Grieving the Loss of a Horse

One of the nicest things about having my website is that I’ve met such wonderfully talented and interesting people who share our enjoyment of horses and other animals. And without exception, every one has been glad to add to our knowledge (and in this case, comfort).

Although we want the best outcome for our fire safety efforts, when, in spite of everything we’ve done the worst happens, we are thankful that knowledgeable people, like Equestrian Life Coach Rebecca Cagle, is here to help us.  Her article, “Grieving the Loss of a Horse,” offers objective steps you can take to recover from your loss and spiritual guidance to sooth your sorrow.  I have included Rebecca’s brochure at the end of her article so you may contact her directly.

Grieving the Loss of a Horse

By Rebecca Cagle, Equestrian Life Coach

There are two concerns I want to address in this article; first the process of grieving the loss of a horse due to fire or other causes, and second that there is some evidence that horses go to heaven.  Both issues may be important to those suffering through the loss of their equines and other animals precious to them.

Grieving the loss of your horse

Losing a horse to death under any circumstances can be heartbreaking.  Losing a horse in an unexpected fire can be a devastating trauma.  Either way, you are likely to go through a process of grieving that could take some time.

There are five stages of grieving according to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book “On Death and Dying.” They include denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. First comes denial, when you think the death is not real – it is not happening to you. Then comes the anger and wondering why this is happening to you. After anger comes bargaining when you vow to be a better person if the death can somehow be reversed. Then depression sets in as you begin to realize that there is nothing you can do to change the circumstances, so you feel helpless.  After depression comes acceptance, when you have worked through a lot of the pain and are ready to go on with your life. (Kubler-Ross, 1969, chap. 3.)

Losing a horse can be as traumatic as losing a family member or close friend.  It is okay to grieve.  Each loss in your life will trigger the grieving process.  Each time the process will be different.  There is no set period of time that you should be finished grieving.  Depending on your individual circumstances you may go through the stages of grief quickly or it may take a long time.  Your pain is your pain so do not let yourself or anyone else put any expectations on you to finish grieving by a certain date.  And you may cycle through the stages of grief more than once.  This may be triggered by the anniversary date of your horse’s death or another sad event in your life as well as a happy event such as buying a new horse.  That is okay.  It is normal.  It is also normal to laugh when retelling a funny story about your horse even in the midst of crying.

During the grieving process be patient with yourself. Try not to add extra stress by loading your schedule with tiring activities.  Give yourself time.  Talk to people in your life whom you trust about losing your horse. Sometimes talking to a counselor, pastor or life coach can help you walk through your pain.  I have heard the psychologist Henry Cloud say, “A burden shared is half a burden.”  Talking with a caring person can help.

Also talk to your spouse and children to see how they are doing at this time.  Even a child who has never shown any interest in horses can be quietly suffering the loss of your horse.  As a parent you are the best person to observe your child’s behavior and see signs of grieving no one else can see. Is your son having unusual outbursts of temper?  Are your daughter’s perfect grades slipping? Talk to them about the grieving process in terms you know they will understand.  Tell them it is okay to cry and ask questions about death. Tell them it is okay to smile one minute and cry the next.  If you keep the lines of communication open, this can be an opportunity for your family to draw closer together.

Try not to make any big decisions too soon after the loss of your horse. Do not pressure yourself or let anyone else pressure you into hastily buying another horse.  If you receive an insurance settlement put the money aside for a while so you have time to grieve and can decide what to do with it when you are not so overwhelmed. There are people who may not have your best interests at heart who will pressure you to spend the money to their benefit.  Park the money in an insured Certificate of Deposit or another safe place until you are ready to buy another horse or spend the money on something else.  You will know when you are ready.

Will your horse go to heaven?

I believe that horses do go to heaven.  I base this on information from the Bible.  Following the flood in Genesis, chapter 8 verse one says,”…God remembered Noah and all of the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark (New International Version (NIV)).”  And Genesis chapter nine, verses 9 – 17 says,”I now establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you…every living creature on earth…..Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood…..And God said, ‘This is of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you…I have set my rainbow in the clouds…..Whenever the rainbow appears, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth (NIV)).'”  Three times in the above quotations it says “every living creature” and once it says “all living creatures.” As one of my college professors used to say, “All” means “all.” By the same token “every” means “every.”  “All living creatures” includes horses.  In the last sentence it says the covenant, or agreement, is “everlasting.”  That is forever.  In order to keep that covenant, God must take horses to heaven along with people and every other living creature.

In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, horses are directly discussed in the specific realm of heaven.  Revelation chapters 5 and 6 talk about the seven seals of a scroll being opened in heaven.  A white horse comes out of the first seal, a red horse comes out of the second, a black horse comes out of the third, and a pale horse comes out of the fourth. In Revelation chapter five it states that the scroll with the seals was”…in the right hand of him who sat on the throne [of heaven] (NIV).” Revelation chapter 19, verse 11, says, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse… (NIV)” From this biblical evidence, it seems clear that horses do go to heaven.  And that may ease the minds of some people who are grieving the loss of their horses.

If you are ever in this situation you can take comfort from knowing that the process of grieving the loss of a horse is normal.  It is different for each person each time.   You do not have to suffer alone.  There are people who care about you during this difficult time. It is okay to cry and to laugh over memories of your horse. And there is biblical evidence that horses go to heaven.

Kubler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York: Macmillan.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.


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