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Preparing a horse for the death of his companion UPDATE: He's gone

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  • Preparing a horse for the death of his companion UPDATE: He's gone

    For the last 4 years my older horse (now 26) has lived with a fellow senior citizen (now probably 30+). While my guy is as ornery, fat, and cantankerous as ever (routinely makes jail breaks and the like), his companion is not do well. They spent the summer on beautiful pasture, but the older one did not thrive as he normally would. He is losing teeth and just isn't thriving. While he is still in good spirits, my mom (their primary caregiver) is fearing the old man is about at the end of his time. Things are being done to help him eat and hopefully put some pounds back on, but he is OLD.

    When the sad time comes, I will bring my guy back down here with me (either keeping him on the farm I manage or finding him somewhere else nearby). However, my biggest concern is the lag time between the old guy passing (whether it is assisted or natural) and me getting him down here. He has no other companions. They are the Odd Couple (truly are, too. Very unalike, but absolutely best buds).

    I have suggested my mom ask around about finding a pony, donkey, or goat to join the Odd Couple so Neigh (my guy) has another companion if his pal crosses the bridge and I am a day or two away from getting him. Is there anything else we can do to prepare him for the passing of his friend? He's a good, brave, smart boy, but I worry about him being lonely and heartbroken.
    Last edited by yellowbritches; Dec. 22, 2012, 07:39 PM.
    Amanda

  • #2
    The only thing you could do is try to co-ordinate it so that your guy gets on the trailer at virtually the same time his old buddy crosses the bridge; and I'm not sure even that wouldn't be more of a problem for him than actually seeing his old friend "go" and have a chance to sniff his body and process what's happened. They usually resolve it without noticeable issues I've found if allowed to do that; they seem to know there isn't anybody to search for, call for, etc.

    I think I'd let him do just that, and THEN within a day or two take him to his new home where he can turn the page and get involved with a new environment and new horses.

    This is a tough one; I wish you well.

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I would like him to be there for Fury's passing, too. I think it will be better for them both, especially if we put Fury down (I don't want Fury stressed with Neigh leaving and think Neigh will handle leaving better if he sees Fury is no longer "there."

      Best case scenario would be scheduling to put Fury down so I can plan on being there to assist with that, then load Neigh up shortly thereafter. But, I'm not sure Fury's owner with do that I will continue to advocate helping him go rather than try and get him through another winter (he is owned by my uncle), but I don't think everyone thinks the same as I do.
      Amanda

      Comment


      • #4
        I've had to put several horses down over the years and the companions seem to do better when I allow them to see the body - I have no idea if they need closure, but of the 3 times we allowed the horses in for a "viewing", they really seemed to get it...they'd look, sniff and then go off and do their thing. Sometimes a couple were sullen for a day, but back to normal after that. Of the times we were not able to do that, we had anxious horses, pacing and calling for a couple of days. That was stressful for all of us.

        And for what it's worth, I've had my dogs buried in the same manner, so the other dogs can see their companion. That has also seemed to help. Maybe we're weird because my husband comes from a funeral director family, but it feels like closure for all of us.

        Comment


        • #5
          Not weird at all! The horses allowed to hold their own "wake" is standard-operating here now because of the exact experience you cite.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            I've already had an emotional day for other reasons, so all this talk isn't helping. However, it is bittersweet knowing my dear, dear old man will be with me again. I've missed him terribly...3 plus hours is a long drive to see him!

            Here's a couple of pictures of them from their first weekend together. Fury is the black one, Neigh is the roany appy. Both are pretty fat and sassy in these pics!!
            http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...9&l=45e5834fef
            http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...9&l=cbbfb0c7e3
            Amanda

            Comment


            • #7
              They sure look good there! Honest truth; if you can keep them looking good and acting happy right up to the time Nature calls their name, you're doin' it RIGHT. More than that, unfortunately, is not within the Powers granted us.

              Of course, I frequently have words with the Powers.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Up until this summer, Fury has come out of the summer looking great, and once I started giving little tips and hints on feeding him, did better through the winters, too. But he's not coming into the winter nearly as good this year. I was worried about him last Thanksgiving. I was actually pleasantly surprised that he came through the winter very well.
                Amanda

                Comment


                • #9
                  A big cyber hug for you....we went through this last Christmas. Our old man was 42 and the last of my childhood ponies. He was born and died only knowing one home.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    We just went through the loss of a long time buddy here two months ago. It was just the two horses here and they have been buddies for 25+ years. I took the advice to have my horse present during and after we gave her time with her friend. These two could not be out of each others site without causing stress and calling out. She understood her friend was gone and handled the situation much better then I expected.

                    She has been alone since. I had plans at the ready if needed to move her or bring in another, but she is doing OK so far.

                    Hope everything works out OK.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      They're both very handsome.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My horse lost his buddy last week.He was put down in his field with my horse present. My horse had the night out in the field with his dead friend ,and the body was taken away in the morning.The vet said to leave the body uncovered for the night so his friend could keep coming to check on him.When I went down in the morning,my guy was grazing nearby quietly.He seemed to handle everything okay ,and was given a new buddy ,once the body was removed. He has not called ,or seemed to fret ,but he does continue to wait at the gate for me to bring him in to eat ,even though his new buddy will be off somewhere else.
                        He seems a bit down ,but alright. I know that he would have been much more upset if had had been taken away without knowing what happened. These two horses were inseparable,I could never bring one in without the other.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          YB, I know you've read my various euth sob stories but for our most recent, here's what happened. 2 boys were to cross The Bridge together, leaving my very dependent red OTTB home alone. We had a parade down the farm road to the cemetery: the 2 die-ers, the soon-to-be-single TB, 2 dogs, 5 people. The 2 boys were PTS in the hay field with TB watching. When both boys were dead, TB was allowed to come close. He sniffed and snuffled EVERY INCH of both bodies. I really mean every inch. Huff and puff, nose on, waggling his nose on theirs, snuffing everything. Each one took him over 5 minutes. When he was all done, he raised his head and looked at them both for another few minutes. Then s.l.o.w.l.y turned away. As he walked off, he looked back once. Back up the hill to his (their) field. He was turned out and he stood still looking out into the view. He let out one HUGE, LONG Black Stallion type whinny/scream/whistle, put his head down and ate grass. That was it. He was alone and he knew it and he was fine with that. He stayed happily alone till I made the mistake this Spring of adopting 2 rescue ponies. He is now 150% attached to them and flips his red-headed lid when he can't see them. So, long story short, in my experience, (there have been 5 other similar stories here) I wouldn't be panicked about it but I would make damn sure your guy can see and finalize with his friend.

                          Sorry you have to go through it. It is never easy but you're right, better a month early than a minute late.
                          Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            This is just one experience, but it was mine. When I put my mare down she and my gelding were best, best, best friends. I let my gelding watch as the vet put her down, and he stood over the fence watching the whole thing without moving. When she was on the ground, he turned around and walked away. It was as if he knew everything and he was there for her, when it was over, he knew that too. I led him out to her and let him sniff her, after we buried her I let him walk to her grave and sniff around there too. He wouldn't eat any grass when we went to "visit" her until a week later he went over and started grazing near her grave. He doesn't get along with any horses, so he lives alone, but he can share a fence line and he seems fine.

                            I think another friend would be great for your horse if you can find one, but they seem to adjust.
                            RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

                            "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              When I put my old pony down, I put her down in the field she was being buried in. My other 2 horses knew for a couple of days she wasn't right, they have an amazing ability to understand way more then we give them credit for.

                              Once my pony crossed the rainbow bridge, I brought the other 2 outside and put them in the paddock right beside where she was laying (as we were waiting for the backhoe to arrive) and they stayed out and were able to watch the entire thing if they chose to. I wanted them to know what was going on.

                              They were extremely quiet for a few days and really weren't themselves again for weeks, but then again neither was I and I know they were picking up on my emotions.

                              Never an easy thing but I really believe in them being allowed to say goodbye to their friends if they have such a close bond.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I do think they know when a companion dies ... but we break up close relationships all the time when a horse is sold or moved...yank, gone, that's it - and the horse is left wondering what happened.

                                I (think) I would let the other one be close.

                                It is called anthromorphizing - but I do think there is something there, as well as for elephants and other animals.
                                Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Foxtrot's View Post
                                  I do think they know when a companion dies ... but we break up close relationships all the time when a horse is sold or moved...yank, gone, that's it - and the horse is left wondering what happened.

                                  I (think) I would let the other one be close.

                                  It is called anthromorphizing - but I do think there is something there, as well as for elephants and other animals.
                                  When horses are sold or moved we don't have any way to "tell" them what has happened. When one dies, it's a situation that allows us to tell them the story of what has happened, in a language they understand.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I think so...
                                    Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Ditto the above that pasture companions definitely pick up on it when a member of the herd is NQR--especially if they're getting close to their time or have something weird like neuro. Often, the one who's close will even leave the herd and go off to hang out quietly by himself. I don't believe it is anthropomorphizing AT ALL to give these animals the credit they deserve for having a pretty good idea of what is going on; they evolved millions of years before we did and their herds are complex, highly social, hierarchical societies!

                                      Descartes, Darwin and others did the animal kingdom a grave disservice when they cast them in a mechanistic model that operated on blind instinct alone; if that were true, I don't think horses would be remotely capable of being trained to do our bidding, performing acts as unnatural as they are often self-destructive. I've seen interactions my whole life between horses among each other, and between horses and people which lead me to believe they are every bit as sentient as we are; they just experience the world ~differently~ filtered though a sensory and nervous system wired other than ours.

                                      Don't even get me started on DOGS . . .

                                      Comment

                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Originally posted by SwampYankee View Post
                                        Ditto the above that pasture companions definitely pick up on it when a member of the herd is NQR--especially if they're getting close to their time or have something weird like neuro. Often, the one who's close will even leave the herd and go off to hang out quietly by himself. I don't believe it is anthropomorphizing AT ALL to give these animals the credit they deserve for having a pretty good idea of what is going on; they evolved millions of years before we did and their herds are complex, highly social, hierarchical societies!

                                        Descartes, Darwin and others did the animal kingdom a grave disservice when they cast them in a mechanistic model that operated on blind instinct alone; if that were true, I don't think horses would be remotely capable of being trained to do our bidding, performing acts as unnatural as they are often self-destructive. I've seen interactions my whole life between horses among each other, and between horses and people which lead me to believe they are every bit as sentient as we are; they just experience the world ~differently~ filtered though a sensory and nervous system wired other than ours.

                                        Don't even get me started on DOGS . . .
                                        I agree 150%.

                                        Thanks for all the great feedback and support. Fury is reportedly eating well now that his TC Senior, etc is soupy. I am going to try and make a quick up and back trip to see them both in a couple of weeks, just so I can see how Fury REALLY looks and how much I should be worrying about this.
                                        Amanda

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