At God’s Window Senior Horse Rehab we have found that the more natural the living environment for the horses the better able they can take care of themselves, far better than a human ever could. We give them as much autonomy as possible. The more autonomy we can give them, the less we need to “manage” them. This goes for living and for dying.
All deaths are unique and all of our relationships with our animals are unique. There is no one size fits all. Allowing an animal autonomy in dying allows for their unique process.
Dying is a natural process every being will take at the end of its life, including horses. All bodies know how to shut down and die. They do not need us to manage their death, nor judge when to end it through euthanasia.
Sometimes extreme circumstances occur. Sometimes we reach our limitations of what we can and can’t do. Euthanasia may come on the table. That is ok.
However, death and dying is so much bigger than euthanasia alone. It is a relationship, not a problem to be solved. Hospice for animals is a growing field, and we encourage everyone to learn more about what dying looks like. Death itself generally is not painful. If there is pain going on, typically it is due to a painful medical condition. Evaluating your own relationship with pain and witnessing pain in another being can be a tremendous help when navigating this area.
For those who have the courage to go there, and then support their animal through the dying process, a whole new world opens up that is not about us “fixing it”, but rather “allowing and witnessing” a natural process to occur. What a gift we can give our animals in allowing them autonomy in their final moments on earth.
Here are our favorite articles on the topic.
For information on what dying actually looks like: The Stage of Dying from a Five Element Perspective
For a real life example of what hospice care of a horse looks like: https://listentoyourhorse.com/horse-wisdom-lessons-in-hospice-care/
For ongoing discussion about horse hospice, visit our horse hospice facebook page.
We also have several blog posts on this topic.
Take one of our classes on horse hospice or pain management.
GRIEF AND LOSS
After our animal dies, the relationship has not ended. It is simply no longer in physical form. For help with the natural grieving process, we highly recommend The Grief Recovery Handbook by John James and Russell Friedman.
We also recommend holding a funeral after an animal has died. Singing songs, or reading something that is meaningful to us can be so helpful. A slide show of favorite pictures or a collage, giving a eulogy, and even a group activity creates a wonderful sense of community. Grief can be painful, and the support of others around us can be so comforting. Funerals have a wonderful way of helping the living begin to grieve. Most importantly, find what resonates with you to help process the grief.
If you love music, here are two of our favorite songs. Find music that speaks to you and the relationship with your animal.
Greenwaves by Secret Garden
The Pasture by Z. Randall Stroope
Finally, after our first horse died I commissioned equine artist, Kim McElroy to paint his portrait. While I was on her waiting list, a second horse died, so when the time came for her to paint the portrait, she made it of the first three horses I rehabbed, the founding horses of God’s Window Senior Horse Rehab.
She captured the essence of these horses and the peace and beauty in living and in dying. The following year, the third horse died, and now I see this painting as a tribute to these three founding horses. Their lives and deaths inspired me to share what I have learned and continue to learn about the mystery of life and death.
In selfless service three horses give
Each day the price they pay to live
Until one day a woman came
And offered to take away their pain
In pastures green they recover awhile
While their hearts remember to smile
Until they are called to heaven on high
Where their soul remembers how to fly” –Kim McElroy