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Hoping horses cope with the loss of a friend

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  • Hoping horses cope with the loss of a friend

    We recently had to put down one of our horses (a post for another day ). His pasture mate for the past few years is not taking it well. At the vet's advice, we let him see his best friend's body before we buried him, so he wouldn't think his buddy had just disappeared. It was a profoundly sad experience for all of us. For a few days after we buried his best friend, the horse moped around and stood under a tree. He called out to us when we came out in the yard. He seemed extremely sad.

    Gradually, he started going out into the pasture and eating again, but several weeks later and he's not only still not himself, but has adopted some strange behaviors. He has started chewing wood like a maniac. I mean digging his teeth in and CHEWING...he is attacking it like he means to eat his way through the fence. It's disturbing. He also acts weird around us sometimes---he will follow us around like a dog but there can be some 'aggressive' attitude towards us that is completely NOT like him. He was crowding me the other day and I turned around and motioned with my arms to back him off and he whirled and kicked "at" me...he didn't aim, but it was definitely an unacceptable thing for him to do...and NOT like him in the least.

    We do have another horse, so he's not alone, but they have never been overly fond of one another. They are sticking together to some degree, but there is no love between them whatsoever. The other horse didn't seem to be affected by the lost pasture mate in any way.

    I don't know what I can do to help with this situation. I'm worried he may be getting ulcers based on the way he's acting. I've never been in this situation so I don't know if horses truly grieve or if I'm projecting my own feelings to his behavior or what.

    Anyone have any thoughts about this situation? Is this "normal" for a horse to behave this way in this situation? What can I do to alleviate the stress he's feeling? I can't bring his friend back...so what do I do?

  • #2
    I'd try some Ulcergard for starters. It takes some longer than others. I knew my Bluey had finally gotten over losing his buddy after 4 weeks when I saw him playing in the water trough again. Sadly, I lost Bluey to a pasture accident just a week later.

    It's rough. No two ways about it. I have my daughter's QH and a senior boarder pony left. Neither is particularly fond of the other but they tend to be on the loner side anyway.


    • #3
      You're right to worry. My 20 year old gelding died and his 27 year old "best friend" died six weeks later. The older one just gave up, stopped eating, at the end wouldn't even leave his stall. My vet concurred that he'd basically died from a broken heart. Those two had been together for 13 years.

      It just about killed me, too.

      Hope you can figure it out.


      • #4
        He is angry because he does not understand & is having a hard time forgiving you for what you needed to do to help his buddy. I believe horses understand us more than we think and I would suggest a heart to heart conversation. The why's, ask him to try & understand.... And even perhaps ask your passed horse to join you in prayer to ease the change and your hard decision that changed everyone's life as it once was.

        Blessings for feeling the pain of this horse and taking action for help


        • #5
          I vote ulcers too. It was definitely a stressful event and wouldn't be a shock to hear it caused ulcers. Jingles for everyone involved.
          McDowell Racing Stables

          Home Away From Home


          • #6
            I'd do both of the above, have vet check for ulcers AND have a heart to heart talk with the horse. I think they get it and understand when you are trying to comfort them. I've certainly had apology talks with my animals and they seem to "understand" and their behavior reflects that.
            Maybe you could get a buddy pony donk.


            • #7
              Been through that

              Quite recently actually. Some of them, especially older horses, just don't seem to accept it, the wood chewing can be quite bad.

              Depending on the horses age and condition, you might not only ask about ulcer guard type of medication, but a 30 day tranquilizer might help him get past the worst of it.


              • Original Poster

                This is a young horse...he's only 10. Some things have gotten better and some things have gotten worse. He wouldn't eat much for the first week and stood under a tree looking positively pitiful. He's a bit of a pig so I guess he decided he wasn't actually going to starve himself and started eating...but that's when this hellacious wood chewing began! It's BAD. He does have another horse to hang out with, but like I said, they've never been over fond of one another. I could get another horse but I don't have any guarantees that they will click...but maybe a "new" friend will at least take his mind off of his loss. But I'M not ready to get a new horse. I've been devastated by the loss of my horse and I wanted to give my own heart time to settle before looking for a new one. I'm going to call vet for ulcer meds first and see where it goes from there. If anyone has any tips to curb the wood chewing I'd be interested in them. Thanks everyone.


                • #9
                  I agree with some ulcer treatment empirically, but what about a change of scenery, a new companion, and some attention that is positive--trail rides, lots of grooming, etc? Is there a horse you could "borrow" for a few weeks just to give him some more stimulation and something to think about besides moping?
                  Click here before you buy.


                  • #10
                    My mare was given the homeopathic remedy Natrum Muraticum. It is known as the "grief" remedy. "Nat Mur" is a cell salt. She also was acupunctured specifically for grief right after the dosing of the Nat Mur. Completely turned her around.

                    The vet that did the acupuncture was the same vet who treated a mare several years ago in Ocala for grief. I don't know if anyone remembers this story, but the mare and her female rider were competing at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, cross country phase. They had a terrible fall and the rider ended up dying. The horse was very distressed after the rider was taken off life support. My vet was called in to treat the mare because she was completely distant, not eating, head hanging low. My vet told me that when she put the needles in (only 2 needles in the head) the mare began to shake so badly that she literally shook across the aisle in her shoes.

                    Within a day, the mare appeared to be back to normal.

                    I dosed the Nat Mur 1x a day for 3 days, 200c potentcy.

                    You can also look into this. It is a flower essence (like Rescue Remedy): http://www.spiritessences.com/Loss-R...oss-remedy.htm


                    • #11
                      I agree with the suggestion to treat for ulcers, as it would not be unreasonable for those to have developed in such a stressful situation.

                      I'd also be looking for a new companion. A mini or a donkey can be great in these situations. Horses that NEED a friend often fall in love with those hearty little creatures and it doesn't have a huge impact on your pocketbook or farm life otherwise. Some horses, especially those that lose their boss, tend to exhibit what he has been. He either needs another horse to tell him what to do or a little buddy that is just always there for him so he feels comfortable again.
                      Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.


                      • #12
                        The fact that he is chewing on wood is a huge arrow that points towards ulcers. My mare almost ate my barn down, until we treated her ulcers.

                        The change in attitude (kicking at you when he wouldn't normally) is also a red flag for me that says he is in pain/not comfortable.

                        The not eating/moping around/being stressed is more than likely causing some gut issues with this guy. The not eating alone could've started it.

                        Please consider using some ulcergard on him until you can find him a suitable companion that he likes, or until he seems back to being a happy guy without his buddy.
                        "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."