About 4,500 years ago, humans decided that domesticating horses was far more beneficial than hunting horses for food. These humans lived in the Don-Volga region of what is now Russia. That decision changed the course of human evolution.
Horses became a fundamental part of human life. Horses carried people over long distances and helped establish trade routes. Horses accompanied warriors onto the battlefield. And, perhaps most importantly, horses have become trusted and valuable friends.
Losing a companion like a horse is devastating. In this article, we’ll look at ways to remember your deceased equine friend, such as horse cremation, and why our horses deserve such an honor.
How Long Do Horses Live?
As with most domesticated animals, modern veterinary care has dramatically extended the horse’s lifespan.
Most horses live to about 25 to 30 years of age. Ponies live longer than standard horses and draft horses often live the longest. In fact, the oldest recorded horse was a draft horse named Old Billy.
Old Billy lived in England and worked as a barge horse, tugging boats through the canals. He was estimated to be 62 years old when he died.
Advances in equine medicine and nutrition have allowed horses to live and work well into their late twenties and even longer. It’s not unusual to see horses in their thirties galloping with their herd or participating in horse shows.
Why Do Horses Die?
Most horses succumb to age-related issues. Despite our best efforts, older horses might have trouble eating which causes them to lose weight and experience malnutrition. Advanced arthritis is painful and prevents a horse from being able to move properly.
When an old horse’s quality of life is affected, a veterinarian would probably recommend humane euthanasia.
Horses can also die from an illness. Colic, a disruption in a horse’s digestive tract, is a leading cause of death in horses.
Accidents can also result in the death of a horse. When a horse slips or falls, it can be catastrophic.
Sadly, horses don’t usually regain full health and mobility when they break a leg bone. Unlike humans or dogs and cats, a vet can’t always set a horse’s broken leg with a cast. Because of their body weight, a horse’s other legs aren’t always capable of holding themselves up, especially for the amount of time it takes for a bone to heal.
In cases where the horse is valuable, veterinarians may take steps to provide artificial support during the healing process, but it’s not always successful. One well-known example of this is Barbaro, the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner.
Barbaro broke his right hind leg in the 2006 Preakness Stakes. He had surgery at the University of Pennsylvania to correct the fracture but developed complications in his other legs. After considering his quality of life, Barbaro’s owners and the veterinary team decided to euthanize him in January 2007.
Barbaro’s ashes lie buried at Churchill Downs, the site of his final win.
How is a Horse Euthanized?
Suppose you and your veterinarian have decided your horse no longer has a good quality of life or your horse has a catastrophic injury. In that case, it might be time for humane euthanasia to end his suffering.
When a horse is euthanized by chemical euthanasia, your veterinarian will give your horse a combination of drugs. Usually, they’ll give the horse a sedative first. If the horse is standing up, the sedative will cause them to lie down. Then the vet gives another injection containing a drug that stops the horse’s heart.
Although rare, some veterinarians might use a bolt gun to euthanize a horse. The vet must be licensed to carry and use this firearm. This method of euthanasia is not ideal but might be used in an emergency situation.
Horse owners who are also experienced with firearms might choose this method. Euthanasia by gunshot is critical if their horse is gravely injured and veterinary care isn’t readily available.
What to Do After a Horse Dies?
Since a horse is such a large animal, dealing with its body after death is difficult. However, time is of the essence, and even though you’re grieving, you or someone you trust must make a decision quickly.
It’s advised that any method of disposal be started within 24 hours of the horse’s death or sooner if possible.
Horse owners who have their own property might choose to bury their horse in its pasture. However, many horse owners board their horses at stables or on someone else’s land. In these cases, on-site burial might not be possible.
If you can bury your horse, it needs to be done quickly. If you have the luxury of planning your horse’s euthanasia and your horse can walk, your vet may advise you to dig the grave ahead of time.
Then the horse is euthanized near the grave, making burial much easier.
However, some states have laws regarding livestock burial, including horses. In California, burials on private property are allowed only if the burial site is at least a quarter-mile from shared property lines. The burial site must also be within three miles of the horse’s place of death.
Animals that were chemically euthanized must be buried at least three feet deep. This helps prevent wildlife from ingesting the chemicals when scavenging, which can be fatal across the food chain.
Cremation is the preferred method of disposal for horses after they die. Equine cremation eliminates the need for a burial site and can be easier for a grieving horse owner to tolerate.
Cremation also falls within California state law regarding the safe disposal of remains. For instance, if your horse dies more than three miles away from home, you can have him transported for cremation, not burial.
A licensed transporter will take your horse to the crematory site when you choose cremation. The cremation service team members will help you decide on the details and inform you about the cremation procedure.
What’s Involved in Horse Cremation?
Cremating a horse is no different from cremating another species of animal or a human. The body is placed under high heat for several hours until ash is all that remains. If necessary, the ash might be treated again to remove any bone fragments.
Cremating your beloved horse is not pleasant to think about. However, it’s essential that you or someone you trust understands the process and asks pertinent questions. We’ve compiled a few frequently asked questions below.
Don’t hesitate to contact us at any time if you have additional questions or concerns.
Can I See My Horse Before the Cremation?
If you’d like to see your horse one last time, Furrever Friends can accommodate your request.
You can schedule an appointment to see your horse in person before the cremation begins. Viewing can be an important part of the grieving process and may help you recover from your loss. You can also use this opportunity to take a piece of your horse’s tail as a keepsake.
If you’d prefer another type of viewing, we can arrange a video call, or you can view a monitor in our guest area. This option allows you to witness the cremation process for as long as you’d like.
Is My Horse Cremated Alone?
In animal cremation, sometimes animals are cremated separately, and sometimes they’re cremated communally. Horses are so large they are always cremated individually in cremation units.
If you plan to keep your horse’s ashes, you will choose a private cremation for him. Private cremation ensures that your horse’s ashes are free from contamination. We’re committed to upholding the dignity of our profession and honoring your commitment to your beloved horse.
When Will I Receive My Horse’s Ashes?
If you choose to keep your horse’s ashes, we will have them ready for you within seven business days. We’ll contact you when they’re ready for pick up.
We also use Halcyon pet cremation software. Your horse is assigned a QR code and is tracked throughout each step of the cremation process.
Do You Offer Grief Counseling?
Our staff members are committed to treating every death with dignity. We can offer ways to cope with the loss of an animal friend and help you understand the process of parting with your horse’s body.
How Much Does Horse Cremation Cost?
The cost of horse cremation depends on several factors. However, cremating a horse is more specialized than other types of animal cremation. We’ll always be as upfront as possible regarding equine cremation costs.
First, we measure your horse’s height and weight. In most cases, a pony’s cremation is less expensive, and a draft horse’s cremation is more costly. A riding horse’s cremation costs fall in the middle.
Generally, the cost of a horse cremation is between $1,200 and $2,000. We’ll be able to give you an exact price after assessing your horse’s particular cremation needs.
If your horse is insured, consult your policy to see if cremation is covered. The insurance company can reimburse you for the equine cremation cost if it’s part of your contract.
What Happens After My Horse’s Cremation?
When your horse’s ashes are ready, you have many choices regarding their display and storage. You can decide on more than one way to remember your heart horse.
Proper storage also helps protect your horse’s ashes for years to come.
Growth From Ashes
Furrever Friends offers a unique service where we use some of your horse’s ashes to plant a tree or mix them with wildflower seeds. “Treemation” is a lovely way to remember your horse and be reminded of new life.
We recommend a beautiful urn for storage if you want to keep your horse’s ashes safe. You can choose from several sizes and styles. Your horse’s name, photo, and life dates can be displayed on the urn. View our catalog or talk with a team member to learn more.
A pedestal urn is a lovely way to store your horse’s ashes in a manner that compliments most barn or home decor styles. The pedestal urn features a compartment for the ashes and a memento shelf for your horse’s blue ribbons, equine passport or one of his horseshoes.
If you’d like to bury your horse’s ashes, we can offer all or part of them in a biodegradable urn. Then the ashes can be buried in our pet cemetery, or you can bury them under your horse’s favorite tree.
Commemorative jewelry is the perfect way to keep your horse close to your heart. A pendant-style necklace with lovely engraving contains your horse’s ashes. Or you can choose an urn charm to attach to your bracelet.
An engraved candle holder is an uplifting way to have your horse’s ashes in your home. All you need to do is add the candle and light it to keep his memory alive.
Consider Advanced Planning
Caring for an elderly horse is a privilege. You get to provide him with a safe home during his final years in thanks for all the wonderful experiences he gave you.
However, the death of a horse is logistically more complicated than the death of another type of animal. Having a plan can make your horse’s last moments easier, especially knowing that Furrever Friends will treat his body with respect and dignity.
Furrever Friends can help you create that plan. When your horse’s time comes, we’ll be there to help.
Give Your Horse the Goodbye He Deserves
Losing a cherished animal is never easy but losing a horse feels different. Maybe it’s because horses and humans share thousands of years of history. Or perhaps it’s because your horse is your best friend.
Choosing horse cremation isn’t just a practical way to handle your horse’s body. It’s also a way to keep a piece of him with you in the form of ashes. And you might keep a bit of his spirit as well.
Click here to learn more about our equine cremation services for your peace of mind.