Coping with the Loss of your Horse


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Coping with the Loss of your Horse

Morgan Murphy

Coping with the Loss of your Horse

Owning a horse is an amazing privilege: you become part of a relationship unlike any other. As you and your horse become bonded, you will find yourself entrusted with a companion worthy of passionate dedication. Regardless of your selected discipline, whether you keep your horse at a barn or in your backyard, it's easy to become completely smitten by your equine partner.


Sadly, the day will come when your four legged friend is no longer around. We are extremely fortunate to see our horses living longer, healthier, active lives. Many horses live to the age of 30, now days. But, as your horse enters his teens and 20's, he will become more and more susceptible to a range of conditions and diseases unique to the equine world. Inevitably, the day to say goodbye will arrive. And, regardless of how long you have known your horse, that day will most likely be met with heartbreak.


Your horse can become your best friend


It's quite unlikely that your horse will pass away naturally. As owners, we are in the position to intervene at the stage where our equine friend has started to suffer and is no longer enjoying a worthwhile quality of life. Your Veterinarian will be able to guide you through the decision to euthanize your horse, explaining what's involved and why it is a humane choice.

Our horses become such a major part of our lives that losing one can result in a huge change in lifestyle as well as a terrible feeling of loss. Perhaps the horses care and feeding made up a major part of your daily routine, from early morning wake ups to regularly mucking out stalls, barn or stall maintenance and more. This level of dedication may define who you are, to a large degree. So, if and when you are faced with this transition, it's important to bear these facts in mind:


  • Give yourself time to heal. While you may elect to get another horse, this isn't something you need to rush out and do. Sometime the healing process is hindered by purchasing another horse too quickly, particularly if you knew your departed companion for a very long time.
  • Be aware that you will experience a grieving process, a wide range of emotions including the normal stages: i.e., denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This can take from a few weeks to few years and you should not feel compelled to rush the process. Given the amount of cost, commitment and effort horse ownership involves, letting go of a cherished pony or horse can be like letting go of a human friend. Yes, it is a very big deal. Don't be afraid to show your feelings to your riding buddies. They understand more than non-horse people and will most likely be there for you as you plan your next steps.
  • Talk to someone who has lost a horse. They should be able to commiserate with you even more successfully than your horse friends, potentially offering more of the right kind of reassurance needed during this difficult time.
  • Make a photo book or collage of your favorite memories with your horse. Consider having jewelry made from a lock of your horse’s tail to preserve your precious memories.
  • Try listening to your favorite music or taking up an alternate form of exercise which can help release endorphins, natures antidepressants. Of course this will not make you forget, or take away the pain, but, it can help you manage a little better.
  • Try to surround yourself with supportive and caring people during this difficult time. Some people who do not own a pet may not be as understanding; they could be unsympathetic and think it was “just a horse."
  • When you're ready to start looking for a new horse (and for some people, this time may never come,) take your time finding the right companion. It is natural to seek out a horse similar to the one you lost, but, every horse should be judged on its own unique merits. Remember to take your trainer when trying out a new horse. Also, seriously consider having a pre-purchase exam done by a reputable veterinarian. (link to article on buying a horse)


While losing your horse can be extremely difficult, it's something that many horse people experience. Remember to cherish the good times and to generously allow yourself the time you need to heal.

*Image Courtesy of Bigstock Images





  • Thank you for sharing this Morgan. I lost my beloved old boy this week and I'm really finding it very hard, I miss him so much. It's good to read it's normal to feel like this and that it will get easier