This is supposed to be a helpful post, not just peculiar.
We lost a horse a week ago to kidney failure. We thought it was colic, took him to the vet clinic. Stayed a while, then left him for observation because we hoped time would help and he would be there for Vet to check easily. We are 30 miles away. Vet called us back that things were bad, he was in pain despite heavy meds. Not a surgery candidate. So we made the decision. She put him down and husband headed off to collect the body. Vet had no service to remove him.
Husband is very familiar with dead horses in his Farrier work. Real friendly with other horse vets and how they deal with dead horses. Sometimes the services can't come immediately, bodies must be stored until pickup.
What husband has learned from the Vet Clinic workers was that if you fold the horse up neatly in the storage barn, tie the legs in place, then horse is very easy to manage later on for storing, loading out for disposal or burial. Sometimes they have to deal with a number of animals who were put down for various reasons that week. So this folding method was created and has been very helpful in dealing with the dead animals. The owners who sometimes come later to say goodbye are not faced with an ugly last view of old Spot, which is comforting to them. Most look like they are asleep all curled up. Some owners like us, want to take the animals home and a folded horse makes it much easier to do.
Husband said you do need the bucket on tractor to position the animal, then bend hind legs, tie up so hooves are close to belly. The Clinic workers usually tie around the hocks. Fold the front legs, tie around the pasterns and elbows to hold in position. Bend the head and neck around over the folded legs, towards the belly area. Not sure if they tie head to hind legs to hold in place. Horse then looks rather like he is circled around to sleep.
When rigor mortis sets in, horse will stay folded, legs bent and tied in place, head out of the way. This method makes it very easy to scoop up the animal for loading, no parts sticking out to catch or get damaged in moving. Animals take up much less room to store, dig a hole for burying or haul away.
I remember seeing a rendering truck go by as a kid, with cow legs sticking straight up from the inside!! Kind of a ghastly sight for a small kid, would have been worse with horse hooves. Now most trucks are covered, but the dead animals still are very stiff and hard to fit inside the truck neatly. Locally, the rendering truck only makes a run weekly, good or bad weather so animals picked up would be pretty stiff.
Husband picked our old boy up on the flatbed of truck. Vet's husband had said he could not load into our ramp trailer, tractor was too small for the size of this horse. Husband folded the horse up, tied the legs in place, put a tarp over him and strapped everything down to come home. The Vet's husband said this was the easiest way he had ever loaded out an animal, and the folding kept everything inside the truck bed edges. Flatbed was very easy to place the animal on, get him folded onto. He planned to suggest folding for the next animal they had to load out and practice his tying the legs in place.
We dug the hole the next day, and buried him. Husband said having folded him first, everything went VERY easily, unloading, putting him in the hole with the bucket on machine. Didn't have to dig such a big hole either, because there were no flopping parts, stiff legs to deal with.
All this folding idea was new to me, but really made a lot of sense as we dealt with the body afterwards. Easier to be a bit dignified about everything.
So this is something to think about, consider if you have to make such a decision in the future. Fold them up while you can, tie things in place, to make it all easier to deal with later.
Our Vet called that next day, said tests showed horse had shut down his kidneys, was not a colic. That was why things were not presenting like a typical colic case, none of our efforts were useful. Nothing anyone could have done, we made the right choice instead of dragging it out longer. Ugly news, but good to hear because we were kicking ourselves for not noticing his problems sooner to start treatments. Kidneys are a sudden thing, no fixing it. When he started sweating, making puddles on the floor, he was a walking dead horse. Even ours and her best pain meds only helped a bit. Best to let him go and learn from it.
Hope the folding information is helpful, gives you more options for the last things you can do for him/her, while helping yourself as well.
it's not the edge of the earth, but you can see it from here
That is very useful, important information. Thank you for being courageous and posting it. It's the kind of thing that you hope you never need to use, but it is in the back of your mind, once read, for the worst-case-scenario.
Condolences on your loss. Thank you for sharing this.
It's telling to see how few have opened and read this thread yet. But for the 5 who did view, 4 posted.
When a horse dies there are a myriad of things to take into consideration, and some of them are really hard to deal with. Such noble and big creatures in life -- and so it is in death. It's a BIG event and often such an undignified situation because of their sheer size. Not like a dog or kitty, for sure.
This was very good information and thank you for posting it. I now have about 10 of my best buds buried on my farm. I have a lovely man with a backhoe who does the deed quite gracefully out of my sight. Those that have died in hospitals, I've had cremated at a very large cost.
Your information gives me an alternative - getting them back home to be buried in a way that can be handled.
When we had to put Cashel down on Thanksgiving night a few years ago my dad and I tried to fold her legs under her because I had horrible visions of them breaking her legs to get her out of the stall the next day. When I went out the next morning her legs had stretched out from the position that we had put them in. So I think mentioning tying them is a good thing. Fortunately we had a great guy come out to remove her body and he didn't have any issues.
Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one
Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.
Thanks for posting this. When my first horse died, it was in a stall off the property where we wanted to bury him, so we had someone transport the body and he was all stretched out with his head propped up against the wall, so he "froze" that way, lip hanging and all. They had some trouble getting him out of the stall, and when the truck came to dump him off, his body rolled out and fell the several feet to the ground with a rather sickening rigor mortis-y crunch - a horrible sight for teenaged me to see after I had thought the most tramatic day in my life was over. We left him under a tarp and buried him the next day.... and it was again traumatic to watch his legs rocking back and forth in the hole while we covered him with dirt.
So sorry about your loss, but thanks for posting about this so I know when my next one goes, it can be in a dignified way.
Great info that isn't common knowledge but very very useful.
So sorry about your loss.
I had to laugh about the cow legs comment in the OP. I was heading off the local ferry with a load of school kids where I use to live and in the line up to load was the "knackers" truck. A set of incredibly visable cow legs were sticking up from the back. One of the kids looked back at a fellow classmate and said "Hey Joe. You're Mom died."
Luckily I have not had to see very many pass, or after passing, but this information is great to have. Seeing the bodies afterwords was always more difficult for me, than the actual passing. It just seemed so undignified for these great creatures to be moved around, stiff as boards. I would much rather see one seem to be peacefully asleep.
Ghazzu, can you share with us how long that process is? From when it sets in, until it subsides?
Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.