Horse passed away last year... venting and seeking advice!
I'm a new member here, and I suppose I wanted to join because I'm re-entering the horse world. My horse passed away last October, or rather I had to put him down due to a sudden diagnosis of lymphoma and resulting complications. He was only 6 and my absolute soul, heart, and best friend. I went into a deep depression for months afterwards, and there still isn't a day I don't think about him.
I now find myself wanting to "get back into it" with horses, and I'm mostly comfortable doing so. I've been riding a friend's mare on and off just for pleasure (I'm a hunter/eq rider of 18 years), helping care for my sister's horse, and recently I decided I'd like to venture into horse ownership again within the next couple of months.
My biggest thing is, for those of you who have experienced a loss of an equine partner, or anyone for that matter, how do I get past the guilt of wanting another horse? I want something totally different from before, no Thoroughbreds and no bays! I've done the math and my budget allows for this to happen in December at the earliest (I'm still paying off my boy's emergency vet bills) and while I'm very excited at the idea of a new partner and a new venture, new situation, new everything... I can't shake the thought that it won't be HIM. I won't be re-purchasing my OTTB again, nothing will be the same, I won't be walking out to the paddock to get HIM and he will never trot up to me and whinny hello again.
I know I want another horse. I feel like wherever he is and whatever he's doing, my horse is trying to point me in the right direction and there is another "THE horse" waiting for me out there somewhere. I can't really explain this... it's just a feeling I've been getting as of late, so I've gotten myself in gear and have begun researching boarding barns again, I've decided to go with self-care again, doing the money math to figure out what I can and can't afford horse wise, on and on. Basically, I'm pumped to get back into this but there's still a huge part of me that's sad.
So for those who have lost horses, how do you manage? How do you move on and keep going, especially when you finally feel like you're ready? Not sure how much sense that makes... I miss my boy, but my heart is in the horse world.
It sounds like you understand all the pieces. You want to move on, you want the fun of riding again, and the satisfaction of horse ownership. Sounds like you're doing it right financially. All the rest will just come with time. Your horse has taught you things and you know how to be a good owner, that shouldn't go to waste. When it comes to animals, the human heart is infinitely expandable. Each new one just adds on, it doesn't replace the ones that have gone.
Arrange whatever pieces come your way. - Virginia Woolf
Did you know that if you say the word "GULLIBLE" really softly, it sounds like "ORANGES"?
Sadly I can offer little help.
I imagine I will soon be in your place.
My horse was diagnosed with Lymphoma in February of this year and is still with us, but no one can tell me for how much longer. I'm devastated.
People have suggested I get another horse now before I lose him but there is no way I am doing that bc I have no idea if I will even want to ride anymore once he is gone.
I'm glad you are feeling better and feeling like you are ready to get back into horse ownership.
Do not feel guilty. Your horse was lucky to have you and your future horse will be blessed with a devoted caring owner. I wish you the best of luck and will be following this thread to see the suggestions of other cothers.
Very sorry for your loss. I lost my first horse 3 years ago and I still miss her.
I can't and don't want to replace her. But that doesn't mean I can't love another.
Have you considered fostering a horse, or working with a rescue?
That could be a win/win. You get horse time and a horse gets a second chance.
"I can't help but think good horsemanship has to
do with the mind." Maria Bertram, Mansfield Park by
I leased a horse for a couple years and I took lessons on school horses and rode other people's horses when they offered.plus I did some long distance bike riding and amateur road racing( bicycles) It was probably five years before I bought another horse.
It's like the loss of any pet. You open your heart to love and take care of the next one. There are so many other needy animals to care for in this world that one goes so another can receive. It's the cycle of life.
You have the knowledge and ability so enjoy the next lucky one to journey forward and learn from. Your former horse left this legacy for you to carry on. This is difficult on you when you have animals one at a time. I think I'm counting 20+ on horses at my age now so I've lived through this and found that their memories built a base of knowledge that I feel each horse appreciates and allows me to enjoy each one so much more thoroughly.
Maybe this horse will find you too. Be open to it.
About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you're fighting temptation.
-- Tom Wilson, actor & comedian
I have lost two myself, so I feel for your pain. I tend to see horses more like children - losing one is a tremendous loss, and no one can be "replaced". But you still can have another, who can be loved just as much for his/her own lovable, unique self, without feeling guilty. You will still grieve and miss your guy, but maybe by focusing on what you can give to your new horse will help you feel better about it. It sounds like you have lots of love to give, and the knowledge and experience to really make it work. Good luck!
I had to put down my old fellow I owned for 20 years in 2010 due to lymphoma. He'd already retired, so I was probably more prepared to deal with his death than you would be with a six year old. Some people grieve for a long time. Others - and I am one - find that getting another horse as soon as possible works better. While I still miss my old boy, having a new horse to care for helped me get over his loss.
Hugs to you for your loss. I've never had just one, so I don't quite know what that's like -- when you lose one, there are always four or five others that need time, attention, fed. You grieve the one, but the others soon close up around your heart and help make it easier to bear.
I lost my first horse -- she was just a yearling -- when I was 14. I wanted another horse right away to fill the hole I felt, but ultimately, although I did love the horse I rescued, it wasn't the right match. I ended up with a beautiful three-year old Arabian mare some six months later who was a perfect match for me.
Don't rush into it. Take your time. You know "the one" is waiting out there, and when the time's right, you'll find him. But don't discount anything -- it might be that the horse you didn't want to look at is the horse you need.
When you do get another horse -- don't compare him to your old one. I know that will be hard, but maybe even if you do a different discipline with him for a while, some basic dressage or trail riding or something, that will help.
As a horse owner since 1965- you don't replace one, you get another which is a different individual to be loved and enjoyed on its own merits. The pain of the loss is never easy, but it is part of the package that includes much joy and fun.
I know precisely how you feel. I believe the best thing to do is to recognize what your horse gave you, what you learned or gained from him that you perhaps could not have gotten elsewhere. find a project horse that strikes your fancy and just get yourself in deep with the new horse, improving him and yourself. Don't force yourself to "love" this new horse. You dont have to immediately, or ever for that matter---though with time you might just make sure it is one you are WILLING to work with, that you enjoy and look forward to connecting with.
I was going to share my sob story but that's not going to help you
Long story short, i lost two horses in two years. the second one, though a tragic surprise, was not going to be the athlete i needed to compete and improve (he had become a flatwork-only horse due to blindness in one eye). my sister and I had already begun moseying around the internet and making lists of what kind of horse we might consider next. it was all window shopping, but after he passed, we started making calls.
I had guilt about not being able to prevent Castle's death (horse #2). I had guilt about not listening to my gut and talking over the vets in the weeks before Luke's death (horse #1). But I didn't feel guilty about getting another horse. I NEEDED another horse for my sanity. I would have felt more guilty letting all my efforts that i put into my horses and therefore myself, go to waste. --its not as if i didnt have horses i rode for other people...but those horses did not make up for the empty stall
I feel you on the "No TBs, no bays!"...though color was never a deciding factor with me, I did not want another OTTB...or TB at all. i thought, "let me get a quiet minded WB". of course, I ended up with a very "zingy" Trakehner, which we all know is mostly TB anyway I also didnt want a baby. I've done green as grass OTTBs my whole life and I needed something beyond that. so my Trak was 10 until the day we shipped him home *ahem, oops he turned 11..tad older than intended* maybe thats a good sign though, right? picking up where i left off? Of course, it turned out he had a lot more deeply dug holes in his training than we originally surmised from the trial ride...perhaps I just can't get out of my own way, or maybe I'm drawn to a certain type, either way i ended up getting the same kind of horse i intended to stay away from, and you know what? I love him. I have no regrets because I love him too much to think of him having gone anywhere else but with me. for the record it will be two years this August, and it took juuust over a year for me to decide that i was beginning to love him the way I loved Luke and Castle (and Joey and Chrissy...reaching back to elementary school age there!).
Additionally, Enjoy the fact that your prospective new horse ISNT the same as your old boy. none of mine have ever been similar outside of their tendency to be atypical, "difficult", and sensitive. you don't REALLY want a new guy to overshadow him anyway. you miss the connection and his personality, and you can have it again- but its going to be a different connection and he'll have a different personality, and that's ok!
The horse you loved and lost made you what you are today. Its the generous spirit of all horses that gives us the ability to share our lives with them as a partner in whatever activity we choose to enjoy with them. Your old horse would not want to selfishly keep the many gifts you have to offer only to himself. Their lives are all for 'the good of the herd.'
Taking the love, gifts, and lessons he taught you to help another horse be the best it can be is the greatest thing you can do to honor his life and memory. There is no guilt in loving generously. Its the very essence of the phrase 'pay it forward'.
If you were to keep the knowledge, experience, and lessons he gave you to yourself, reserved only for one horse at one time in your life - that would be a reason for guilt.
If you keep your heart and mind open for all possibilities, with a realistic understanding of what you can both give and receive at this time in your life, the right horse will find you. Take your time to try different options.
For you to lock yourself away, never going near the horse world again, for the sake of emotional self-protection?
Or to put yourself out there and begin again, providing the kind of good care, loving home, and good training you had with your first one? There is a WORLD full of lovable horses out there, with far too many in dire need of a responsible, competent home.
It comes down to what you want--is having a horse in your life worth risking the pain of another loss, or not?
Before jumping in with both feet in the deep end again, why not take lessons on some school horses or lease for awhile and see if you really want to do it, or not because it can never be "the same" without your old guy.
BTW--my old guy died at the age of 32 in 2005, having been retired from most of the amazing stuff we did together for close to 10 years before that. In all that time, there has been NO replacement; but some pretty darn nice horses who have taught me things, and taken me down other paths I would never have traveled had my "great one" lived forever.
Part of it is that you've only had one horse. To you your horse was "horse" the living, breathing epitomy of horse - and now you are thinking of getting another horse. You know from riding other horses that each horse is an individual, but you haven't got that knowledge in your heart yet.
Don't reject a horse because he (or she) is like or reminds you of your first horse. There was something that attracted you, that you connected with and if you try too hard to avoid it you may not be able to connect with a new horse.
I've had four horses. The third is very like the first, and the fourth like the second in some ways. It is not a bad thing. The third keeps the memory of the first alive, as the fourth does for the second. It is a good thing. There is no one in my horse life now who knew my first horse, and very few who knew my second (and then only his last few retirement years). No one to share stories of those passed on. And so it is that the living reminders of those gone before keep my memories alive.
Oh, and my first three all had variations of connected star, blaze, snip facial markings and a white left hind (different heights). All four are/were chestnut. The fourth has a connected star, blaze, white nose facial marking, and two and a half white feet/legs.
Let your heart tell you when you've found a horse to connect with.