A handful of heartfelt hints for encouraging a grieving horse lover
Our long-time beloved family horse died several months ago, and I still miss him. This loss also revived my sorrow over losing my very first horse, a challenging, but life-changing and once-in-a-lifetime mare, several years ago. I just heard that a once-naughty little show pony, who taught me to jump fences, was euthanized yesterday. And a dear old gelding, belonging to a barn pal, is struggling to stay standing today.
To a horse lover, losing an equine companion can be every bit as grief-worthy as the passing of a human family member or a close friend.
What can caring folks do or say to support someone who has just lost a horse?
Here are five ways to reach out to a grieving horse lover. For simplicity’s sake, let’s use a horse acronym, “NEIGH.”
N = Never nicker.
Why do people always seem to practice verbal calisthenics, stretching for all sorts of inappropriate things to say when others are mourning? A grieving horse owner is not likely to be encouraged by trite sayings, lame platitudes, personal horror stories of lost horses, or even unwelcome advice while enduring the pits of grief.
E = Ears forward.
The most sensitive and caring friends offer to listen to the mourning horse lover’s stories of grief, veterinary nightmares and even happy memories shared with the horse that has died – even if those stories are repeated numerous times.
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I = Instincts are insightful.
Often, simply sharing silent moments of unspoken understanding can be a marvelous way of showing compassion for the one who has just lost a much-loved horse.
G = Gallop in with good deeds.
When a horse has died, several difficult tasks may await the equine’s owner. Helpful friends may offer to pitch in at such moments, if appropriate.
For example, the grieving horse lover may need assistance in cleaning out the horse’s stall, packing up saddles and tack, or making arrangements for the horse’s remains. These responsibilities can be extremely emotional for the one who is mourning, but a close friend may be able to help.
When my own horse died, two barn friends stayed with me by a front pasture gate, visiting with other favorite horses, while her remains were removed from the back of the barn. The sight would have been a difficult memory to erase.
H = Hearken the herd.
Equestrian stables tend to be notorious for grapevine gossip, like any other close-knit community. When a horse has died, the owner’s friends can be extremely helpful by minimizing this, while compassionately informing those who will most sympathize with what has happened (with the owner’s permission). By running interference, so to speak, for the grieving horse lover, these companions may enlist additional encouragers.
These five simple steps can go a long way towards expressing care and concern for the mourning horse owner. Naysayers may beg to differ, but equine experience speaks volumes on the subject.
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During my own season of mourning the loss of my mare, I welcomed and valued the friends who offered no unsolicited advice, but listened, empathized, offered assistance, and rallied other supportive horse-loving friends to do the same.
Adapted from public domain photo
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