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When you have to put them down at the farm

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  • When you have to put them down at the farm

    Today, we had to put down my daughter's retired hunter, who was almost 21. He had a heart murmur for many years, with no symptoms, but it had gotten worse lately, and the lack of blood flow was causing problems with his digestion and repeated "mini-colics".

    At any rate, the hardest thing was having our neighbor come in with the back hoe to dig a hole while my boy was still alive and watching. Then my brave daughter led him down to the back of the farm where the hole was. I couldn't watch. My husband and the neighbor took care of it from there while I comforted my daughter.

    But it made me realize that, along with the grief of putting down a beloved equine on the farm, is the practical "horror" of figuring out how to do it with such a large corpse. While it was his time, there is no doubt that I was influenced on the exact timing by the availability of people to help us. In a perfect world, I would have waited a little longer.

    It is so different than when you have a dog put down at the vet, and then cremated. Or even when a horse dies at the vet or in a boarding stable and somehow the body is magically disposed of.

    Somehow, the grief and guilt at the loss is worse this way, since you are having to plan the disposal of a body when all you really want to do is to grieve. Has anyone else ever felt this?

  • #2
    Very sorry for you and yours.

    When my old event mare went downhill fast I had to quickly try and solidify half-baked plans on where and how to bury her. Sadly, the final day came so suddenly that I had neither time to arrange a backhoe nor the ability to walk the poor mare (end-stage EPM) to the designated spot.

    My dear vet came at 9pm and put her down where she stood under a rising harvest moon, quietly watched me bawl my eyes out and made sure I was OK. He sent the bill later with a condolence note, which is nicer than it sounds.

    One of my patients has an excavating company, and he came out late that night on a holiday weekend to do his thing in the dark with one phone call.

    I was able to stay with the mare until she was gone, no problem, but I could NOT watch them haul her body to that hole. My non-horsey husband and the excavator guy handled it.

    I guess the moral of the story is that it's OK to lean on people, and that the good folks in your life probably "get it" more than we sometimes give them credit for and are glad to help. Lean on them. Go right ahead and grieve. What we are able to do for animals in their final hours is a blessing and a good deed, but it doesn't make it any less miserable for us, knowing it's the "right thing".

    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      Originally posted by SED View Post
      Somehow, the grief and guilt at the loss is worse this way, since you are having to plan the disposal of a body when all you really want to do is to grieve. Has anyone else ever felt this?
      Yes. I prefer to handle everything myself, but I have taken care of things for friends who dealt with grief/impending grief in a different way.

      I'm sorry for your loss, and I hope your daughter is ok. Leading that horse must have been terribly difficult for her.
      Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
      Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
      -Rudyard Kipling


      • #4
        So sorry.
        Free bar.ka and tidy rabbit.


        • #5
          I am sorry for your loss.

          I actually feel that the work to take care of the body is healing.

          We never put a horse down near a burial spot. We just put them down in an area that is fairly easy for the backhoe, or loader to get to. You have to make sure to cover the body with tarps until you can arrange for a backhoe to keep any wildlife from eating the body, as it is toxic.

          It is pretty easy to roll them up into the bucket of a loader for transport to the area. Once there, we just set them down next to the spot, and dig the hole. We then use chains from the backhoe bucket around the legs - front and back, to lower the body down, and get it placed right. Then fill the hole.

          The problem of having a body that needs to be taken care of actually leads to some relief, and comfort at the final time when they are safely settled in the ground, and it is done.


          • #6
            I'm so sorry, for both you and your daughter.

            I reject your reality, and substitute my own- Adam Savage

            R.I.P Ron Smith, you'll be greatly missed


            • #7
              I've been lucky so far, to be able to schedule the day ahead of time. I make the dates with vet and digger. I have the hole dug after the horse has been put to sleep so he doesn't have that anxiety. What has worked for me in the past and I'm preparing my head and heart now for an upcoming euth, is to give the horse a mild tranq in his stall. Enough to help him be calm and not think too much about why I'm leading him down across the field where we usually ride. When we are close to the burial spot, the vet does her thing. I sit with the body till I'm all cried out then I either go into the house and turn on a symphony LOUD or I get in the car and leave home. Back hoe man comes and does his thing and when I get home it is nothing but EMPTY and the gruesome part is done.

              I also have a wonderful wooden skid for the purpose of getting the dead horse from here to there. I had to use that for my last one as he was too lame to walk to the cemetery. We dropped him right outside the barn door. He was then placed on the skid (I skipped that part) and dragged down the hill. It is like Cleopatra on the Nile.

              It is beyond tragic and I'm sorry you had to do it. I'm sorry I have to do it too.
              Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


              • #8
                We have dug the hole after the horse is put down. Having them beside the hole would be too hard for me to deal with. We have had to bring a couple home after they needed to be put down at the Vet's. Luckily the truck has a 12ft flatbed, so they fit on it well. Have to cover with a tarp and tied them down for hauling. Sorry, Vet can't cremate them there. He has to call a disposal service and I didn't want our horses ending there.

                I wanted them both at home, buried where they had lived and done honest work for quite a long time. Just more fitting somehow.

                Husband has dug the holes for the horses and buried them. He says he finds it theraputic, thinks about the good times we had with them during that time. Just the last good thing you can do for them.

                Sad that they are gone, but you make that passing as easy as possible for them, take your comfort from that.


                • #9
                  The first time we had to dispose of a dead horse was the day after Christmas 10 years ago. We had to tarp the body for two days until we found someone with a backhoe that would come dig the hole over a holiday weekend. The horse, a healthy 2yo gelding, died in his pasture from causes unknown. The temperature made it possible to wait the two days. The hole was dug in a convenient spot and the horse had to be dragged to the hole.

                  The next year I had a mare that was to be euthanized. She was led to near where the hole would be (beside the grave of the first) - a relative was bringing a trackhoe over from his job site after work. The vet euthanized her near her burial site. She was not anxious, and the 5 pounds of carrots I fed her while walking to the pasture helped. She was colicking, not a surgery candidate, and she was no longer responding to anything short of surgery. Vet gave her enough drugs to make her pain free for the short walk, and pain free enough to scarf her carrots. She was still crunching when she went down.

                  Those two graves pretty much took up any available space. Any other space either had septic lines or large trees or soil not compatible with graves (we have layered clay and sugar sand with a lot of solid rock). I'd be afraid of not remembering exactly where the older graves are and digging into one of them if I try to put another one in that area. Thankfully we live in a very rural area with a huge scavenger population. Two horses that died (not chemical euthanized), where carried deep deep deep into the woods and left. With each one, I went to the spot 6-8 months to bury what of the remaining bones I could find. I kept a hoof capsule of my first driving horse. It was laquered and a small brass plate attached with his name and such. It sits on a book shelf, next to his last competition photo. I have the skull of the next horse, it sits on a shelf in the tack room above the bridle rack. I have used it to show kids how a bit sits in a horses mouth, why the nose is so tender, what teeth look like.

                  The filly that was stillborn this spring was also carried into the woods. Given her size, I wasn't surprised that I didn't find her remains when I looked last month.

                  I'm not sure where I can bury another if I have to euthanize one again. Obviously I can't leave one that had been euthanized in the woods to poison the coyotes. I hope to not have to worry about that problem for many many years. My oldest now is only 21.
                  Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
                  BLUE STAR Arabians and
                  Arabian-influenced Sportponies


                  • #10
                    I am so sorry for your loss! It is never easy, and the aftermath can be every bit as hard as the actual deed.

                    I have had the honor of being with my old pony and a mare when their time came. I had to hand dig a hole for my pony (well, the tractor bucket got us down about a foot). That was wicked hard, both physically and emotionally. I'd had her more than 20 years. We let her graze rich, green spring grass and eat tons of carrots then walked her over to the area. It was very difficult, but it is our last responsibility to our horses--to be there, to help them to the next good place, to do the right thing, mercifully and peacefully. Every horse owner should plan for this eventuality. Don't leave it for others to do.
                    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


                    • #11
                      It is very difficult to do. I agree, a mild tranq makes it easier on the horse. I always cry.

                      It is the last kind thing you can do, I tell people that over and over.


                      • #12
                        I'm not sure if I will be able to divorce the horse I love from the one I must bury, mentally, when the time comes. My trainer has buried many horses over the years and it is never easy. My condolences on your loss.
                        Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                        Incredible Invisible


                        • #13
                          I am sorry for your loss.
                          I've put down 2 horses both unplanned, the 1st one the worst part was what to do after she was dead, it was July, it was Sunday and I had just moved into the area so didn't know anyone,I met all my new neighbors by knocking on their door, crying and a mess and saying hi my name is linda i'm your new neighbor do you have a back hoe so i can bury my horse, it was horrible, my husband finally got in the car and found a construction site and bless that man with the backhoe he left and came to bury my horse. I helped with the whole process of him moving her and placing her in the hole, it was a relief actually to get it done.
                          The next horse i called a local tow truck driver who was able to wench her onto his truck and take her to a dump where you could dispose of a large carcass. I had to leave her body in the yard with a tarp overnight because she was put down at about 10 pm and the dump was closed. After the 1st horse was put down I did find out about the dump and had numbers of people that would haul a large carcass.I don't think I would bury anymore here, preferred this method.
                          Neither thing was easy.


                          • #14
                            I am so sorry for your loss.
                            I tell people exactly what you are saying...putting a horse down IS NOT the same as euthanizing a dog or cat...physically or emotionally.
                            I have had to put down 4 of my own. Three we were able to bury. I was with 3 of those up to the very end but COULD NOT watch them be buried. I had the hole dug afterward. The worst was my youngest daughter's eventer. He was in poor health, complications from lyme. Unfortunately, Tropical Storm Faye had just come through and we were 10 inches under water. Everyone was flooded. My vet knew someone who came and picked his body up and cremated the body on his property. We were devestated that we could not bury him. That being said, I am now contemplating euthanizing same daughter's first horse next week. She is in her 30's and in declining health. I am off of work all next week and would prefer to send her over the rainbow bridge before I find her in a situation where she is unable to get up and I have an emergency. But the farm I am leasing is in the pathway of a new tollroad and within 2 years will be plowed under. So I am considering taking her to an equine clinic in Ocala and have her euthanized there and let them dispose of her body. Having euthanized 2 within the last year, I also don't know if I can emotionally go through another death and having to go through organizing another burial, especially knowing that the remains will be dug up and destroyed in a few years....it really is draining.
                            Lori T
                            www.facebook.com/LTEquine for product updates on the lines I rep


                            • #15
                              I'm so sorry for your loss. When we had to have my daughter's horse put down due to colic we walked him to a quiet rear corner of our property where the vet euthanized him. My husband then arranged for our neighbor, who has a back hoe, to come and bury him. My husband stayed to handle the burial and pay the neighbor for his time. My daughter and I joined some friends at a horse show for the day where we knew we would find people who understood what we were experiencing.
                              When my daughter in law's old horse's time came we had time to make arrangements. We had the neighbor come ahead of time to dig a hole at his convenience then we made arrangements for the vet to come on a day when the neighbor would be available to complete the burial. We walked the mare back to an area near the hole and the vet came and euthed her. My husband then went to help the neighbor bury her. Having the time to get the arrangments coordinated is so much less stressful than in an emergency situation when you are so traumatized.

                              Whenever we have had to have small animals euthed we always make arrangements to pick up their bodies. They all get buried at home. BTW....I love my vet. I have yet to get a bill for any of the small animals he euthanized for me.
                              "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."


                              • #16
                                My condolences.

                                Thank you for this thread and I am so glad that people are posting nitty gritty details as I am thinking about this topic a fair bit lately. I have a 24 yr old TB that has a very bad heart murmur and chronic lymphangitis in one leg. He is happy and comfortable. Today. I am trying to think ahead though. My vet recently commented that "planned euthanasia is a good thing". Hint hint.

                                My complicating factor is that we are not in our "forever home" and we will be moving in a year or two to a new property about 20 minutes away, so I would like to bury him there. I'm not sure it is fair to transport an old horse to a completely unfamiliar place and put him down there. So I am trying to think ahead and figure out how to accomplish this.

                                OP, I'm sorry for your and your daughter's loss, especially at this time of year.


                                • #17
                                  Thoughts and prayers and huge hugs for your entire family ~ barn and house ~

                                  RIP Handsome Hunter ~ knowing you will always be loved and remembered ~
                                  Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                                  • #18
                                    So sorry.
                                    Come to the dark side, we have cookies


                                    • #19
                                      We lost two old horses this winter/spring.... nothing like having to dig a huge hole with a Bobcat while crying your eyes out. One dropped dead of a stroke, but the other one we kept going with IV fluids (35 years old, vet suspected strangulating lipoma) until DH could get home to say goodbye. Could not say which was worse.

                                      Third Charm Event Team


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by Mozart View Post
                                        My complicating factor is that we are not in our "forever home" and we will be moving in a year or two to a new property about 20 minutes away, so I would like to bury him there. I'm not sure it is fair to transport an old horse to a completely unfamiliar place and put him down there. So I am trying to think ahead and figure out how to accomplish this.
                                        In Lexington, Kentucky, we have a company named the Horse Hearse. They will pick up for disposal, cremation or to be moved. Perhaps there is a livestock removal company in your area that could move the body for you.

                                        Forewarned, you probably will not want to watch. We've only euthanised one horse on our farm and we suggested the owner leave before his body was removed. I thought it would be better for her to remember him as he was.