28 Jun What to Do When Your Horse Dies
No horse owner ever wants to think about when their horse will pass away; these animals have become family to us through the seasons of life, and the thought can almost be too much to bear. It is important, however, to have a plan for when the time comes. This can help you to prepare mentally, financially, and logistically.
So, what do you do when your horse dies or is ready to die? There are a number of aspects to keep in mind in order to help your horse be at peace and to help you to prepare:
- Contact your horse insurer
- Have a plan for body removal
- Have a keepsake to help you remember your horse
This article is as hard to write as it is to read, but these things have to be talked about it. Too many times, horse owners are left in the dark until their horse suddenly dies. They’re trying to work out finances and logistics while dealing with a huge emotional burden.
Having a plan prepared doesn’t mean you need to think about it all the time; instead, it simply means that you’ll be ready and understanding when the time comes. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had all my horses around for a good long time; but as with all living things, it will sooner or later come to an end. Knowing the options out there for all the above points will help you choose the right way to send your horse off.
Contact Your Horse Insurer
Not all horse owners opt to get insurance on their horse, but if you’re one of the owners who have, this is something to keep in mind when it’s time for your horse to pass on to greener pastures. Sometimes, you may be compensated by the insurance company for the price of your horse.
Here are some things to keep in mind if your horse was insured:
- Take pictures of the deceased body, especially if there are injuries or signs of the cause of death
- Get a vet record and test results
- Wait for an insurance adjuster to give you further instructions before disposing of the body.
Like any insurance company, the insurer of your horse will need proof and cause of death to be able to take the next steps to compensate you.
Take Pictures of the Body
Your insurer will need proof that the horse who passed away was the one that was insured. If it’s too difficult for you to get pictures, have the vet or a friend take photos of the body and any specific markings that will help to identify the horse.
If your horse had to be put down or suddenly died to injuries, get photos of exterior damage done to the body. If the cause of death was internal, like colic, autopsy photos can clearly show the damage.
These photos will need to be given to the insurer so that they can identify the horse and see that the reason for death was not for personal gain. Like anything with insurance, there is going to be an investigation to make sure there was no foul play.
Get a Vet Record/Statement
Get a statement or record from your veterinarian who examined or euthanized the horse. All veterinarians should keep a record of animals they euthanized and why. This statement will help further your cause with the insurance company. I find that veterinarians are very understanding when it comes to these things, so it can never hurt to ask for their help.
Wait for the Adjuster Before Removing the Body
Lastly, if your horse has passed away, wait to be contacted and instructed by an insurance adjuster before you dispose of the horse’s body. They may require further proof that the horse is the horse that is insured. Sometimes, an adjuster may even come out to the property to examine the body.
Have A Plan For Body Removal
There’s no doubt about it; horses are big. You can’t just bury or cremate a horse like you can a dog or a cat. Some states have laws about disposing of large creatures, which would include horses. Researching your state laws ahead of time, knowing your budget, and being aware of your options can make this process a lot easier.
Here are the most common ways to remove a horse’s body once it has passed:
Research these options ahead of time in order to make a decision that will leave you at peace and with good memories.
Choosing to bury your horse’s body seems like one of the more peaceful options in this list; however, this option is limited to state laws. Some states prohibit burying large animals altogether while others regulate the depth at which the animal has to be buried. Research this before making your decision.
Do you have the property that the horse will be buried on? Burying a horse will be much easier if you own land that you can designate for this. Sadly, if you board your horse at a stable, burial may not be an option. If you’re deadset on this method but don’t have the ability to bury the horse, look into pet cemeteries.
Another thing to consider when burying your horse is how’re you going to dig the hole and how’re you going to move the body. Unless you own a backhoe, you’re going to have to pay to rent one. This can come out to a couple of hundred dollars a day. When it comes to moving the body, you may need to rent a different kind of tractor that can winch the body up in order to move it.
Cremation is another more pleasant way to go. With cremation, you can make the decision on where and when to spread the ashes; there is never any rush. There are many animal and equine hospitals that offer cremation services, so if this is an option you’d like to take, your veterinarian can probably recommend you to one in the area.
One of the big challenges with cremations is how you plan on getting the horse’s body to the crematorium. Animal hospitals may allow for the horse to be euthanized on location, so transporting won’t be an issue. From there, they have all the technology and equipment needed to transport the body to where it will be cremated.
Cremation is probably the most expensive option when it comes to removing the horse’s body. It can cost anywhere from $1500 – $3500 to get your horse cremated. Knowing this ahead of time will help you to properly plan and save for this moment.
Burning your horse’s body is a more affordable option compared to cremation. If this is the method you choose, you’re going to want to review state laws, as they may ban any burning of livestock corpses. If not, at least notify your local fire department of what you’ll be doing since you’ll have to have a pretty big fire.
Believe it or not, I’ve heard that a lot more people than you’d think choose this method to remove the horse’s body. Things that they’ve said to keep in mind is creating a big enough fire to cremate the horse’s remains. The fire will have to burn for a few hours, so someone will have to dedicate the time to stand by and watch.
Another inexpensive option for removing a horses body is taking it to the local landfill. Personally, I can’t imagine ever doing this, but if you don’t have the money, then I understand. Usually, the local landfills will allow for the disposing of livestock corpses; that being said, you should always call ahead and check before making the journey.
One of the challenges of this option would be to figure out how to transport the horse’s body from the farm to the landfill. You may need quite a number of people to help move the body into a trailer or use a tractor to winch the body up and put it in the back of a truck.
Either way, this isn’t a very pleasant thought to think for too long, so we’ll go on.
Have A Keepsake to Remember Your Horse
When you lose your horse, it’s as if you’ve lost a best friend. They carried you safely on their backs and gave you their all. You may be afraid that once your horse is gone, you’ll quickly forget all the memories that you had made together. By having a keepsake of your horse, it will make your memories with your horse live on.
Here’s a list of the most common keepsakes I’ve learned about from horse owners:
- A journal of memories
- Your horse’s halter
- Nameplate jewelry
- A Collage
These items will stay near and dear to your heart, so have as many keepsakes as you want! It’s a way to remember the good times you had and the journey you took together.
Keep a Journal of Memories
Keeping a journal of memories not only for your deceased horses but also for your riding journey overall is a great way to be able to look back and see what you and your horse have overcome and conquered.
As horse owners, we all have those instances that feel almost like defining moments when it comes to bonding with our horse or testing our skills. Keeping a journal of those memories will help you be able to look back at your beloved horse’s life and not wallow in mourning, but instead, help you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Keep Your Horse’s Halter
The halter: an overlooked piece of tack that holds so much meaning. Halters seem to be a symbol of ownership when it comes to horses. I am very particular in what halters I use for what horses; I’ll only you the horse’s designated halter to get that specific horse. It’s a weird equestrian thing.
Once your horse has passed on, you can keep their halter to remember the bond you had. Halters can also make great decor in the home, which can allow you to have a piece of memory always present.
Have Their Name Plate Made into Jewelry
Having a stall or halter nameplate made into a bracelet makes for a classy yet meaningful keepsake. With this keepsake, you’ll be able to wear something meaningful close to your heart. There are many online businesses that will make this keepsake for you.
Make a Collage
A picture collage is a great way to remember your horse! The pictures you choose will tell the story of your bond, from beginning to end. Include pictures of milestones and big accomplishments that you as a team were able to complete.
Hang the collage up in your room so you can always remember your best friend. Include quotes and dates to make it even more memorable. This is another keepsake that can work for your entire riding career, showing your growth and ability.
While dealing with the loss of your horse can be hard, just about every horse owner will say that it was worth it. There’s something about owning a horse and taking care of a living breathing animal that fills your life with something else. If you’re considering owning a horse, check out our article 12 Reasons You Should Own a Horse.
I’m a lifelong horse trainer and horseback rider who’s passionate about teaching others about the things I’ve learned. I grew up competing in numerous English horseback riding disciplines and am now a certified equine massage therapist. I currently own three horses.