The Stables

When You Have To Say Goodbye…

Isn’t saying goodbye to those you love one of the hardest things? That can be from not seeing them for a few weeks, months or years or saying goodbye forever. I have had my fair share of having to say goodbye to those I love and I have also missed saying goodbye when it was needed.

My Zeb

I say loved ones as I include animals in that term. Having lost my horse last year, I was pretty taken aback how it affected me. It was a devastating time and still continues to be a wrench that he is no longer here. I have also lost many cats and dogs over the years too and it is equally heartbreaking. You always say “I’m not getting another as I cannot go through the upset and grief again.” But you do… Well actually, I haven’t in the case of getting another horse.

On Sunday I had to witness watching a neighbours horse leave for Rainbow Bridge… Having to see an owner saying goodbye to their horse was heartbreaking. It did bring it all back when I had to say goodbye to Zeb which generated lots of tears again. I was lucky in a way because I was able to plan his final day and arrange for it to be a calm process. This is why I wanted to write this post and I cannot emphasise enough in how you need to prepare the end for your beloved horse and pony when the sad time comes.

Zeb showing his usual enthusiasm for schooling!

There is no doubt your horse or pony has given you a lifetime of pleasure. So do you not owe it to them to send them on their way before it is too late? I made the decision last January that I would not put my horse through another winter. My plan was to let Zeb have the sun on his back for the summer and then I was going to let him go at the end of September. That decision alone was hard and I remember coming down to the yard the day after felling like I was the grim reaper when I saw Zeb. But he was having yet another miserable winter and his twenty two year old bones were suffering. No matter how much I spent in time and money on his care, supplements and vets tests, he was an ageing horse feeling uncomfortable.

I just knew he would not weather another winter and sadly he showed me last year that he was struggling to manage a few more months. It was almost a light had been turned off in my lovely and full of character horse and I knew his time was coming to an end. With him not eating, standing in the corner of the field or his stable looking miserable, I knew that the time had come to say goodbye to the horse I adored.

He was a lovely horse to hack out on

It takes a lot to be pragmatic and we are brilliant at making excuses for their health. But your gut instinct will tell you that the time has arrived and you have to just dig deep and make the bravest decision. When the decision is made, your vet will be able to guide you what is best for your horse and the procedure involved.

All I know is that I gave Zeb the calmest and the most dignified ending. I decided that I could not be there at the very end and said my goodbyes to him half an hour before my vet arrived. I don’t regret that decision at all and I was very lucky I had some great supportive friends that were there for him. He was very accepting at the end and he left this world in a very composed way. I was far from composed after I lost him and spent many days crying… and it still brings tears to my eyes writing about it today.

I know I was lucky that I could plan this as many horses will not give you time. But if you are having a tough time this winter with your ageing veteran, then perhaps think what will be best – for them…. Tough words I know but actually it’s being a good horse owner to have these frank discussions and thoughts.

by Samantha Hobden