Horse wearing a rug in a snowy field

Horse end-of-life

With you every step of the way

It is a sad truth that anyone who intends to keep their horse forever will have to face the end of its life at some stage.  Even those with a youngster, a horse on loan or one which they plan to rehome in the future should be aware of end-of-life options because illness or accidents can happen at any time and at any age.   This is a situation which most owners would prefer not to think about, but one which can be made less painful if the appropriate plans have already been put in place and you know where to go for support.

Responsible horse ownership and welfare often focus on the aspects of care in giving your horse a good life but equally important is the responsibility to make sure they have a good death when the time comes.

The latest research from Advancing Equine Scientific Excellence (AESE) showed that only 9 per cent of horses die of natural causes, which means in the other 91 per cent of cases the decision to euthanase will have to be made either electively or in an emergency.  In the case of any death, regardless of whether it is due to euthanasia or natural causes, there are matters that need to be considered and this is far easier to do in advance of any problem.

Considering your horse’s quality of life is imperative when thinking about euthanasia and whilst it is not an easy decision to make, the implications in delaying it can have a much greater impact on their welfare and on your peace of mind.

Even though your horse might be young and healthy, and even though you are sure you’ll have him for many years to come, it is still sensible to make a plan now. Blue Cross, World Horse Welfare and British Horse Society have a range of information and advice available to support and guide you through every step of the way in fulfilling the ultimate act of responsible ownership.


Fawn horse in open stable looking out

Making a plan for euthanasia - Just in Case



Just in Case is the name of World Horse Welfare’s suite of materials designed to help guide owners through the process, providing a valuable resource and helping hand for anyone whether you are making the difficult decision now or simply preparing for all eventualities in the distant future.

Two leaflets are available, one to give you the facts, and the other to help you make a plan long before you will need it. Just in Case: The Facts clearly and sensitively explains all aspects of the situation, such as the options available and what to expect, how to assess quality of life, insurance and legislation issues, and whether you should be there. Just in Case: Owner’s Plan provides a clear form which can be completed in advance. You can also use this to be certain everyone knows what choices you would make even if you can’t be contacted in an emergency.

You can download these below:

British Horse Society ‘Friends at the End’

Red logo with 'The British Horse Society' written on it


Friends at the End’ is a BHS initiative designed to make sure that no horse owner has to face the loss of their equine companion alone. Friends at the End was launched in response to pleas from owners who felt isolated and unsupported during the time every horse lover dreads.  Through this initiative, our BHS ‘Friends’ have helped many owners either before, during or after the loss of their beloved horse.

All of our Friends at the End team have lost horses themselves and received training from bereavement counsellors, so they have a genuine understanding of the loss and grief that come when a horse dies. They aren’t there to take the place of a counsellor or vet, but they can offer an extra source of support. At the hardest time in a horse owner’s journey, our Friends are available to make it as smooth and straightforward as possible.

If you feel that you might benefit from talking to someone through the Friends at the End scheme, contact BHS Welfare on 02476 840517 or [email protected]

Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service

Losing a horse or pony can often be equated to losing a member of the family. It is therefore very important not to underestimate the grieving process, and the strength of feelings that any owner or carer may feel once their horse has been put to sleep. It may be useful to talk to family members, or in some cases a trained counsellor who deals specifically with people suffering from grief.

Blue Cross Pet Bereavement Support Service is a telephone helpline and email service that offers free and confidential support to bereaved pet owners, through a national network of trained volunteer befrienders.

We are available 365 days of the year to those who need us. We can be contacted on 0800 096 6606 (8.30am-8.30pm) or email [email protected].

— Page last updated 24/06/2021