Dealing with Death

With the first sign of spring here in Minnesota, comes spring cleaning. I started mine in my garage. I don’t know about you, but going through my garage is a walk down memory lane. There are remnants of the carpet I had 17 years ago, before I replaced it with hardwood floors. And I still have pieces of that hardwood along with scraps from the hardwood flooring we put in an upstairs bedroom. I found extension cords that are long enough to extend to the neighbors' house, 4 boxes of antique cookware and glassware of my grandma’s who has long since past, and a fork that I thought I had lost 3 summers ago. Oh, and a braided horse tail. What? A tail? Yes, the tail of my daughters horse, Charlie. 


Charlie was a wonderful horse with lots of talent. My daughter rescued him from a snowy field in Wisconsin where he lived, unprotected from the wind and half-starved. Charlie was off the track. My daughter got him in shape, trained him to be an Eventer and they developed an amazingly strong bond with each other. However, Charlie had a foot problem that we tried everything to fix. Ali spent thousands of dollars to have him treated by experts in lameness. No treatment was able to permanently eliminate his reoccurring lameness. So, after days and weeks of agonizing over what to do for Charlie, we made the extremely difficult decision to put him down.

Nothing can prepare an Equestrian Mom for the death of your child’s beloved horse. Charlie’s death was very emotional, but it was a planned event and so very quiet and peaceful. But still I wasn’t ready for the emotional toll it took on both my daughter and I. 
I have had friends, other Equestrian Moms, who have had to deal with an unexpected death of their child’s horse. Several deaths were caused by extreme injuries in the middle of a show, one horse was struck by lightning and another was accidentally shot by a hunter. 

As an Equestrian Mom I can tell you that nothing can prepare for a death. Saying, “he’s in a better place” is ridiculous.  Getting upset and emotional yourself only causes your child’s emotions to ramp up. Now you are both even more upset which accomplishes nothing. And, saying “it’s okay, we will get another horse” missed the point.
To an Equestrian Kid, his/her horse is a pet, of course, but also their partner and their trainer. He/she have shared so many experiences together that words cannot express the loss your child feels. 


My advice to Equestrian Moms is to first recognize that more often than not, as a Mom, you have no control over the situation. Secondly, there is absolutely nothing you can say to take away your child’s pain. Hugs and respect for the deepness of the loss are all an Equestrian Mom can offer.  As the saying goes, time heals, and it will in this case, too, but it never completely fades away for your child. The important thing for Equestrian Moms is to be aware that experiencing the death of a horse may happen to your child or one of their friend’s horses. Sometime in the future your child will remember the good times with their horse, and its death will all but fade. Which is what is happening to me as I write. Discovering Charlie’s tail was, at first, very creepy, but quickly turned into memories. Like the time he tried to jump through the trailer window and jumped around trying to scare off a train. But, mostly I think of my daughter’s wonderful times with Charlie.  It’s fun to remember the shows with him and his goofy behavior when he was the last horse left in the barn. (Every horse he ever met was his best friend!)

Charlie you were such fun and gave my daughter some of the best times of her life. Charlie, you were a great horse! We love you.

Now, back to the garage.

- Susan B., Equestrian Mom