How do I move on after losing my heart horse? - The Horse Forum
 99Likes
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 10:25 AM Thread Starter
Foal
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: FL
Posts: 46
• Horses: 0
How do I move on after losing my heart horse?

I lost my 18 year old OTTB, Andy, to cancer three weeks ago. He was my heart horse and we were together for 11 years. He showed no symptoms until just weeks before the diagnosis, and at that point there was absolutely nothing that could be done to save him.

I am struggling so much. I feel like my whole world was turned upside down. If someone had told me on January 6th that he would be gone 30 days later, I would have said they were absolutely crazy. The first symptom appeared on January 12th and his health declined so rapidly. I am still in shock at how fast everything happened. I obviously would not want it to happen to ANY horse, but the fact that it happened to my heart horse is just devastating.

On top of the overwhelming grief that I'm feeling, I am having a difficult time with my other horse, Johnny. He is a 12 year old OTTB who retired from racing three years ago. I had started retraining him at that time and he was doing well. But then a pasture injury (torn lateral collateral ligament in his right stifle) required him to be on stall rest for nearly a year. And then just when he was ready to return to work, he developed a severe infection in his right hind hoof. He ended up having surgery - hoof resection - to dig out all the diseased matter in that hoof, and that left a huge hole in the front of his hoof about halfway down. He had to be put on stall rest AGAIN for another five months while we waited for the hoof to grow. I started working with him again a few months ago, basically starting all over again with his training like he was a green horse.

I am having such a hard time with him. He's not a bad horse but he is definitely a more challenging personality than Andy was. I try not to compare him to Andy, but I can't help it. Andy was very social and loved interacting with me. Johnny just seems to tolerate me. I had such an amazing connection with Andy from very early on in our relationship. I miss having a horse who loved being around me. Also, I spent 11 years training Andy, and for the last five years, I could pretty much do anything with him. We went trail riding, we jumped, we did low level dressage, galloped and jumped on cross-country courses, and he was an absolute rock star with groundwork. When I get on Johnny and we are working on such basics as steering, I just want to cry (and sometimes do cry!). Johnny is easily distracted and it's like I don't even exist half of the time. Also, it's like I'm working with two different horses in one body...one day he is so sluggish that I have a hard time getting more than a few steps of trot out of him, and the next day he is so hyper that I can't even get on him.

I am really, really struggling because every time I work with Johnny, I feel my confidence slipping farther and farther away. When he tunes me out and acts up, I get very nervous. It has been a long time since I had to deal with green horse antics, and I honestly don't know if I have it in me to go through years and years of training with another horse. I am 50 years old and I find myself thinking, "Oh my gosh, by the time this horse is a productive citizen, I'll be 60!" I kind of feel like I don't even want to try working with him anymore. But I don't know how much of this is grief and depression talking. Riding has always been my therapy - my stress reliever - and in losing Andy, I also lost my therapist! I can no longer just hop on and gallop away my troubles. I no longer have a horse I can do that with.

My husband and two close friends suggested I find a riding stable where I can take lessons on a school horse to remember what it's like to just have fun in the saddle. I started looking into that but so far the ones I found require you to take lessons on your own horse. Right now that is the last thing I want to do.

Does anyone have any suggestions for dealing with my grief and also for working through my fear/anxiety of riding Johnny? I feel so lost.
RangerMan likes this.
sharon1927 is offline  
post #2 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 10:36 AM
Started
 
Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: CenTex
Posts: 2,176
• Horses: 1
I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't offer you anything except my sympathies.

But... why not take lessons on this horse? The trainer can help you work through your issues, probably a lot more efficiently than you could on your own. Having a set of eyes on the ground is great. You just have to think of it as training lessons, rather than riding lessons. My Pony was quite green when I got him, and after the trainer put the basics on him, I rode him in private lessons and we learned together. It was not easy, and I'm sure that both of us could have progressed faster if we had had a more experienced partner, but my goal was to ride him, not to progress as quickly as I could. I still remember the day she said he was ready to be in group lessons -- I really felt like I had accomplished something!

I totally understand not wanting to go through training another horse again, but you could give it a try (tell yourself there is no pressure, that you're just there to learn) and see how it goes.

The hardest thing will be to not compare him to the horse you lost.

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
ACinATX is online now  
post #3 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 11:56 AM
Green Broke
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Posts: 2,940
• Horses: 0
Let your heart have some time to heal. The most brutal part of horse ownership (or pet ownership) is losing your partner. Try and give yourself and Johny some time - he has never had to be your everything before and has big shoes to fill. Our hearts are amazing and have so much room for love. Johny and you may need some time and I think lessons are great. Try finding a barn that offers just basic lessons and work your way up to potentially bringing Johny with you for lessons.

In 2016 I lost my wonderful (terrible) gelding Steve - he was born here and I loved him dearly - we went out to his pen at lunch and found him dead - he was 12. Riding has been my passion my entire life so I started my search right away for another horse. 8 weeks after I lost Steve I purchased a cute little Foxtrotter mare brought her home and was Meh about her - but she was here. Then shortly after I brought Skye home my retired paint mare had a tumor rupture and she colic'd - I had to put her down - so 2 horses in 3 months. And then 6 weeks after I let Senorita go we found Skye laying in the pasture with a severely broken leg. In the span of 4 month I lost 3 horses. I was absolutely in shock and questioning whether I ever wanted another horse again - these were not the first horses I have lost in my lifetime but the trauma of losing so many in such a short time knocked me down. Added to the nerves in riding a horse unfamiliar to me I just did not think I could do it again. But I did - at te urging of my family I purchased another horse and after being kind of indifferent to her 3 1/2 years later she is the love of my life. We can have many heart horses in a lifetime - and that is the beauty of our hearts.
carshon is offline  
post #4 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 12:26 PM
Trained
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Southeast
Posts: 9,043
• Horses: 0
I am so sorry for your loss it always hurts so much to loose a heart horse and especially one you could do so much with.


I recently lost a very special horse too, he was growing into my heart horse, but became cast in his stall right before Christmas. Totally ruined the holiday for me. The pain was crushing.


The only advice I can give, is give yourself time for your heart to recover. Meanwhile, what about toning down the demands on your young horse for a short while? Could you just spend some time getting to know him better, without the pressure to ride? Put some bonding time in, and try to greet him as joyously as you greeted your heart horse.

Horses are very good at reading body language, and your grief may be getting in the way of your ability to work with him. Could you try something different? Some liberty work maybe?

Hope you feel better soon
.
AnitaAnne is offline  
post #5 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 12:47 PM
Super Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 11,149
• Horses: 0
You're grieving, and you should.
You lost a very important part of your life...makes no difference of animal or human they were loved, a valued family member to you.
Give yourself permission to be mad, sad and just angry that Andy was taken from you...
When some time has passed, reevaluate where you are with Johnny.
Now that Johnny is to be the main riding horse he too must acclimate and accommodate for more attention, more demands on him and that he needs to step up and give of himself where before he only took part of your attention he will now be completely focused on...adjustment time for him.

You are right to not compare your horses...
Johnny is not Andy and Andy was not Johnny.
You need to go back and find what it was that attracted you to take on Johnny as another riding partner...
See if those reasons are still there, are they still attainable and can you form a partnership to this horse for the right reasons and goals.
If the answer you find is yes, you want to continue...then the work begins.
If you say no, then the work begins to sell or re-home Johnny and find another horse to share your time with, your passion with and to include in your life and family.
Only you know where your heart shall be, the amount of work you will need/want to put in to get back, and only you know if you have the heart for what you face to get it done.
I would also say that Johnny may also be pining, grieving for Andy and a bit of what you're facing is his loss of his stable buddy too.

I'm so sorry for you...
Give your self permission to be in a funk though...
Don't let that funk be to long, but grieve you are entitled to do...you lost a true friend and it hurts, deeply hurts.


As someone suggested you take some lessons with this horse to help form that partnership but you have reluctance...
Some instructors only teach on your horse, but not all places are like that.
I too live in Florida as your avatar shows as do many members here...big state.
If I can ask for a narrower area maybe one of the many members here might know a place where lessons, riding can be done on lesson horses or just trail ride right now while your heart heals and your desire to work and ride Johnny or another horse returns.
No horse will replace Andy, none should.
But our hearts are full of love to give and share with another animal when we allow it to happen....
Give your self some time to allow that ache, the hurt to heal...then see if desire, want and subdued feelings not return.
I offer you hugs...sometimes life truly is unfair.
hlg.
...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
horselovinguy is online now  
post #6 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 01:49 PM Thread Starter
Foal
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: FL
Posts: 46
• Horses: 0
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
The only advice I can give, is give yourself time for your heart to recover. Meanwhile, what about toning down the demands on your young horse for a short while? Could you just spend some time getting to know him better, without the pressure to ride? Put some bonding time in, and try to greet him as joyously as you greeted your heart horse.

Horses are very good at reading body language, and your grief may be getting in the way of your ability to work with him. Could you try something different? Some liberty work maybe? :
.
AnitaAnne, that is terrible about losing your horse on Christmas. I am so sorry you had to go through that!

I think you are right about taking a step back and just sort of "hanging out" with Johnny. I do groom him every day and pet him, give him carrots and other treats, and try my best to be upbeat and cheerful when I enter his pasture. You know - the "fake it 'til you make it" approach. But you make a good point - horses are excellent lie detectors! He can probably sense my grief and disappointment. I'll have to do a better job of watching my body language. My voice may be saying, "Hi buddy! What a good boy!" but my body language might be conveying something totally different. He does enjoy groundwork and liberty work in the round pen, but I haven't done that with him in a little while. I like that suggestion. I'll try taking a step back and doing some of that with him again. Thank you.
sharon1927 is offline  
post #7 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 02:14 PM Thread Starter
Foal
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: FL
Posts: 46
• Horses: 0
Quote:
Originally Posted by horselovinguy View Post
Now that Johnny is to be the main riding horse he too must acclimate and accommodate for more attention, more demands on him and that he needs to step up and give of himself where before he only took part of your attention he will now be completely focused on...adjustment time for him.

You need to go back and find what it was that attracted you to take on Johnny as another riding partner...
See if those reasons are still there, are they still attainable and can you form a partnership to this horse for the right reasons and goals.

I would also say that Johnny may also be pining, grieving for Andy and a bit of what you're facing is his loss of his stable buddy too.

Some instructors only teach on your horse, but not all places are like that.
I too live in Florida as your avatar shows as do many members here...big state.
If I can ask for a narrower area maybe one of the many members here might know a place where lessons, riding can be done on lesson horses or just trail ride right now while your heart heals and your desire to work and ride Johnny or another horse returns.
HLG, thank you so much for your kind words and suggestions. I do think that Johnny is trying to adjust to life without his pasture mate and best buddy. Johnny used to be the submissive horse in that friendship. When Andy passed, the owner of the barn where I board put her retired OTTB in the pasture with Johnny so he wasn't alone. The other horse is a nice horse but Johnny turned into a monster. He chases the other horse, tries to bite him, doesn't want me petting the other guy, etc. I was shocked because I've never seen Johnny act like such a bully. I think you are right that he is angry or sad about losing his best buddy. I think the bullying of the new pasture mate is carrying over to his interactions with me...I think he is trying to test me as well while he tries to make sense of all these changes. Little by little I am seeing Johnny and the other horse get used to each other. That's just going to take time I guess.

I live in Brooksville, FL so I was hoping to find a riding stable in the Brooksville or Spring Hill area. The place where I board is a private farm owned by good friends. They are lifelong horse people and train TB racehorses. They don't do lessons or even board anyone else's horses. It's just kind of a special arrangement that my husband and I have with them. They trained Johnny when he used to race for my husband and me. That is how he ended up becoming my riding horse. He raced for us for six years so we felt he deserved a nice retirement. My husband adores him so he's definitely not going anywhere! That's why I want to get into a lesson program somewhere. I want to get my confidence back on a school horse so I can carry that confidence into my work with Johnny. I am trying to be open to anything...either I'm going to take on the work of training Johnny to become my next riding partner, or he will be my husband's pasture pet and I will have to find another riding partner at some point.

Let me know if you know of any riding instructors/stables in my neck of woods. I would definitely appreciate it!
sharon1927 is offline  
post #8 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 03:33 PM
Trained
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 8,732
• Horses: 0
I am so sorry for your loss.


I was 42 when I had to lay the first horse that was mine to raise and train to rest. He was 29 and had been born on my parents farm when I was 13.

It took me a year to get over him (all while raising a son as a single mom). I never sold any of my horse equipment because I just couldnít. I still have his bridle and nobody has ever used it:)

One day I heard the unmistakable sound of a truck and trailer coming up my road. I ran to the front window to see what horses were in the trailer.

There were no horses - the trailer was full of cattle:). It was then, just about a year after losing Sonny, that I thought it might be time to find his replacement. Not someone that would take his place, because there was only one sorrel Arab/Saddlebred named Sonny, with his high powered yet gentle natured personality.

My point is to let yourself heal, one heartbeat at a time, just as you would over the loss of a person:)

If the day comes that you see yourself riding again, all well and good. If not, thatís ok too. Just let the grief then the healing happen as your heart tells you to:)

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
walkinthewalk is offline  
post #9 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 03:33 PM
Weanling
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 442
• Horses: 0
Sharon1927. I can relate to your loss. I rescued Amal from a horse shelter. The first couple of times we went riding (I only ride trails. No arena) we experienced a few bumps. It appeared he wasn't used to riding more than a couple of miles at a time and I normally ride from 7-12 miles. But after those two bumpy first ride, our bond grew and grew, and Amal became my favorite horse. The last time we rode was the Jan. 1st of 2019. Soon after, I noticed he was losing weight. Like Andy, it was cancer. I spent thousands of dollars in just making him feel better and with the delusion that by some miracle, maybe he could beat the big C. But he kept getting worse and after a 10 week battle, I decided to have him euthanized. He was only 15 years old! I decided the best way I could honor Amal's memory was to rescue another Arabian. And so, I did. Santiago is a 12 year old with 12 years of impatient training. And I knew he was going to take some work. Then a couple of months after rescuing Santiago, I had an opportunity to rescue a second one and I did. This is where hope comes in the story. I never thought there was going to be another Amal. But I think Chance will turn out to be as good a trail companion as Amal was. Chance and I don't have anywhere the number of miles on the trails as Amal and I did. But, my goodness, Chance gets better every time. Santiago is another story. This Spring, it'll be a year since I adopted him and although he has made a lot of progress, he still a panicky horse. So far, he hasn't demonstrated the innate ability to bond like all my other Arabians have, even those who had a history of abuse. So I have Chance, who is like a reincarnation of Amal and then, I have Santiago, who is my Johnny. I don't know what to do with Santiago. I don't want to give up on him. So there's probably not much you can learn from my story, other than to let you know you're not alone.
charrorider is offline  
post #10 of 20 Old 02-28-2020, 03:45 PM
Yearling
 
Join Date: May 2013
Location: Central Florida
Posts: 889
• Horses: 0
Sympathies on your heartbreaking loss of Andy. I lost Sonny a year ago this month,,healthy as can be one day, a tumor on his small bowel strangled the bowel and caused it to rupture-nothing could be done, the next day. I still miss him every day, you are in the still raw and shocked stage of grief right now, your emotions are bound to be all over the place. I can only offer sincere sympathy and agreement with all that has already been said. Best wishes as you go thru the grieving process and try working things out with Johnny.

Respect......rapport......impulsion......flexion.. .
Be as soft as possible, but as firm as necessary--Pat Parelli
mslady254 is offline  
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.



User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in










Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome