How do you get over a traumatic event? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Virginia, USA
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How do you get over a traumatic event?

Just looking for some advice on how to get over witnessing a traumatic horse event? This is going to be long and may be disturbing.

Today, hubby and I took our horses on a short trail ride this morning while we had a pleasant breeze and low humidity. Scuffy is hubby's leased TWH. He is 28 and in good health. He lost some weight over the winter and was finally beginning to show his age but he lived to be ridden. He would get depressed and would stop eating if he wasn't getting ridden lightly once or twice a week.

The only health scare we ever had was about 2.5 years ago, He tripped and fell and even though he wasn't injured, he wouldn't get up. We had to use ropes to get him up. Once he got up, he was fine. Vet was called and couldn't find anything wrong. Checked heart and looked for sign of stroke...nothing. Was told to just take it easy on him for a while. No sign of anything after that...until today.

We were almost to the barn. Hubby and Scuffy were in front of me. I saw Scuffy suddenly veer to the left, heading straight to the fence, like he didn't know where he was. Hubby reined him to the right and Scuff collasped to the ground. Hubby rolled away from him. When it was all said and done, Scuff was laying on his right side with his neck bent backward and twisted so the right side of his head was on the ground. It was a horrific sight that will haunt us forever.
I ran for help and vet was called. He was still alive but with his neck twisted that way, he was having trouble breathing. BO was there and realizing that if his neck was broken, he was a dead horse anyway, we made the decision to untwist his neck. He started breathing easier right away..just lying there on his side. He didn't seem to be in pain,mbut he was going into shock.

Hos owner was called and she got there in 15 minutes. We ran a hose over him and put a canopy tent over him to keep him out of the sun. Gave him electrolytes. He tried to get up a few times but we kept him down until the vet got there.

Vet didn't think his neck was broken. He was a very flexible horse and thinks it may have been strained but then the underlying cause became the big concern.

Doc thinks it was most likely a stroke that brought him down because of the way he crumpled to the ground. The way he landed with his neck twisted like that showed he was not in control of himself when he fell.

Doc oumped him full of fluids and we tried for over an hour to get him up. He could get up on his front end but his back end wouldn't cooperate. He could move his legs, but they wouldn't do what he wanted them to do.

The decision was made to put him down.

My hubby is devastated and feels responsible even though the vet said that it was going to happen and most times it happens out in a field when they are by themselves and are found sometime later. At least this way, he didn't suffer long and he was doing what he absoutely loved when it happened. This horse was the definition of a trail horse..he loved it. When he would see hubby grab the saddle, he would perk up and and paw at the ground like he was saying "let's go"

But the image of him lying there with his neck twisted at that horrible angle is hard to erase.

So, any of you that witnessed a horrible accident that resulted in a horse's do you ever move past that?

And please, if you are going to say he shouldn't have been ridden at his age and with his history of going down for no reason once before...please don't post. I assure you that we are thinking that already and don't need it thrown into our faces to make us feel worse than we do. (If that is even possible)
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post #2 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 05:27 PM
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Its just part of owning them. If you are around them long enough you will see things like this and worse. I have had a barrel horse snap a leg coming around the 3rd barrel and manage to make the finish line on 3 legs. I have been flipped over on and have a horse break its neck in the process ( this horse was a 2 y/o, that was not the brightest bulb and thankfully he did it to me and not to a jockey at the start gate ). We currently have broodmares your horses age and older, that one of these years will be lost in foaling. Our one youth rider is on a 25 year old barrel horse and is running a full schedule. If the vet had said dont ride the horse and you did, then it may or may not have been something you did, but if the vet had cleared him for the light riding then its just part of life. He has already long outlived the average of 18, which anything after is considered a gift.
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post #3 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 05:37 PM
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If you have some photos, get them enlarged and framed. Or just draw a picture yourself. Doesn't matter if you can't draw, just get another picture in your mind. Be grateful that you were there comfort him. We all feel emotional when we loose a horse, those of us who keep and use our oldsters.
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post #4 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 05:41 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks. I know it is just so fresh right now that the pain has to ease up soon. And i am trying to tell myself that it is part of life. We are new to horses and this was our first experience with such a thing.

I just reread what i wrote and meant to say he was laying on his left side with his neck twisted in a way that the right side of his head was on the ground.
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post #5 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 05:45 PM
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Sorry for your loss and about the way it happened, yes it is hard to think about, but you did not do anything wrong and like you said you were there to the end and kept him comfortable. There is no way to predict when their time is up, barring obvious illness or injury, the horse spent his last hours doing what he loved most and was not wasting away waiting for the end.

Give yourselves some time to grieve, and don't let guilt creep in you have nothing to feel guilty about.
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post #6 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 05:47 PM
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After 20yo every horse is living on borrowed time. A seasoned well trained and well ridden and well loved horse WANTS to be ridden.
"Corporal" (bought as a 4yo, 1982-2009, RIP) had a stroke at 27yo, fell into the manger in the shelter and died 4 hours later, fighting. MANY people lose their old horses to stroke.
I am very sorry for your loss. You did the best thing that you could.
Everybody hears of abuse and neglect death, and this isn't that story.
I am sure that you miss him, but it was just his last day on earth.
Prayers sent for your comfort. =D
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post #7 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 06:19 PM
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He was healthy, loved being ridden, there is nothing wrong with that. He had fallen one time, it's not like it was a regular thing. When anyone rides a horse that might fall, they are endangering themselves, not the horse, and besides it was not a regular thing. There really was no reason to think it would happen again.
The pictures I have to get out of my mind are of a beloved horse being lifted into the air by a chain wrapped around it's legs to lower it into the ground. Even the process of burying one is not pretty. I am sure you have seen something traumatic before and it has made it's way into the recesses of your mind, this will also. It's like grief, you just have to let it happen and give yourself time to heal.
I do agree, look at pictures, a video if you have any. Watch those until that is stronger. It won't take the memory away, but it will help.
I'm so sorry for your loss.
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post #8 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 06:23 PM
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Hey Ladona, my first post was in the "village".

When I lost my mare earlier this year, I had a lot of trouble with the images of her lying on the ground with her head in a pool of blood, and lifting her poor dear head when we were loading her on the tractor lifter, and how her head dangled as we were driving her to her burial place. These images just came back and bit me for weeks; I still see them sometimes. When you have an emotional loss like that, the amygdala in the brain carves the images into your memory - ironically, the job it does has survival advantage in many cases. On the down side, this is involved in PTSD as well.

When these images would haunt me, I would consciously try to conjure positive images of the long and happy life my mare had. I started a memorial thread on this forum and whenever I was in a black hole I just wrote and wrote - it was actually very helpful to write in detail about what happened, as it stopped the thoughts running circles in my mind. Once they were "on paper" they were out... I found writing really therapeutic. I posted photos of her life and remembered the good times. I've not written in it for a while but when we unbox all the old pre-digital paper photos, I will scan the best ones, post them in her memorial, and write about her life. Three months out from the loss, I am looking forward to doing that: 31 years is a long time.

Right now you're in shock. The early part is the worst. The awful physical feelings will mostly ease in the first month, but some sadness will always be there, balanced by gratefulness for the positive events you experienced together.

Horse deaths. My family has been owning, breeding, training and competing with horses for over 35 years now. First loss was my current riding horse Sunsmart's great-grandmother, within 12 hours of foaling, major blood vessel leaked and she bled out slowly and irreversibly. Then a young mare who'd had a wonderful first season and spell died like Hickstead after a flawless training session, collapsing in her warm-down. This devastated my father for months.

A couple of years later, a lovely little mare broke her leg in a trial. She hopped on a float three-legged with one leg dangling from the hock because they wanted the track cleared before the vet got there. That one was really hard to process for months afterwards. She was in shock so probably not much pain, but was so perplexed why she couldn't use her leg. We gave her water before she was put down because she was so thirsty from running and blood loss.

One mare had a twisted bowel, that was really awful to witness, and her foal was orphaned. Several older ones had an awful time with blockages and needed to be put down. One gelding lost control of his hind legs at age 26 and could not longer get up. A stallion of around the same age had the same problem.

Because they are so big and majestic, it is so hard to see them stricken. All we can do is help them the best we can, and unfortunately often that means euthanasia. This is a far better option than letting a horse die a protracted and/or painful death.

Hang in there, Ladona. Thinking of you.
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post #9 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 06:51 PM
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You gave him a wonderful life and many, many horses never have such good senior years. He lived a nice long life too.

I lost my best horse last November. He was fine at evening feeding (even ate all his hay because it was gone the next morning) and when I went out to feed breakfast he was deathly sick. I watched him die before the vet could arrive. When the vet got there he told me it was probably a twisted gut because most types of colic don't kill a horse that quick. It all happened so quick that I was just stunned.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was meant to be that way. Why, I don't know. But if the vet hadn't called back and said he was on his way, he would have been loaded up in a friend's trailer to take to a vet clinic and the way things happened, he would have died in the trailer on the way. Then we would have been worrying about getting a dead horse out of the trailer and wondering what to do with the body. So I realized that him dying at home was a blessing in disguise. He got to be buried at home too. I don't know why he had to die. He was the best horse I ever had. But somehow things work out the way they are supposed to.

So I saw him die and saw him buried. But the only thing I regret is that I didn't give him more banamine to ease his pain. I gave him one dose but I didn't want to mask symptoms because at the time I was hoping he could be saved and I didn't want to give him a bunch of stuff with the vet on the way. So looking back, I only wish that he didn't suffer.

He was only 20 and otherwise healthy and happy.

I hated to cut his lovely, long tail, but I cut a thick hunk of tail hair off my guy and made it into a "shoo fly" so that I always have it as a keepsake.

I think the bad images over time will be outweighed by the images of them alive and the joy you had together. I can still see my horse in unpleasant images, but I really remember the good times more. The good times definitely out weighed the bad.

Think of all the older horses that don't have such a good life. Your guy was very blessed!
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post #10 of 31 Old 07-13-2014, 07:00 PM
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Maybe this is a topic for another thread, but how long do you guys "expect" a horse to live? I see some of you have said 18-20. But I really expect/hope to get at least 25 useful years out of a horse. Useful meaning light riding.

But my Mustang that I spoke of earlier only made it to 20. My Arabians 24 and 26. My Paint 32 (he was not rideable for a few years towards the end).

I guess I always hope for a horse to make it to at least 25. People act like with good care you can expect that. But maybe that is wishful thinking.
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