Miss Debbie Hill
I had been watching my dear horse Zinger closely throughout
the 2005-2006 winter. But it was during the last breath of winter that I realized
the time had come to release her from her body.
of us picture our horses grazing peacefully at pasture during retirement, the
fact is, many very old horses aren't that comfortable on pasture, whether it is
winter or summer. So for the last winter of her life, Zinger lived in our Senior
Center, a specially designed sheltered pen. It has a rubber matted eating area
under a large roofed area, a separate 25' x 16' sand stall and a very roomy turnout
pen. The occupant of the senior center has the freedom to roam between the eating
area, the sand pen (for a lie down and roll or just to hang out), and the exercise
pen where the water trough and salt blocks are located. An ideal situation for
a senior horse who isn't keen on enduring the harsh elements of pasture: including
weather, bugs, and other horses.
One of the responsibilities
of animal ownership is knowing when their life is no longer comfortable for them.
We have to separate our feelings from our rationale. I needed to ask myself if
I was keeping Zinger alive for her or for me. This is a very personal decision
and I would not presume to make it for you. But perhaps something I might say
will help if you ever are in the heart-wrenching situation I was in earlier this
Zinger (AQHA Miss Debbie Hill) has been my friend for
over 30 years. You have seen her in almost every book I have written. She is in
our videos and has been in many magazine articles over the years. She is the dam
of two very fine horses, "Doctor Zip" (Zipper) and Seeker, both of whom
have appeared in my works.
Although Zinger's AQHA bloodlines
were foundation cow horse breeding, she was very versatile. She was a ranch horse
extraordinaire, a fantastic trail horse, great for ponying, and just super dependable
and solid. During her teens, when I took an interest in dressage lessons, she
piloted me through them and showed not only great tolerance, but talent and athletic
ability that surprised many people.
She's a horse that has
always been there for me. To think of life without her was just too painful, yet
one morning when I went out to feed her, her spirit told me it was time. Her body
had been trying to tell me for some time that it was weary.
it has been months since she has been laid to rest, I still can barely speak about
it and my keyboard is flooded as I type this. However, in between these sad spells,
I feel increasingly large spells of peace knowing it was the right thing to do.
I found myself avoiding the barn for weeks after her departure.
It was not just that I would miss her nicker but also, in retrospect, I think
I was a little bit hesitate to give my heart so completely to another horse. After
all, it was only last fall that dear Sassy also was put down and I was barely
recovered from that.
Well, as of a few weeks ago, I am back
at the barn and things are very good. I see her wonderful attributes in Seeker
and know that Aria is definitely Sassy's daughter. So life goes on.
the time comes to release the body of one of your horses, it helps to know your
alternatives. Speak with your veterinarian to find out the options in your area
for euthanasia. As far as what to do with a horse's body, here is an excerpt from
the second edition of Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage.
on a Small Acreage, 2nd edition
is a fact of life that some day your horse will die. The options for disposing
of a 1200-pound carcass are limited. Cremation is expensive and not widely available
for horses. Rendering plants that handle dead horses are far and few between and
it might be difficult to get timely pickup service. If you are lucky to have a
large animal disposal service in your area, get a phone number and keep it current
and available. Your veterinarian or farrier or agricultural extension agent should
be able to provide you with contact information. And in fact, if you live in a
suburban area, your best option might be to have your veterinarian arrange for
euthanasia and disposal of your horse's carcass.
at an animal cemetery is also an option, but an expensive one and not available
in all areas, so if you have a large enough tract of land, the best solution is
to prepare a final resting place for your horse on your own property. Local zoning
and health regulations vary widely about animal burial, so check ahead of time.
of dead animals should not result in contamination of ground water and the grave
needs to be deep enough so as not encourage or permit access by vermin, scavengers
or other potential vectors of disease.
it is legal to bury a horse on your property, you will likely need to hire a back
hoe operator to dig an 8 foot deep hole that is approximately 6' x 10'. This will
ensure that there will be 3-4 feet of earth on top of the carcass. Locate the
hole at least 100 feet from any water source and on high enough ground so that
the bottom of the hole does not contact ground water.