Saying goodbye to a beloved horse is much like losing a close family member. If you have a horse you’ve bonded with you realize it is a different relationship than really any other. They aren’t human, they aren’t a pet, they are a friend, a partner, someone you trust, someone who trust you, and a great listener. They care for you and you for them. It is very different than any other relationship. The difficult decisions that must be made and mourning afterwards when you lose them is a pain that often breaks even the strongest heart in two.
We recently received news of a dear client of ours, "Alice", who passed away. This big, beautiful, golden, girl will be missed tremendously. Our hearts ache for her owner, Jane.
My family recently lost one of ours as well, so the feeling is fresh. At some point we all experience this kind of loss whether dealt by accident, progressive health conditions, or age. Since we can't always see accidents coming or prepare for the unknown and often the unforeseen hits us the hardest, I recommend having a plan in place before the tough decisions arrive.
Put a plan in place before you need it.
Before an accident, injury or medications and treatments stop maintaining or preventing age and health conditions from taking a toll on your trusted companion, it's time to put a plan in place.
(Just a quick tidbit of honesty. We all do it, read this article, really don't want to deal with, so we tuck it away and don't act on it. Let's agree to deal with the hard stuff, get it out of the way, and enjoy the moments we have with our four-legged besty!)
So now we’ve been honest, let’s talk to our vet and put a plan in place. It may be a hard thing to do but it will make things easier at some point and hopefully that point is no time soon.
Good questions to ask:
1. What kind of a time frame should we be looking at?
2. What signs should I be watching for that things are getting worse?
3. What can I do to make him/her as comfortable as possible?
4. Will I be able to reach you if the time comes?
5. Who would be a good back up for me to call or what should I do if you aren't available?
Once you know these answers, decide how you want the situation handled and what you want to happen afterwards.
Write it out, type it up, talk it into a voice memo. Share it with your vet and put a copy in the tack room or save it on your phone so you can share it if needed.
In emergency situations things get hectic, emotional, blurred, right up until everything is over, your adrenaline slows down and you realize all the things you wanted to do, wished you had done, wished you hadn't done start to sink in. If a different vet comes out, your busy helping, you're too exhausted to think straight, or even out of town and need someone else to be there, having a plan will help the situation go more smoothly and hopefully allow you to be by your horses side without worrying about the details.
Most everyone has a will, DNR, or last wishes to help family know what you want done. Having a plan for your horse is like giving yourself that same gift you gave your family when you filled out those forms. Peace of mind. Just as important as having a plan, make sure to have an emergency fund set back. Horses are expensive, worth it, but expensive and emergencies can be very expensive so it’s important to have that tucked back somewhere in case you ever need it.
And if you are the person who says it's just a horse and you don't understand, talk to a competitor who works their horse every day trying to make the next level, the cowboy who cracks a smile when sharing memories of his best horse, or the police officer who searches for children with his partner. If they aren’t available a quick search on the web of equine quotes and memes will fill your screen with all the reasons why.