The bond between an owner and their horse is one of the closest and most important relationships in life. Whether you’re a serious competition rider or a happy hacker, a paid groom or you simply own them as companion animals, horses provide us with a friendship and a level of trust unlike any other.
It's this special bond that can make saying goodbye one of the hardest things to do. Emotions can often cloud an owner’s judgement.
But putting your feelings first to keep them around may not always be the kindest choice to make. As much as you might like for nature to take its course and for your horse to pass away peacefully in his sleep, very often this is not the reality.
This means that, for the welfare of the horse, we must manage their end of life care, no matter how difficult this may be for us.
In 2013 the BHS created Friends at the End: a friendly, non-judgemental service where you can talk to somebody who loves horses just as much as you. We can help you to prepare for that difficult decision, we can talk through the options available (euthanasia and disposal) and we can advise you on how to make the necessary arrangements.
We can also put you in contact with a trained BHS Volunteer who will know more about the services that are available locally to you, and who can even be there on the day when it’s time to say goodbye - the extra support you might need – a Friend at the End.
Since the Friends at the End scheme was started, we have helped and supported almost 150 horse owners, but we know that we could help more.
“I had my 13 year old ISH put to sleep three years ago due to injury,” said one owner. “It was a horrendous process, made worse by non-horsey friends and family who couldn't get their heads around what I was doing. I could really have done with this help at the time; I still feel scarred from the process.”
Horse owner Lauren used the service when her older pony became ill. “He was 41, fit and lively for his age but a couple of weeks earlier his field companion was put to sleep.
“This didn’t seem to affect him at first but then he suffered from mild colic symptoms. Although the vet reassured us he should recover from this, after a few days of repeated emergency call outs something just wasn’t right; I know you shouldn’t give animals emotions but he looked heartbroken.
“Talking to a BHS friend was extremely helpful; they were professional and answered all the questions I had in an objective manner.
“I felt quite isolated at this time as none of my close friends were horsy but they gave me the support I needed to reassure me I had made the right decision and help my pony pass away peacefully and with dignity, something I obviously always wanted.”
As with any important decision, it’s helpful to carefully consider all the options available to you.
Our Friends at the End Scheme can help you to do this. Alternatively, we can simply provide the opportunity for you to talk it through, with objectivity and a non-judgmental approach being our priority.
We understand that this may be a difficult phone call to make, but be reassured we will take it step by step allowing you time to talk and ask any questions that you may have.
Your call will be treated with understanding, empathy and confidentiality. We appreciate that it’s a huge step to simply pick up the phone and make the decision to talk about this topic. It might be helpful for you to write some questions down before you call or make yourself a cup of tea to help you relax.
Alternatively, you might find it easier to email us. We can reply to your email or you can request a call-back.
Lisa Randle, a BHS Friend, says: “People love their horses dearly and it’s very hard to know the right thing to do under those emotions. It’s helpful to speak to someone who is emotionally detached to talk you through that decision.
“Keeping a horse alive isn’t always right and owners sometimes need help knowing when to say goodbye.”
Just remember, we’re here to help, not judge. By calling, us you’re not committing to anything – just simply gathering information to make sure you're making an informed decision on the best course of action for your horse.
We will be there for you and for your horse.
To be put in touch with a Friend, call 02476 840517 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.