Dealing with loss for the first time. - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 02:23 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: Florida
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Dealing with loss for the first time.

First of all, I apologize if this is not the appropriate place for this thread. I wasn't sure where to put it; the memorial page didn't seem right because it isn't a memorial, and I couldn't find any other forum that seemed appropriate.

On Sunday, October 30, I had to say good-bye to my very best friend. To make matters worse, it was my 25th birthday. I've been riding since I was very young, but this is the first time I've lost a horse (the mare I was given at the age of 10 is still kicking, in fact, I think she will out live me.) Since I've never experienced this great loss before, I am having an extremely difficult time coping. I don't know if advice can be given on this sort of thing, so maybe what I am looking for is comfort from people who understand and have gone through the same situation.

My beautiful gelding, Mister D, had a bad case of colic. After two days of treatment, the vet said he wasn't getting any better, surgery was the last option, but because of D's age, it was risky. We had to make the decision to put him down. Even though the vet assured me it was the right thing to do, I can't help feeling guilty. What if he just needed more time? Maybe he could have pulled through.

I'm also feeling guilt over the thought of buying another horse. I know I wont for a while because it's just too hard right now, but I've ridden all my life and I'm not ready to give it up. (The mare I mentioned before is really too old and hasn't been ridden for years. She's earned her retirement.) D was so, so special to me and even though he wasn't my first horse, we shared a connection I've never experienced before. I just can't help feeling guilty when I think about moving on and riding a new horse.

It feels as if this heartbreak is never going to heal. I miss my boy more and more every day.
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post #2 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 02:31 AM
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Don't feel guilty. Why would you feel guilty? You did what you could, gave the horse a fighting chance, and ended his suffering when it seemed hopeless. Odds are he wouldn't have survived surgery and would have only gone through that much more agony. Sad but true. Life ain't fair.

Get another horse, but do take the time to find another good one....the right one. Moving on, bonding with another, by no means implies that you are not loyal to your deceased partner. Another horse deserves a good home as much as your boy did. Think of it as "paying it forward."

There are a lot of horses out there, and most of them can be "special" if given the chance. You've just got to have the right mindset, and one not ridden with misplaced guilt.

Very sorry for your loss.
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post #3 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 02:53 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you, bubba13, you make a lot of great points. Logically, I know things will get better. I guess I just have to let myself grieve.
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post #4 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 03:05 AM
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Im sorry for your loss, I wouldnt know how to live without my boy.
Its not a crime to find another partner, as bubba said, its not meaning you dont love D anymore. D will always be in your heart and you will never stop loving him, perhaps you could make a small memorial for him? I had a guineapig(i know some people think they are just small rats, but this girl was so so special to me) and she got me through some tough times, gave me cuddles and i had to have an operation one day and when i came to after surgery my mum told me she had gotten unwell and the vet had said to put her down. I wonder to myself all the time, what if I had been there? she had been left to die when she was young and i saved her and I wasnt there when she left this world. I should have been there to give her cuddles and kiss her goodbye but she was with my sister who she barely knew instead. I still wonder what if something had been different, could we have saved her? But then I remember I saved her life, I gave her freedom, I gave her love and thats what everyone wants in life. But feeling still guilty, I bought a small statue that looks like a guineapig and put it in the gardern on top of where she was buried. I didnt even get to say goodbye, but sometimes i go out there and think of the baths and good times and just stare at the statue. It helps, theres no way to really stop it hurting and some people may think its stupid that I'm saying all this about a tiny little rodent, but she was so much to me. So dont let yourself feel guilty for buying another animal. I bought another pig because my other one became depressed by herself and sometimes I think, gee she and this new pig would be great friends if she were here.
I really am sorry for your loss, :( it will get easier, but not fully. Do something special and meaningful may make you feel better
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post #5 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 03:15 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Florida
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Tayz, I am sorry for the loss of your special girl, but hearing our story has been helpful. I understand your fondness very well, I've had many pets in my life, big horses to small gerbils, and they were all special in some way. A memorial is a wonderful idea, and I have been thinking about getting a bracelet made from D's tail hair I saved.
Thank you for taking the time to read and share your story.
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post #6 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 08:54 AM
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I know words can't really make you feel any better, but please know that some of us know EXACTLY how you are feeling. My story is similar to yours, except that our old boy had neurological issues rather than colic. We never really got an answer as to what exactly was wrong with him.....but the time came that we could no longer avoid.....he had to whirl or lean against his stall wall to stay upright...his back legs were all but useless....and he developed breathing issues.....we delayed doing the inevitable longer than we should have....we were selfish, we didn't want to let him go. But we did...and it hurt. That was two years ago. And to be honest, it still hurts. .It hurts less, but only by degrees. We also were wracked with guilt, did we do all we could have?

Having experienced it myself, I do have some tips:

Keep things that were his as special momentos...we have his gold browband, his stall nameplate and a picture collage of him at our barn. We KNOW that he is gone, but we keep his things visible so that his spirit will know that gone does not mean forgotten. Because NOTHING is worse than being forgotten.

And just this year, even though it was HORRIBLY painful and I sobbed through the whole process, I made a memorial video for him.

Seeing your horse's things and making picture collages and videos hurts...alot.....but it is also a acceptance of the fact that he/she is truly gone...but that they are still a part of your heart and your memory. And that because you love them and always will....they will NEVER be gone from your heart and time will never fade their images from your memory.

And do not fear that getting another horse is "replacing" the one that has passed..... it won't. We bought another gelding, an neglected and emaciated OTTB, a year after our Prince died. And we grew to love him as if he were a part of our family. He is our joy in life....our healing....

There was nothing left we could do for Prince, but alot we could do for others of his species..... so we rescued a starving OTTB... an ugly duckling...

and turned him into a beautiful swan:

and in the process, the guilt of wondering if we could or should have done more for Prince faded away.....and in the end, we ended up with a horse that has become the love of our lives. He is our friend...and our spiritual healing.

A medicine horse.

You will know when it is time to look for your medicine horse....there is a horse out there that needs you as much as you need him/her.

Hugs to you. And when your heart tells you that it is time...go find your medicine horse.
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Last edited by Beauseant; 11-05-2011 at 08:56 AM.
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post #7 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 09:13 AM
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Unfortunately this is one of the not so great bits about horse ownership. And if you're going to own horses, you've got to be extremely lucky if you're going to avoid going through this at least once in your lifetime. Horses rarely seem to go with old age, usually its an injury, colic or degenerative condition that gets them, and usually, they won't just slip quietly away one night, they degrade slowly and you need to make that decision.
Though it sounds awful, I actually consider myself quite lucky that my first experience losing a horse when I was 15, was because my mare broke her leg in the paddock. It was completely detached from her upper leg bar a chuck of fur and skin. I was home on my own, had just gotten back from school and found her that way. Had to call the vet and hold her for nearly an hour until he got there.
I still miss that mare, nearly 10 years later she still has a special place in my heart, but I am lucky that the decision was essentially made for me.
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post #8 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 09:41 AM
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So, so sorry for your loss. It's hard, I know. I lost my first horse during my freshman year of college, really suddenly. I'd been home the previous weekend, and we'd had a couple of great rides, just like always.

The next week, I got a phone call from my dad saying that Johnny was coughing a little, but wasn't off his feed at all, and didn't act like he was choking. Within the next day he'd gone from mild coughing to needs-a-vet-now-something's-really-wrong. Our amazing vet was out three times in two days for him, tried four ways to Sunday to figure out why he was coughing and sick. Ruled out colic, although they were waiting for him to colic from stress. Finally, while the vet was on her way out for the third time, with the intention of putting him down if there was no lightbulb, easy fix revelation about what could be wrong with him, he had a seizure and died before she could get there.

Vet's best guess was that he had a tumor in his esophagus that had started causing him to cough, and the coughing caused the tumor to rupture and bleed, throwing a clot or something that caused the seizure. I was stuck at school for the whole thing; my mom tells me she was glad of that, because the end was awful to see. It still hurts, and it was almost three years ago now. It'll always twinge a bit, I expect, and Johnny-boy will always have a place in my heart.

I bought Scout at the start of the summer, about two months later. He's so different than Johnny was, and had his own long story, but now I can't imagine being without him. Scout has his own place in my heart, right next to John.

Let yourself mourn, in whatever way works for you. My dad kindly thought to save some strands of Johnny's forelock and tail for me. I still have them, waiting for a good opportunity to maybe have some of it made into a bracelet or something. I also took the nameplate that I'd made for his stall and put some wood sealer on it, and put it on a post to make a little memorial/marker for him. Just a few ideas that really helped me.

Again, so sorry for your loss. Sending some e-hugs your way.
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post #9 of 29 Old 11-05-2011, 09:36 PM Thread Starter
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Big, big thanks to each and every one of you for taking the time to read my story, and share your own. Your words have all helped in their own ways. You all gave great advice, even if it was just sharing your experience.

Beauseant, your golden Prince was beautiful, as is the TB you rescued! Bless your heart for helping that horse. When the thought of getting a new horse first entered my mind, I immediately thought of getting a rescue. My Deacon was a rescue, of sorts. He had been abused previously and since then passed from person to person because he was scared to death and dangerous; the very first time I rode him he kicked me. But I just couldn't give up on him, and with a lot of patience, he became the most willing partner to me.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, and that wonderful video. I now feel that much better about finding my medicine horse, when the time is right.

Kayty, you made some very valid points about horse ownership and the inevitible good-bye that comes with. Thank you for sharing.

Scoutrider, I am so sorry for yor loss, it's obvious Johnny was special to you by the way you talk about him. Your story about getting Scout has helped me to realize that getting another horse can be helpful, not hurtful. I appreciate you sharing with me very much.

Again, I can't thank you all enough. Your kindness, understanding and advice has helped me immensely. I know I'll miss D forever, but you've helped me understand that that is ok.
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post #10 of 29 Old 11-06-2011, 09:08 AM
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Things of the earth do not last.

1To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
9What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?
10I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.
11He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.
12I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.
13And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.
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buying a new horse , death , first loss , guilt

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