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How to cope with the loss of the little ones...

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  • How to cope with the loss of the little ones...

    I guess the title completely explains it. My beautiful heart filly that was born in May had to be put down two weeks ago due to a broken femur. It's been weeks now and I'm still having a hard time coping. I've been a horse person all my life and I know that accidents happen, but I can't help but cry every time I go into the barn these days. Nothing seems to help.

    I posted about my filly at the beginning of the summer after she was born asking if she would turn gray, which she was. She had been weaned for about two weeks before the incident as an old three month old because her dam has food aggression issues and was beating up on her at meal times quite a bit. My parents had a weanling filly that they brought over to give her a playmate, and they were both doing really well. I was putting fly spray on her one Saturday morning and for some reason she leapt forward, hit the end of the line, reared up, and came down on her right hip. She'd been getting fly spray put on her since she was two days old without incident. She got up and her right hind was hanging from what looked like the hip down. She stood quietly in the pasture while we called the university vet clinic, I gave her the recommended bute, carefully loaded her in the trailer, and got her down there as fast as we could while giving her the smoothest possible trip.

    We unloaded her, got her in x ray, and they sedated her. I could hear her whinnying the whole time she was in there. The x rays confirmed it was broken, but we were assured that it could be fixed with surgery. She had great bone density as well, there weren't any abnormalities, she just fell on it at the perfect angle to break it. We were told that as long as she got up after surgery and she didn't develop an infection that she would make a full recovery and even be able to still have a performance career as a jumper. The surgeon had done quite a few repairs just like this one and there was a great success rate. Can you imagine how overjoyed we were? The only catch is that the cost would be roughly between 5-7k and they would need half up front. We immediately agreed because she was definitely worth the money and that we wanted to do the surgery. They didn't even bring up putting her down, or the amount of pain she would be in. I made my down payment and they told us we needed to drop off our trailer at home (three hours away), that she would be under 24/7 observation, and they would call when she was out of surgery and with updates. So I made the biggest mistake of my life and went home to wait for the phone call. I will never forget the sound of her neighing after me as we left.

    I got the call late that night that she was up and that the surgery went perfectly. I was incredibly relieved and asked when I could come visit. They said Monday would be fine. I told them to give me updates twice a day, I wanted to stay completely informed on how she was doing. They called the next morning and told me they were adjusting her pain medication to get her more comfortable, but that she was eating, drinking, and pooping; her only problem was she was having a hard time posturing to urinate. She was being a great patient. The next call I got was a voicemail that evening while I was doing chores stating that they had to put in an epidural catheter because they wanted to be able to manage her pain better, that someone should have called for permission (which no one did). Again, it sounded like it was SOP.

    I didn't receive a phone call Monday morning with updates on her, but I did get a lot of phone calls from them about billing, which was a little hard because banks usually take 2-3 business days to accept funds when you're transferring money between banks and this all had happened on a Saturday. One of my boarders' horses got a sliver under her skin from itching her neck on a post and I was the only one available to hold her for the vet, making me unable to make the three hour drive for a visit that day. They had told me that no news was good news, and not to worry and that everything up until this point had been normal so I would be able to come the next day without a problem. Right before evening chores I got a phone call saying that they had found her down and she had re-broken her femur and it was irreparable and there was nothing further they could do for her. They said that she had been having a hard time standing on her good legs because they were so tired and they thought she must have just fallen over onto her bad leg. I gave my permission for them to put her down, my brave filly didn't deserve to be in any more pain.

    I'm not trying to point fingers or place blame because prior to this I have had excellent experiences with this university. I guess that's why I blindly trusted everything they told me. It wasn't until I was talking to my vet when he came out that Monday that I understood how much pain she must have been in to need an epidural catheter. I do wish I would have been fully informed and I will never forgive myself for leaving and not being there when she was put down. She was the bravest filly I've ever met, she stood for three hours in a trailer on a broken leg with her head in my lap trying to make me feel better. I was the first thing she saw when she came into this world and she trusted me to make it all better. I failed. I just don't really know where to go from here, the majority of the people I talk to about it don't understand what she meant to me, and everyone tells me it will get better with time. It's been over two weeks now and it hurts more now than it did when it first happened. I run a small boarding facility by myself, so avoiding the barn is impossible but being out there is a constant reminder of her being gone. I try and keep it together when the clients are around, but it's incredibly tough.

    I know nothing will ever bring her back and no horse will ever replace her, and I am very thankful for the time I did get to spend with her. I know she was only four months old, but to me she was perfect in every way and I truly loved her. Watching that filly play in the pasture was the highlight of my day, and she made those days where everything seems to go wrong worth it. Don't get me wrong, I love my other horses, but she was the only one that really felt like she was mine.

    I know this is incredibly incredibly long, I think writing it out has been a little cathartic for me, which may be why it's so detailed. I do appreciate anyone who reads through this, and any coping advice anyone may have. I figured there has to have been someone who has felt what I'm feeling right now and might know something that may help.

  • #2
    My heart breaks for you. All I can say to you is that it can take much longer than a few weeks to move past such a traumatic loss; what you are going through is completely normal, even though it doesn't seem that way. I think posting your story here is perfect; most of us can understand what you are going through, more than the "average" population probably can.

    I do want to say that I don't believe you failed your filly in any way. You gave her the best possible care that you could and made the best decisions that you could make at the time. Sometimes even when things go perfectly the outcome isn't what we would hope for.

    Hang in there.
    Already excited about our 2016 foals! Expecting babies by Indoctro, Diamant de Semilly, Zirocco Blue and Calido!


    • #3

      There is nothing that any of us can say to make it better or hurt less. Hearts don't break but there are some wounds that don't heal and time makes them less sore, that's all.

      I am so sorry.
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      • #4
        I know it is cliche but time really does heal all wounds. Losing a little one is especially hard because they hold so much promise. I planted a bush that flowered hot pink every spring when I lost my first foal as pink is my racing colors. Godspeed.
        McDowell Racing Stables

        Home Away From Home


        • #5
          My heart is hurting so badly for you right now and I do understand, losing my heart horse to colic in '99 after two surgeries, 10 days of up and down news, and knowing how much pain he must have been in. Twelve years later I still tear up thinking about him and how much I loved him and still love him. I have a May colt out in the barn that I think the world of. We give all of ourselves to these little ones, knowing how much they depend upon us, especially with an aggressive dam. No words can make this better but I do understand and do feel your pain. Hugs.


          • #6
            There are no words that could possibly lessen the pain you're in. You are a wonderful horse person and did exactly what any one of us would do in that situation. Sometimes life just isn't fair.
            I am so sorry. {{{ Big hugs }}}


            • Original Poster

              Thank you all so much. It does help a little to know that I'm not going completely crazy and that there are people out there that understand.


              • #8
                You make the choices with the strength that lies within your heart. When you make that choice it can come with a price or it may not. As horse owners, we have to believe in that ability and with the outcome.

                It's never easy letting them go. I fought along side a filly for three weeks. Watched her battle with her will to live as I myself was pregnant. I stood there, 6 months pregnant, at the hospital, with her mother and the vet at my side. Mother nature had a different plan and I was sad but grateful that I/we could end it.

                It's in your nature along with all horse lovers to feel and empathize with this kind of tragedy. Just know, that despite all of what you've been through, you made the right choice and it was it meant to be. This experience will strengthen your resolve and as you continue on your journey with horses, you will know that every moment you have with them is a gift.

                My condolences to you, and may your heart resolve its pain swiftly.
                Hyperion Stud, LLC.
                Europe's Finest, Made in America
                Standing Elite and Approved Stallions


                • #9
                  Hillside said it beautifully.

                  I'm so very sorry. There is no time frame for such a loss, but there will be a time when it hurts a little less - and that doesn't lessen your love for her.


                  • #10
                    Oh I am so, SO very sorry. I have a colt that age, and they are so fragile.
                    I don't have any magic words because there aren't any, but you did not fail your filly. I am heartbroken for you, I'm so sorry.
                    We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.


                    • #11
                      I'm so sorry. Godspeed beautiful brave filly.


                      • #12
                        I am so sorry to read of your loss, and can sympathize with you completely. Its very hard to lose a young one, but it sounds as though you did every thing you could for her, and there is no shame in allowing her to humanely be at peace and pain free.

                        There are many of us here that have been in those same shoes, and its true that time is what it will take to get over, or cope with better.
                        Tracy Geller
                        Find me on Facebook!


                        • #13
                          i am so sorry. i know what it feels like to lose someone you love. it is very very difficult. I lost my mum almost 2 years ago and my beloved kitty of 20 years a year before that...... i still miss them both terribly every day, but time has helped tremendously.

                          Please be kind to yourself.... give yourself permission to grieve and cry and punch pillows if need be.....

                          if you need someone to talk to please feel free to contact me any time.



                          • #14
                            Originally posted by mbm View Post
                            Please be kind to yourself.... give yourself permission to grieve and cry and punch pillows if need be.....

                            Condolences on the loss of your filly.


                            • #15
                              I'm so sorry for your loss. You took good care of her, and gave her a chance to recover when others might not have.

                              Please know that you are not alone. Many of us here understand and feel your sorrow.


                              • #16
                                My heart aches for you. Take time. Be sad, it's OK. Best not to let it fester.

                                I remember when my weanling had a nearly-fatal reaction to her vaccines. Was touch & go for a couple weeks, and while she was in the hospital, I couldn't make it to the barn. I'd pull in, and drive away. With two other horses who probably wanted to know where their loving mother was. Their anal mum, who was typically out 1-2x a day.

                                I'm sure that's not of any help, but I understand that feeling.

                                Regret is evil. Whenever I start down that road, I get a bit cheesy - 'forget regret' - nothing like a musical to bring out the emotion.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Hillside H Ranch View Post
                                  My heart breaks for you. All I can say to you is that it can take much longer than a few weeks to move past such a traumatic loss; what you are going through is completely normal, even though it doesn't seem that way. I think posting your story here is perfect; most of us can understand what you are going through, more than the "average" population probably can.

                                  I do want to say that I don't believe you failed your filly in any way. You gave her the best possible care that you could and made the best decisions that you could make at the time. Sometimes even when things go perfectly the outcome isn't what we would hope for.

                                  Hang in there.
                                  I agree. so sorry for your loss
                                  Elegant Expressions Farm

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                                  • #18
                                    I am so sorry. I understand your anguish and sorrow, and know it will never go away, but may diminish with time.
                                    I lost a 2 week old to a freak pasture accident, and found it very hard to accept, mentally and emotionally (like a nightmare from which you can't awake). My most beloved mare died Sept 18, 2001 and I still feel the loss, keenly, persistently.
                                    Time does help, and you will go on, and you will have new joys.
                                    Best wishes, Kathleen.
                                    Sunny Days Hanoverians


                                    • #19
                                      So very sorry for this tragic loss.
                                      What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


                                      • #20
                                        I'm so sorry to read this. You did the best you could; I think anytime we loose one, we second guess ourselves, wondering had we done more, would they still be here? Often the answer is: no.

                                        Don't torture yourself and yes, time, time heals all wounds.
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