It’s Volunteers’ Week (1st-7th June) and we want to take this opportunity to shout-out some of our incredible BHS volunteers and say thank you for the amazing work they do. One of the people we’d like to highlight is Sharon, who has been a BHS Welfare Adviser for eight years and a specialist BHS Friends At The End (FATE) volunteer for five.
You may have read in the latest issue of our BHS membership magazine British Horse, we followed the journey of horse owners Sonia and Vin, who with the support of Sharon, make the hardest decision of all.
Our FATE volunteers are BHS Welfare Advisors who have attended specialist training to help them support owners through their horse’s last stage of life, assisting with objective assessment of quality of life, and exploring all the available options. They aren’t there to take the place of a counsellor or vet, but they offer an extra source of practical support and advice. Their support ensures no owner has to face the loss of their equine companion alone.
Having her own horses for 25 years, Sharon knows how difficult it is to lose them but discovered her ability to hold it together even in the most awful situations:
“I helped my friend with her horse’s euthanasia and when the BHS FATE training opportunity came up, I thought that I could manage to help other people, too. We had training from a huntsman, a vet, and a bereavement counsellor, and afterwards had a chance to reflect, having absorbed all the information, whether we still felt able to volunteer for FATE.”
“The FATE service means that there are trained volunteers to talk to if you’re concerned or have questions about the best way to approach things. Talking things through with someone who isn’t emotionally involved can be helpful. Whichever way your decision then goes, you’ve had that space to think about it and discuss it. Support with euthanasia on the day is the key support we offer to some owners, but for others it can be about needing to discuss the different stages and timing and being able to clear their mind.
“It can be really difficult for owners to make a decision, as they’ve got to take everything into account. Yes, it’s about the horse - but it’s also about you. Are you ok to live with this sort of stress, as well as a possible financial burden?
“People sometimes want to know if I think it’s time, but we can’t ever say ‘yes, you should’, or ‘no, you shouldn’t’ - only the owner can make that decision. What we can do is lay out the options, answer questions, and give people a chance to bounce their thoughts around. We can run through the quality of life issues, discuss what to look for and try to assist in seeing things objectively. But what happens after that is always up to the owner.”
We’d like to say a huge thank you to Sharon and all our other BHS volunteers for their dedication and ongoing support. Put simply, without people like Sharon, we wouldn’t be able to do the work we do in supporting horse owners and advocating for the welfare of horses.
You can read the full article about Sharon’s work with the Friends At The End (FATE) service in the latest issue of British Horse magazine.
To find out more about volunteering with the BHS and how you can get involved, visit bhs.org.uk/volunteer
For more information about our Friends At The End service, visit https://www.bhs.org.uk/.../our-campaigns/friends-at-the-end