There are so many Facebook posts on horse groups asking how one can endure and cope with the loss of a horse or pony. We understand, and would like to write a few words which we hope will help you see your beloved friend over the "Rainbow Bridge".
For most of us who have horses in our lives, there is a special bond unlike no other. While those who have never given their heart to a horse may see them as livestock, to a horse-lover your equine companion is as close as a family member.
Sadly, there comes a time when your beloved horse friend passes on. Whether death comes suddenly and unexpectedly, or slowly creeps up and you yourself have to make the decision to euthanase and release an old horse from pain and illness, you will need to work through your grief at the loss.
If helps if there is someone to deal with the practicalities of the situation for you, particularly disposal of the remains, which is a specially painful part of the loss.
Well-meaning friends and relatives may refrain from mentioning the horse, and try to keep you occupied away from his empty stable and pasture.
The best thing, though, is to face up to your grief and work through it. You can, and will, come to the place where you will reconcile with the loss, and be able to cherish the memories of your dear departed friend.
STAGES OF GRIEF
Grief counsellors agree that there are five basic stages of human grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Your deceased horse was as close to you as any human friend or relative, and therefore the stages of grief will be the same.
The denial will come and go quickly. You may find yourself heading out to feed your horse, even though you know he is gone. Reality will hit hard like a kick in the guts when you get to the empty barn.
If your horse had companions you should remind yourself of the fact that they will be feeling his loss too. Horses are herd animals, and the literature is full of sad stories of how horses show their grief at the loss of a buddy. Sometimes they may even show physical reactions, go off their food and become morose. It will help you with your own grief to take note of how your horse's companions are reacting to his loss. A sense of purpose helps with grieving, and you can make sure you are paying extra attention to the surviving horse/s to keep them busy and cheerful.
The stage of denial runs into the angry stage of grieving, when you will blame yourself or someone else for the circumstances that led to your horse's death. You'll be angry that you forgot to close the gate before the accident happened, or that you didn't notice the onset of colic soon enough.
It takes some time to come to terms with the fact that being angry, or even guilty, is not going to bring the horse back. Anger is debilitating and usually overlaps with the bargaining stage, when you mentally make a pact with a higher power to be a better person if you can be relieved of the guilt and anger.
Next comes the inevitable depression. Working through depression is difficult for some of us. Don't be afraid to seek professional help if necessary.
Finally you will be able to come to an acceptance, and hopefully remember your beloved horse fondly and openly, and move on with life keeping him in your heart.
There is no telling how long it will take a person to work through their grief; each individual handles grief in their own way.
No-one should expect you to forget your dear horse, jump on another one, and carry on regardless. Let everyone know you need to take the time to grieve and cherish the spirit of your equine friend.
Many horse-lovers find it comforting to set up a physical memorial of some sort for a precious horse, or perhaps make a donation to a horse charity in his name and memory.
I rather like the idea of planting a tree or flowering shrub in a spot that you can visit during the year to remember shared experiences with your horse.
If you have some of your horse's mane or tail hair you can have it braided into a bracelet or some other meaningful knick-nack you can keep close as a meaningful keepsake.
When the pain of loss begins to abate you will probably enjoy making a memory wall of framed pictures of you and your beloved horse, or put together a keepsake scrapbook of memories.
Such activities can be particularly beneficial to help children through grieving for a favourite pony.
As someone once said, the only certainty in life is death. Sadly most of us will outlive our horses, and have to face losing them. Surround yourself with loving friends and family. Draw on them for support and give in to grief.