Honoring Your Horse: (Part 3 of a 3-part series on equine end-of-life planning.)


Ways to remember your special equine.


June 1, 2021

By Gail M. Staines, Ph.D.

Founder, The Senior Horse


In part 1 of this 3-part series on saying good-bye to your horse, I provided information on making end-of-life decisions for your horse as well as an Equine End of Life planning document. Part 2 provides information about euthanasia – what to expect and what to plan for. Part 3 offers ways to celebrate your horse’s life.


Horse Owner’s Grieve Differently


Each person will go through a grieving process that is specific to them when their horse passes away. We know the stages of grief as described by Kubler-Ross (1969) as occurring in this order:

  1. Denial

  2. Anger

  3. Bargaining

  4. Depression

  5. Acceptance

Co-author Kessler (2020) has added a sixth stage – meaning.


However, grieving is not a linear process. It does not occur within a specific timeframe and frequently it is unique to each person involving how the horse passed away and the bond that they had with their horse. It is ok to recognize that your own feelings may not mirror others that have gone through this process, and it is ok to honor your horse’s memory in ways that feel right to you.


After the Loss of a Horse


For some, the days and weeks immediately following the loss of their horse may be the hardest. Reminders of your beloved equine will remain – a halter and lead rope, nameplate, saddle and bridle, brushes and combs, blankets – all real reminders that your horse is gone.


Memories of the times you enjoyed with your horse may come flooding back – the goofy way they pawed the ground then rolled, the whinny when you entered the barn, and the way they pushed you up the hill in the pasture. Stop and enjoy these memories when they emerge. They will always be a part of who you are and the precious time you had with your horse.


Honoring Your Horse is Therapeutic


There are hundreds of ways to honor your horse when you are ready. Again, there is no one ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ way, so select ways that work for you.


A search of the Internet, Pinterest, or many other online sites will provide you with a wealth of ideas. Here are some of the more common ways that people honor their horses:

  • On a specific date (e.g., birthday, date of passing, etc.) make a donation in your horse’s honor to an equine rescue facility or equine veterinary university. This can be done annually.

  • Make something or have something created as a reminder of your horse. This could be anything from having jewelry made from your horse’s tail, to making a quilt out of your horse’s show ribbons, to creating a shadow box that includes horseshoes, photos, and other memorabilia. One person I know had a life-sized poster made of her horse and attached the horse’s tail to it. Another refurbished a carousel horse, adding her horse’s mane and tail.

  • Have an artist draw or paint a portrait of your horse.

  • Create a photo book or a video.

  • Sponsor a class at a horse show in your horse’s name.

There is no right or wrong way to honor the memory of your horse. Do whatever feels right to you, whatever will help you remember their passing and keep their memory in your heart.


REFERENCES


Kessler, D. (2020). Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief. NY: Simon and Schuster.


Kübler-Ross E (1969). On Death and Dying. NY: Routledge.