday week, the night before it’s supposed to rain, for instance. So, as painful as it is to think about, I urge you to be prepared. It will make a difficult time a little less of a burden if you have a plan in place.

(If the photo is hard for you to see, the inscription is “The air of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears” and is inscribed on a memorial to Mary, Lady Towneley, on the Pennine Bridleway in Derbyshire, England. I found the photo at, a mountain biking site.)

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About Mikki

Born and raised in Arizona...lived in the city for 25 years after growing up. Moved to a tiny little town in east Tennessee in 2005 and somehow ended up with 5 dogs, 2 cats, 4 chickens, 3 goats and, of course, 4 horses. Lovin' the country life!
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8 Responses to Saying Goodbye to a Horse

  1. Louise B says:

    I am so sorry. I will keep in mind to think of that dreadful moment. I weep with your pastor’s family. God bless.

    Louise and Rebel

  2. Laura says:

    Thanks for reading our blog. Sadly, Marshmellow got picked up and is on her way to Tucson. Fortunately, I already said my goodbye before we left town for the holidays. Sorry for your experience too.

  3. Lynda says:

    As the owner of a horse that’s 21 years old, I’ve thought about this. In fact, I’ve had some thoughts about it that I’ve been thinking of making into a blog entry. Perhaps I’ll get it written. But it’s like your will, you don’t want to think about it. My sympathies to your pastor and his family. All of us in the horse community share their pain.

  4. Callie says:

    I’m not sure if we have the cremation option in our area, but when my 4 month old filly died, the gave me two rendring options. I chose the more expensive one as he just comes and takes the creature very dignified way in a horse trailer and does not say where she goes, but assures that he’ll take care of her. We also have the option, since we’re very near a top equine and vet school also. Sometimes they will take the animal for obvious reasons. I unfortunately legally cannot bury on my property.

  5. Mikki says:

    Callie, I’m sorry for the loss of your filly. You brought up two things I should have mentioned and did not – one, that it may not be legal to bury on your property, even if you want to. The other is the option of donating your horse for research. That’s a very good option, if you’re able to do it. Thank you for sharing.

  6. maggie says:

    at 8:50 in the morning we lost the eldest of the clan .it was very heartbreaking. his name was chance show name chances are he was 32

  7. Mikki says:

    Oh, Maggie, we’re so sorry to hear that. What a sad day for you! Our thoughts and prayers are with you…so hard to say goodbye!

  8. Jackie says:

    I lost my 26 yr old Bay as I was riding with a heart attack, which I had since he was 7 months old, he raise all my kids plus we were in alot of things, that pain that night was terrible,and that decision was not easy, even if I knew what was best, I still miss him 4 years later, I called a company that pick him up and he went to a peice of property that the state has put up for things like this, this company charge $75.00.Crematiom close around $3000.00 for this animal, the zoo take animals also, as long there is no mecidine used on the animal.

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