Navigating the Heartache of Letting Go

End-of-Life Decisions for Your Beloved Animals

While our focus here is usually on saddles, there comes a time in every horse, dog, cat, or any pet owner’s journey when we must make difficult choices regarding their well-being.

We understand that as caretakers and loving owners of these wonderful creatures, we will inevitably encounter the challenging decision of whether it’s time for them to cross the Rainbow Bridge. This moment arrives when they face more bad days than good or when illness strikes, demanding a treatment with uncertain outcomes.

These are the choices we make when we embrace the role of caregivers for our furry, feathered, or scaled friends. It’s a responsibility, a privilege, and a heart-wrenching part of our journey as animal lovers and owners.

A Personal Reflection

Recently, I faced the heart-wrenching decision to bid farewell to my cherished mare, Dixie. Having retired her a few years ago, my hope was to watch her gracefully embrace her twilight years. Unfortunately, arthritis had other plans.

As spring blossomed this year, I knew it would be her last summer. The thought even crossed my mind to spare her the discomfort of the approaching warmer months and make the decision right then in the spring. But as any pet owner knows, this choice is never easy or swift.

Dixie wasn’t the first horse or pet I’ve had to make this choice for. Yet, for some reason, this loss weighed heavier than anticipated. The weeks and days leading up to the scheduled moment were filled with a pain that words struggle to capture.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve grown older, gained a deeper understanding of mortality, or maybe it’s because Dixie brought such immense joy to my riding journey, and I wished for her to enjoy an easy life for much longer. Whatever the cause, this proved to be one of the most emotionally challenging farewells to an animal I’ve ever experienced.

Now, what I’m about to say might be misconstrued, but after it was all over, once I knew she was peacefully wandering the fields towards the Rainbow Bridge, I felt a sense of relief. No more second-guessing, no more wondering if she’d be content for one more winter and summer. The answer was no, but that doesn’t lessen the ache of wishing for a different response.

I grieved intensely, shedding tears for weeks leading up to it, allowing all the emotions to flow freely. I believe it’s crucial to let it all out, if only for the release it provides. Yet, amidst the sorrow, there was a profound relief in knowing she was free from the relentless pain she endured. The comfort of knowing she wouldn’t face any more winter bullying, eliminating the risk of slips and falls.

I primarily care for senior horses, two of which are approaching 34 and 35 in January. Then, there are the three in their mid 20s. I understand what lies ahead, particularly for those two old companions I’ve shared nearly three decades with. When their time comes, I’ll grieve deeply, as I’ve known them for all but the earliest years of their lives. And just like Dixie, they’ll tell me when it’s their time, and it will be my time to let them go.

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