I put my horse down yesterday. This is my story.
My hope in writing this is that you never find yourself having to make the decision to euthanize your horse. Unfortunately, for many of us lifelong horse people, at some point…we are likely to have to make that decision. I am not going to get into the details of “why”, because that is not the point of what I have to share. I can assure you that it was out of mercy with the support of multiple vets. There simply was nothing more that I could do and my horse was suffering with even more degeneration and suffering on the horizon.
Making the choice:
I think that is one of the reasons that process of euthanizing a horse is severely under estimated: It’s more than grief of losing a loved one, it’s the burden of having to end the life of something that we deeply love. It is an incredibly difficult decision to make – even when it’s the right decision! How can something that is the right thing to do hurt so much? It feels so wrong to take the life of a being that we love so much and we choose to take their life because we love them? It just feels wrong.
When you think about it, every moment is about you and your relationship with your horse. Don’t let someone else tell you when, what or how. You know your horse better than anyone else. Trust that relationship, and trust yourself in making the decision. Know that it will be OK.
How to cope:
After scheduling the euthanasia, I researched how to cope. My logical brain was wanting to prepare and hopefully buffer some of the free-fall from grief that I was expecting. I was amazed at how little quality information is out there. While I appreciate things like pet bereavement groups or pet psychics; that was not the right choice for me personally. I found more value in content around grieving over the loss of a friend or family member. Because really- my horse was both to me.
What I really wanted was something that would tell me how to say Good Bye! How to let go? How to…well….be brave and do something that was so deeply juxtaposition to what I wanted. I wanted to save her! I wanted to make her whole! I needed an emotional to do list so that the hurt and the tears would stop.
During this process, I realized that being able to say good bye in the way you choose to is a huge gift. It is an opportunity to get closure in the way that you need it. How I chose that process was personal to my relationship with my horse, and I encourage you to do the same. Only YOU know what you need to do or say. It is not anyone else’s goodbye.
In my situation, my horse loved to be groomed. She loved to be pampered, brushed, admired, and fawned over. So before her final day – I groomed her from head to toe. I washed her tail with deep conditioner and put show sheen on her mane. I can assure you that people at the barn were looking at me like I was a complete nut job. Yes, I knew it looked crazy, but for this horse- she wouldn’t want to go dirty. Judge me if you want, but that was her truth and I knew her best.
So if someone in your barn community is experiencing this- be kind, be supportive, give hugs, don’t judge, help them cope with the hardest decision they have to make.