Memorializing Horses

Our 31-year-old Standardbred, Maire (Snafu’s Choice), is rapidly failing. Her legs are giving out and we’ll have to have her euthanized before hard winter sets in. She’s been with us for 18 years and she’ll be missed. It’s hard to lose an old friend like Maire.

There are those who would say (and do say far too often when people are grieving) that “it’s just a horse” and “you have lots of others” or “you can buy another horse.” But your horse may have been family, a loved one, and losing him already seems more than you can bear. Yet it’s part of sharing lives with animal friends. It never gets easier, but having mementos of absent friends helps ease the pain of their passing, especially later on when we can see or handle something that brings cherished memories to mind. But having mementos requires advance planning.

Collect keepsakes while you can. Take photos, lots and lots of photos. Start when you get your horse and continue throughout his lifetime. If you don’t know how to shoot good photos, ask photography-minded friends to do it for you (most will be happy to help) or polish up your own photography skills.

• Save your images in one place so they don’t get lost. For digital images, burn a CD or devote a special flash drive to pictures of animal friends. If you still shoot film (yes, some of us do), place prints and negatives or slides in photo albums or storage boxes.

• Compile a scrapbook incorporating photos and special items as show ribbons and snippets of hair. Have any of hundreds of photo-personalized items such as throws, jewelry, mugs, mouse pads, and Christmas ornaments created.

• Select a favorite picture of your horse; have it enlarged, then beautifully framed. Or combine the photo with your horse’s registration papers to be mounted and matted together. Create a shadow box assortment of photos and treasured mementos. Draw or paint a portrait of your horse. Sew a cuddly, stuffed toy horse featuring your own horse’s markings, perhaps tucking a lock of his hair in its stuffing before stitching it up.

• Purchase a journal and record the story of your lives together. Tape or glue photos of your horse on any leftover pages in the journal. Keep it as a remembrance.

• Or compile a memorial video. Using basic video software like Windows Movie Maker, it’s much easier than you think. Windows Movie Maker is free; Google windows movie maker download to access multiple sources. It’s fairly intuitive to use but if you need help, do a search for Windows Movie Maker at YouTube or source downloadable PDFs by Googling windows movie maker filetype:pdf. Here’s a memorial video I made in honor of one of my favorite horses, Kismet Fancy Fire:

Try mementos containing something of your horse himself. The first year we sheared our first pet sheep, we shipped their wool to MacAusland’s Woollen Mills in Canada to be woven into a natural-colored blanket for our bed. You could do something similar with your horse by saving hair when he sheds, then paying a fiber artist to blend it with wool, spin the yarn, and knit a comfy hat or scarf. Or save some mane or tail hair and have a bracelet, necklace, key fob, or jacket pull woven for you by a horsehair craftsperson. Find one by doing a Web search for custom horsehair jewelry.

• Or choose a clay-based paw print kit designed to memorialize your horse. These accept hoof imprints as well. Then when your horse is gone you’ll have memories you can hold in your hands.

– adapted from an article written for and published by Horse Illustrated in the late 1990s.

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