jetsmom- you nailed it. I keep replaying this weekend, wondering did I do enough, did I treasure the last minutes enough, it all seemed to go so fast. I just knew he was in pain and I didn't want him to feel worse. When he colicked a few weeks ago I drew the line on surgery. I was told with his issues it was going to be at least 10K, easily 15K. I couldn't see the point when we had multiple colic attacks the last few years and feel there would be any success, nor did the vets. So when he spiked a fever I reiterated that if he did colic I wouldn't do surgery. And the next day I am faced with colic again and needing to go to the hospital. And I feel bad that maybe I should have, maybe it should have said screw the cost and the chances but I know that it just me talking and wasn't in his best interest. I keep telling myself that death isn't worst outcome, living in pain is.
Everyone, thank you for your thoughts and ideas and condolences. It is nice to be where others know exactly how it feels and how some horses/animals hit you differently.
I didn't think of the halter idea so may put that aside. I did plan on retiring his bridle. I don't want to see it on another horse.
I am so very sorry for your lost. I lost my heart horse at the end of December, unexpectedly, and my heart was just broken in half. I had him 20 years and I don't think I have felt that helpless or distraut before. I came on here and the kind words and support of those that reached out really helped. At the begining, most days were filled with tears, and now, I have had days where I think about something he did and it makes me laugh. Then I am back to the tears again. I was looking at an online photo album for some photos last week and some wonderful ones of him in the snow popped up, they just showed his true personality, and I sobbed for hours. And now I am crying again.
Allow yourself time to grieve. I had my boy cremated and brought back here to the farm. I wanted him with me. I brought his halter in the house. I have a strand of his tail and a good friend took most of his tail to be made into bracelets. I did spend a day carrying part of his tail around crying. And now I sound like a mess....sorry.
I have two other horses here at home and they needed me to go back to the barn. One of them is a horse I raised and show, and he is quite special to me. I felt if I didn't get back out there I was abandoning him after he lost his friend too. Getting back in the saddle and a lot of quiet time with him has been quite healing.
If you ever want to chat, just send me a pm. I know how you feel right now.
(((hugs))) Be kind to yourself. Let it hurt. Let yourself grieve how you need to - alone, in company, with your other horses, whatever you need to do.
Both of my lost ones were euthanized after their last summer. My second was only 18. Retired at 11 and I always felt he was cheated. But I just knew when we left the vet clinic when he was 15 that he wouldn't live to see his 20th birthday. For a week after he died I had to watch the video of him grazing every night if I wanted to sleep.
Be patient with the memorial idea too. Ask people, research, look around - something will come to you as the "right" option. And the "right" time will come to you too, when you're ready.
I have my first horse's bridle in a shadow box, with laminate mounted photo, one of his shoes, a lock of his mane with a feather I found hacking out on him, and two engraved plates - one with his name and dates (approximate birth year and date of death), the other with the last verse of the poem I wrote for him. It was seven years after his death before I got that shadowbox put together.
I have my second horse's custom halter, his tail, a laminate mounted photo, and a horse show ribbon (not his champion ribbon, but the third place ribbon he got for his 70% dressage test). I have the shadow box. I need to get a brass plate engraved with his name, dates and registry number. It's been three years last fall since he was euthanized, but I haven't even cleaned his halter or washed his tail yet. I feel like I want one more thing for the box, but I don't know what it is. So I wait until it feels like time to put it together.
I did do a couple of other things for my second horse - one was a horsehair pottery bust of a horse's head and neck. I sent some of his tail hair off and the artist painted his white markings on the piece. I love it. I want one of my current horse too (and I don't plan to wait until he's gone).
The other thing I did was to make a little 8x8" scrapbook with my favourite photos of him. I had fifteen and a half years of photos to look through - it took a long time. I'd planned for 20-25 pages but it ended up being 40 pages because that's what I needed. I wrote little tidbits about him that showed his character and what I remembered about him in a journal during the weeks I was going through the photos. I put those memories in the scrapbook with the photos - though they didn't necessarily have anything to do with the photo on the page (I did try to get them sort of matched up). The last pages include the poem I wrote for him. The scrapbook is a treasure and I want to do one for my first horse and my kitty too.
Other ideas - horsehair jewelry, an artist's portrait of your horse. I got one of those brass plate on a leather wristbands engraved with the one word that was my horse - not his name, but who he was to me.
I am watching some old movies showing Matt in all his scissor movement. I don't think I realized how committed to looking like an OTTB he was! lol. What a disaster. God I loved this horse and how I had so much to learn about riding and he taught it! He gave me no quarter and had the tightest back known to the equine world. Not an easy ride by any means. I do miss him. I spent some time again at this grave just talking to him. I hope he knew how loved he was.
I'm absolutely sure he did know that.
I think that while animals may not understand human language, they understand kindness, love and the bond that they share with their owners. Just think of how many animals will leave their food to go greet their owner, or leave their buddies to go greet them. They know when they are loved.
I'm so sorry for your loss. I lost my best friend last September, and I'm still pretty devastated by it. What has helped me is keeping close with my horsey friends, and remembering some of the awesome times we had together. Interestingly, some of my fondness memories are of how ill-suited for sport she was, and how frustrating she could be, but I wouldn't have it any other way!
It will take a long time, and it won't be the same, but you will have a special relationship with another horse, and that one will be so lucky to have you in his life, too.
Fergs - thank you I think I have started doing the same. I have dragged out the photo albums and spent the other night watching some of our videos, watching his first shows and realizing he couldn't have looked more like the OTTB that he was, lol. God what a handful he was at times, I think time had blurred that in my mind and I like to believe he came out of the box the perfect boy I have envisioned.
I miss him. No doubt about it. I found myself wanting to talk about him to everyone as I don't want him to be forgotten. He was too special to be forgotten.
There are so many good messages on this thread, and I hope they help you. I will add my thoughts to the list. I recently lost a pet - not my heart horse, but a cat who was unlike any other animal I've ever had in my life (and I've had A LOT). Losing him was different than any other death, and for my husband and I, it's been like losing a family member. You know, when you lose a person they are so unique that no one else will fill that space. While all my animals have been special and mourned, this one was different. He's left a hole in our family like a person would leave, because some animals are just that much more than the others. They are minted differently. They are something more hidden in an animal's suit. In my case, he looked like "nothing more than a cat". In yours, you had a horse.
Things we've done that have helped incredibly...
We talk about him all the time. We don't hide our sadness. It really helps if you have family or friends who understand this and let you do it for as long as you need. I don't imagine we will ever stop, really. I also suggest writing down memories. My husband (who is amazing) found every single picture we had of our beloved cat and printed it out. We then put them in a beautiful album which sits on our coffee table. We have many other pets, but this cat had more photos than any of the animals or us combined! It was very healing to see this, and laugh about it, and to see that he was in so many photos of big family events - often as a central figure. We had more photos than the album could hold, and that was even after losing hundreds of photos to a computer crash years ago.
I also chose to cremate so that I could have something physical. Even if you don't have a grave or remains, planting a tree or setting up a spot in a garden, or putting together some photographs and a poem or story gives you a memorial space.
Finally, if you are a spiritual person, looking up scripture that relates to the lives of animals could really help. This really helped me. It made it seem less random (which for me was important - One hour I thought he was just suffering from a hairball, the next hour I was being told he was likely to die that weekend from cancer).
None of these things will take away the pain - when you lose someone very close to you, human or animal, I don't think it's about getting past the pain or removing it at some point in the future, Instead I think it is about incorporating it into your life - doing these things help me to incorporate the loss. Be ok with the fact that you may never move past this in the sense of "recovering" from the loss. WebMD had an article about dealing with the loss of a pet which mentioned a doctor who showed up at a pet loss counseling session with a photo and the ashes of the dog he lost 25 years prior, and he cried like it was the day it happened. It took a friend of mine 12 years to consider getting another dog after losing her companion of a lifetime. My best friend lost her once-in-a-lifetime companion three weeks to the day after I lost mine, and we still both cry openly about both of our little loves. Sometimes it just happens like this. Sometimes you meet Love, the true and unconditional kind, and when you lose it you are never the same afterward. You are better for it, but the world is a bit grayer without it adding contrast.
Ask me about Final Furlong, Inc. - promoting "Responsible retirement for thoroughbred racehorses through the racing industry".
At 12:30 today, it will be a week since this sweet boy passed. I still have moments everyday where I cry thinking of him. But time is slowly marching on. Every time I go out to take care of the boys, I still spend time with Matt, just in a different way now. I sit by his grave and sometimes talk to him, sometimes just cry, sometimes reflect (and sometimes yell at the dog for running off as we work on her recall ).
There hasn't been a day that has gone by that I haven't felt the loss of him in the pit of my stomach. This isn't the first time I have grieved over somebody but what is unique is I don't have that sense of panic, the sense I want to hurry up and get through any of it, it is there, the hollow, sad, empty feeling, but an acceptance as well that it is what it is. I think I am also a little fearful that he will be forgotten. I don't want him ever forgotten.
So I have started going through old pictures and videos, laughing at the antics that I have forgotten from his early days, shaking my head at what a handful he has been, but reflect on how happy I always looked. His absence is palpable at the barn, the chores are much easier, the stalls aren't half as bad and a significant drop in hay intake from them. Everyone has free access to stalls and field and it was cemented that Matt spent all his time in the stalls. I am also (re)remembering all the issues he has had over the years. Sigh . . .
I haven't figured out what I want to do with his tail yet, I am not ready yet to do anything with it that would require disassembling the bundle. It is my last piece of him and right now it brings me the most comfort intact. I want to wash it but fear it will fall apart and I'm not ready for that. We are going to plant a tree at his grave in the spring so I am researching the best one. I can see that the horses have gazed near him already and that makes me happy.
Hero has become sweeter since last weekend and he has turned into an unexpected source of comfort. Whereas before he would pin his ears if I tried to hug him, he now seeks my affections and I think he has noticed the loss. He and Matt where the closest and I think he misses his buddy.
Piper is still Piper, grumpy old man, so there is no change in his wonderful demeanor. But there is comfort in consistency.
So like all weekend mornings, I am going to head to the horses in a few minutes, spend the time checking in, feeding breakfast,cleaning up, seeing how they fared the night and giving a pat and a nose rub. And what is normal routine now, I spend a few minutes sitting by Matt on the top of the hill, listening to the wind blow, the birds sing, and watching the world go by and remember everything I can, ruefully laughing at his antics, remembering the nuzzles, and just being with him any way I can.
I'm so sorry for your loss, I know nothing I can say will make it better
I lost my best friend in 2009 and i'm still broken up about it, rarely mention him to anyone and haven't yet moved on to only remembering the happy times with a smile, although i'm assured that will come in time.
I have some tail hair my partner has put away somewhere and whenever i'm ready I will have some jewellery made from it. I also have some of his tack I don't like to use, yes, i'm being a bit precious about it I know, but it's his bridle and his headcollar and his show rug and that's that. I did, against my better judgement, use his turnout rug the other week on another horse and she shredded it overnight and I am upset about that, I know it's just a rug and i'm over-reacting but I can't help that
I bred a horse to be my new horse, the plan was that one was to be the future and a completely different type and breed so I don't compare and find wanting. Guess what, could be carbon copies. Wasn't expecting that! I'm selling her this year.
There are some great keepsake recommendations on here that I am bookmarking, thanks everyone. My sincere condolences OP, I know it's tough.
Yes. Talk about him. Share Matt stories here whenever it's relevant to a thread. Keep his memory alive. Almost no one in my life would have any clue who I was talking about if I mentioned my first horse's name. I find that sad in a way. I share stories about my second horse all the time. You know the "my horse did/had this funny thing/habit/quirk/whatever" sort of story.
Glad the links helped. If you feel like it poke around and read some of the other entries. I wrote that blog specifically to share the events and feelings around losing a horse in hopes that it would offer some comfort to others, and let them know they aren't alone in what they're feeling and going through.