Losing a horse can be devastating for the owner

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‘Friends at the End’ is a British Horse society initiative designed to make sure that no horse owner has to face the loss of their equine companion alone.

Losing any animal is hard but with horses it is often doubly difficult as so few of them pass away naturally. Owners frequently have to make the decision about when the time has come to end their companion’s life. Even when this is unquestionably the right thing to do, it often leads to feeling of guilt.

The loss of a horse can have an enormous effect on someone’s entire life. Going up to the yard twice a day fills a huge amount of time and can form the basis of many horse owners’ social lives. Losing all of this on top of losing your horse knocks many people for six and is made worse by non-horsy friends and family who just don’t understand: “Buck up, it was only a horse. It’s not like someone has died.”

So it’s no wonder that so many people put off euthanasing their horse. However, that doesn’t mean it is the best decision. Sadly, many of the welfare concerns that the BHS receives are about old and much loved horses who have been left to go on for too long and are now suffering. It might be a cliché but the saying ‘better a week too soon than a day too late’ is true when it comes to horses.

Making the decision is even harder if the horse is not old. Sometimes, when a horse has a chronic injury or behavioural issues, then it may be necessary to consider euthanasia. There are scores of other reasons that have been brought into sharp focus by the recession. More people simply cannot afford to keep field ornaments, yet the horse isn’t suitable to sell on. Many owners assume a charity will be able to take the horse on, but this is hardly ever the case. Britain’s sanctuaries are struggling to cope with the number of welfare and neglect cases they need to take in and do not have room for any more horses.

This is why the BHS has launched Friends at the End in response to pleas from owners who felt isolated and unsupported during the time every horse lover dreads.If you feel you might benefit from talking to someone, contact BHS Welfare on 02476 840517 or friendsattheend@bhs.org.uk