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Equine Farewells

"Basic facts surrounding Equine euthanasia and disposal that every horse owner should know"

Prepared by Caroline Swanson, Founder and Director, Equine Farewells

Having a horse, pony or donkey put to rest is a matter that is not normally discussed until the time presents itself. It is a heartbreaking, confusing experience and sometimes as a result of emotional upset a decision is made before all the options have been realised. The Founder of 'Equine Farewells' knows this only too well through her previous personal experiences. "I remember being in a highly emotional state, making phone calls to various businesses, some of which were either insensitive or extremely expensive. I did not understand my choices and felt very isolated indeed". After many years as a horse owner and after putting to rest three of my own horses I have, through my experiences, learned that there are many more options available than I previously thought. I now understand only too well that each person's requirements are very individual, requiring a sympathetic and caring approach regardless of choice of funeral service.

The first aspect of having your equine friend put to rest is the choice of humane destruction. There are two main types, the lethal injection and the humane pistol. The lethal injection is an overdose of anaesthetic that is normally administered following a sedative. As it is a drug, only a veterinary surgeon is licensed to administer it. The animal becomes more relaxed with the sedative and then the lethal injection is administered. It must be understood that should a lethal injection be required, as drugs are present within the body this limits disposal to two types, cremation and burial. The second method is the humane pistol. There are however two types, the free bullet and the captive bolt. Equine Farewells only use service providers who hold a full firearms licence, have experience with horses and use a free bullet pistol. Although the humane pistol is noisier, it is extremely instant and contrary to belief there is very little blood. Both a licensed veterinary surgeon and slaughterman are able to administer the humane pistol. Many slaughtermen provide this as a free of charge service should they be chosen as the disposal provider. This can relieve some of the stress as it will ensure there is no delay between the equine being put to rest and the removal of the body.

Before choosing the type of humane destruction you must ask yourself two questions. These are "Is my horse head shy?" and "Does my horse dislike injections?". Once you have considered these questions, you can then make a rational decision based on the personal knowledge you have of your equine. Remember, your equine's last memory should always be one of calm not stress, and by putting aside your own personal feelings this will ensure you have done your absolute best by him or her.

The next aspect is choosing the disposal method. The most common routes, ie, the food chain methods such as hunt kennels and knacker yards have for generations provided an invaluable service of equine euthanasia and disposal. They can offer much experience as many of the slaughtermen have been brought up with and have worked with horses. However, due to BSC and more recently the foot and mouth crisis this has meant that many of these businesses have been stretched to their limits. The BSC crisis has greatly increased the disposal of 30 month+ cattle and the foot and mouth epidemic has created restrictions on the collection of our equine friends leaving many owners stranded and desperate in their time of need.

Horse owners who do not wish their equine friend to enter into the food chain have two main choices, the first being cremation. One important factor regarding cremation units is that the units can vary drastically in size. What may be suitable to receive a 12.2hh pony may not be so suitable for a 16.2hh warmblood. Equine Farewells check the size of cremation units within the customer's area before submitting a quotation to reduce the chance of a larger equine being dismembered before cremation.

Cremation can be split into two main types, simple/mass and individual. A simple/mass cremation means that the horse, pony or donkey may be cremated with other animals. On most occasions it is not possible to return any ashes on this service however occasionally, "a token of ashes" may be available. An individual cremation is exactly that, individual. Ashes from this service are normally available for return in either a wooden casket or boxed for scattering. Equine Farewells goes one step further whenever possible by offering horse owners a further choice of having half the ashes returned in a casket and half for scattering should this be required. Equine Farewells also offer a large choice of vessels for the ashes, such as bio-degradable urns, non-biodegradable urns, wooden caskets and scatterboxes. Many owners request a vessel whereby should they move home, they are able to take the ashes with them, even if they have buried them at their home. By burying the ashes in an aluminium urn in a plastic casing, this can increase it's lifespan.

The second non food chain service is burial. There are authorised burial sites around the country where your equine friend can be laid to rest. Many are of a natural type woodland or organic in nature and offer horse owners a place whereby they can visit and remember in tranquil surroundings. Regulations regarding burial on private land varies throughout the country however generally speaking, if the body can be removed then this should be done. Before burying on private land, always consult your council on the list of burial restrictions within your area.

In view of all of the above, it must be said that it is always kinder to have your horse, pony or donkey put to rest on it's usual homeground. Very occasionally however, this may not be possible. Service providers on most of the methods may be able to transport your equine and arrange to have it put to rest at their premises. A further option is the abattoir. This service involves the animal being taken away from it's usual premises and put to rest at a licensed horse and pony abattoir where the meat will be exported and used for human consumption. The equine must by law be comfortably capable and fit to travel. Under no circumstances should an owner allow an equine be allowed to travel if it is unfit or in pain. There are also drug related regulations on this service which could render the equine unsuitable. It is certainly necessary to check drug regulations before sending your equine live for slaughter.

Through nationwide negotiation, Equine Farewells are able to offer every possible service from a free of charge package to an individual cremation with ashes returned in a choice of vessels. One call or e-mail to Equine Farewells provides owners with a comprehensive choice of complete or disposal only funeral packages within their area combined with a full arrangement facility through one caring point of contact. We have an in depth knowledge of the business and aim to provide the best possible package tailored to suit 'individuals needs at a quality driven, yet competitive price'. By working on our customer's behalf, we strive to ensure they receive the best possible service whilst easing the pain during their time of grief. Equine Farewells support equine related charities by providing a donation to supporting charities upon every completed service. This helps us to "put back in a little of what is taken away".

For further details, receive a brochure or request a service, please telephone 01633 889496. Information is also available at

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