How do you get over the grief of losing your beloved horses?

“Stacy, how do you get over the grief of losing your beloved horses?. Roxy & Vaquero. I lost my Paint gelding, Boo, last year. I had to put him down on Christmas day. The closer it gets to Christmas the more emotional I get. I am in tears as I am writing this. I miss him so much. In July my Paint mare Montana coliced and I had to have her put down. I raised both of them from babies and it has been really hard for me. I am riding again but I still miss them so much.”-Joyce P.

RoxyheadstoneI was fortunate to grow up in a family that had animals…which also meant that I learned early about death. We had rabbits, chickens, dogs just to name a few, which also meant that I learned that they all had varying natural lifespans. According to a quick Google search, the average human lifespan in the US is 79 and the average for horses is 25-30 years. I also learned at an early age, when my rabbit died of mastitis, that sometimes even that time is cut short.

It was very public when Roxy and Vaquero died, both at young ages but I have had other horses live well into their 20’s and 30’s. When they died the only real difference was that it was a little more expected…but not necessarily easier.

The morning Roxy died I stood in the vets clinic with Greg and through tears told him a quote that I had read somewhere, “Don’t cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” Knowing this didn’t stop the tears but it has helped me to remember the good times. And I think that might be the key.

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My remuda in heaven…

Stacy rearing Misty- Stacy 11, Misty 21

Stacy rearing Misty- Stacy 11, Misty 21

Stacy Westfall and Bay- High School graduation

Stacy Westfall and Bay- High School graduation



  1. Jordan Scheffler on December 30, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    This helped me a lot with the seperation between me and my neighbors colt and filly. I knew Stacy Westfall is trustworthy with anything having to do with horses. She’s awesome. The quote on here got me smiling bringing back happy memories of their cuteness,sweetness etc.

  2. Julie on December 22, 2015 at 1:25 am

    I had to put my Morgan down today. My son, who is in the army and had ridden him as well, had to witness this today. My son is home on a 2 week leave from the army basic training, talked about what a great horse Tio was. I feel guilty when I cry because today 6 American soldiers were killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. When my son leaves, I will be crying. But, honestly, I am crying now.

  3. cynthia white on March 15, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    my beloved Paint “Pot of Gold” we called him Pogo died from cancer Nov 7, 2014. we live on farm so ive lost animals before. but i have never felt this level of pain before. i had him 12 years. i try to bond w my other horse Ty. i cry everytime i go outside and see pasture. i keep praying this will somehow get easier. but i miss my best friend whinnying to me when i get home. i understand how you feel i hope it gets easier for you also.

    • Anna on May 28, 2023 at 9:26 am

      Today my first ever heart horse was puting down😭
      Honestly I been crying for hours now and can’t believe she’s gone😭she was only 12 and we jumped so high and rode without bridle and saddle and now I feel guilty bc I did not saved her

  4. Anna Berlinger on January 15, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Beautiful, Stacy! We lost our buckskin QH, Starbuck in October. He was over 30 but he was the strongest horse I’d ever seen! He wasn’t skinny (verging on stocky) and loved to barrel race. We found him out in the pasture lying down with a compound fracture in his back left leg. We’re guessing someone kicked him really hard. It felt so random and took forever to sink in that he was actually gone. He was one of those horses that you could trust a two year old with. You didn’t have to teach them how to ride. You just stuck them on his back and HE taught them. <3 I miss him so much, but this saying does help! I'll smile because he happened, thanks!

  5. katzarr on December 28, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    you don’t; you just move forward, and be glad you gave them a good life while they were here on “earth”; Triple bred King P234 mare,; purchased at 9 months old, passed away at 35 years old, used to keep her in a heated garage during the winter,; cars truck stayed outside. Still miss her, barried in front pasture, passed a couple of years ago, January 31st, so her passing date is coming up soon. sad, very sad. Will never forget her. Have 11 head now, keeps me busy,; but, still miss her. RIP King’s Heather <3 good times, will never forget you.

  6. Betty Arnold on December 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    I have three of my horses buried in the pasture where they felt safe when they were alive. I had one of them for 20 years (she died of cancer right before her 26th birthday), one was my baby that I raised (she died of colic at age 16), and the other had to be put down because of a cancerous brain tumor that caused excruciating pain (she was 23). I loved them and did all I could to make their lives good while I had them. I allowed myself to grieve their loss because each of them had a piece of my heart, and because grieving is part of healing from the pain. I grew up on a farm and I understand that the life span of animals is short, so I enjoy them while I have them. I choose to remember the precious memories they left, and I have pictures of them hanging in the barn. I thank God for the joy each of them brought, for what I learned from them, and for the love I received from them….horses are blessings that I choose to love and enjoy for whatever amount of time I have them. Over the last 40 years, I’ve had several horses that I’ve had to sell, and even though they were going to good homes, I’ve cried over them leaving my life as well. Although each horse has their own horsesonality and their own place in my heart, getting another horse to bond with and enjoy for who they are has helped me continue enjoying these magnificent creations God has blessed me with. I am thankful for the time I get to spend with them.

  7. Lori on December 21, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Stacy, I feel you. I had to put BOTH my horses down just before Thanksgiving last year. Majik shattered his foot after a year and almost complete hoof regrowth post laminitis. Jabaska was a healthy 30yo who was completely blind and relied completely on Majik.. Every morning and evening I would just open the gates and let them walk out, her head always near his flank. The day he shattered his foot, I had to halter him and help him out 3 legged forgetting about Baska for the moment. I suddenly heard her running around and she ran right into my 4 (large) rail arena. She never even saw them. At that moment, I knew. I knew she could not live and be happy without him. So I made the excruciating decision to put her down with him. I thought I’d never get over it until I realized there are things worse than death – and that’s pain and fear. When I have moments of sadness, they’re quickly replaced with heartwarming smiles because I made their lives better by giving them my heart and soul. They gave to me and I gave to them. That simple. I often FEEL me riding them in their hayday and it feels great. Don’t ever forget that while here, you made life great. What better gift could you have given.

  8. barrelracingcowgirl on December 20, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    My mom’s horse Lucky passed away at a ripe old age. It was sad, but getting to say goodbye to him helped ease the pain a little. I cried for weeks after his passing. and sometimes I still cry.

    No ride is ever the last one. No horse is ever the last one you will have. Somehow there will always be another horse, and other places to ride them.

    This quote has helped me through the passing of 4 wonderful and amazing horses. May they all rest in peace

  9. Pat Fanelli on December 20, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    I am mourning the loss of my beautiful Quarter Horse, Dandy. Dandy was given to me by a close friend when he was a yearling, because he had a crooked front leg. Dandy was bred to be a cutting horse, but because of his deformity, my friend thought he might be a good future horse for me. When it came time to train him under saddle, I took him to a very close friend of mine, who is a good hand at training horses, and a farrier at trade. Dandy was a very athletic, talented horse with a good mind. We entered him into the Snaffle Bit Futurity. Afterwards, when I brought him home and started riding him, I came off of him and broke my arm. That’s when my trainer told me that he was going to keep him and ride him until he grew up. He was too much horse for me. I agreed. My trainer was a team roper, so he turned Dandy into a roping horse. He was awesome! Seven years later, Dandy came home. We started trail riding on the mounted patrol at Folsom Lake. He was awesome on the trail. The more I rode him, the better he got. We were a team. In 2001, we became Pony Express riders. He took his job, carrying the mail. very seriously. We always got the mail to its destination on time. Dandy and I had a very tight bond. At the age of 69, I decided it would be a fun thing to start dressage lessons.. Dandy and I learned together. He was always such a willing partner. At the age of 73, I finally mustered up the courage to show him in dressage. This was on September 14th. We won a 5th place and a 4th place. I was ecstatic, and looking forward to our Centurian Ride which would be next year. Our combined ages would have been 100 years. Nine days later, he died of colic. He had never been sick a day in his life. I was initially left in shock and disbelief. Then the reality hit me that he was gone. My whole world came crashing down around me. I loved Dandy with all my heart. I couldn’t stop crying, and I’m still crying. I always remember every time I was with him, he would “lick and chew.” He was content to have me with him, no matter if I was feeding him, grooming him, loading him into the trailer to go for a ride or a lesson, or just scratching his belly. He was always glad to see me. Dandy was with me for 25 years – a life time. We buried him. My priest anointed his grave with holy water, and we said some prayers and sang a hymn, “Prayer of St. Francis.” May you rest in peace, my sweet Dandy. I can find comfort in believing that you will be waiting for me when my time comes. No horse can replace you. You were a very special horse.

  10. Connie Stein on December 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    Well said, Stacy. Losing a beloved animal is one of the hardest things to go through. I have four horses, three dogs and a cat buried on my place and I think of them daily and treasure the memories of each of them.

  11. Candie on December 20, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Sometimes you don’t ever get over losing a special horse. I lost Jesse suddenly Feb 18, 2007. He was fine when I fed the night before but down that morning, unable to get up. I got the vet right away and we tried all day. I found Hoofbeats in Heaven, a website that was very helpful. I had the love and support of friends and co-workers who realized how big a part he played in my life and how important he was to me. I found that making memorials to him helped in a lot of ways. I just had cancer surgery 5 weeks ago. Yesterday, I had 2 pictures of him that I’d printed on 5×7 paper when I went to the oncologist. She told me I don’t need chemo. I sat there with his pictures in my hand and said I really miss him so much. I swear I got good news I don’t need chemo because I had his pictures with me. I needed that security of him, to be able to think about him when I really needed to. I have one of my favorite pictures of him set as my desktop too. He and I had gone through so much together over the years. He was a once in a lifetime horse and I was blessed with 17 1/2 wonderful years and memories of our times together. He was a beautiful chestnut. About a year after he died and I had moved, I was putting my ponies out. I came across a Cardinal feather on the ground. I walked past it the first time but picked it up the next time. That’s the one and only time I’ve ever seen or found a Cardinal feather on the ground like that. I’m sure it was Jesse letting me know that he’s ok up in heaven. One day we will be together again.

  12. Tracy Johnson on December 20, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Stacy, before i saw the Wizards Baby Doll saddleless and bridleless performance, i had never heard of you, i hope you don’t mind me saying that. I had never heard of natural horsemanship either. I watched Roxy and you and i was blown away and to know that your dad had just passed away i had tears running down my face. When i get down i watch that performance and it somehow makes me feel better. I have dreamed of riding a horse that way my whole life. I also would like to ride in a river and in the snow too. I have had these dreams since i was very small, horses have always been my first love. I have a horse i have mentioned him before his name when he was racing was Scoutin Whizz, i call him wizzybear. He has had a very competitive career even though he has had only one eye, he lost it when he was two and he is now 19. He is a great horse and be both look after each other. He is very protective of me. I would like him to be bomb proof if that is possible, but not sure how to go about it. I know this is getting of topic a little but i have to ask. Roxy was a superstar for sure she had the hearts of many when she passed away with her and with you. She was beautiful and graceful and she knew what she was doing. Vaquero was awesome too they are both well loved and very well cared for and, i like you, had animals growing up so i was introduced to death at a young age too. It is strange how we get attached to our pets, but we treat them like they are family and i think that is why we find it hard to let go sometimes. Where i volunteer they had lots of race horses some that didn’t belong to the owner but they were put in our care and trained and brought back to health, There is a pool there that we use to train horses and also to heal them when they have pulled muscles or any other ailments to do with the legs, it is also a good cardiovascular exercise too. One of the horses wasn’t doing very well but i spent a lot of time with this horse, just talking and grooming him, after a while he started to perform better and i continued doing this for a while, each time he would perform better and better then he started winning races. I got to know this horse very well, it broke my heart one day, he had been put into a claimer race and someone claimed him so i never got to say goodbye to him. no other horse has gone in that stall since he was claimed. That was like loosing your best friend.

  13. Terri Anderson on December 20, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    It has been two years, since I lost my mare Lena, to a horrible fence accident:( I still miss her…..I did have insurance on her (reference to your previous post), which complicated the day…..many steps to be considered and referenced to before we could put her to rest. She was a quirky mare, which I loved, and everything about her taught, and prepared me for the talented and yes, quirky reining horse I now have! But I will always miss her! A good friend told me that if you have horses, sooner or later you will have heartbreak also………

  14. christine tedder on December 20, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I had the pleasure of owning my appy for 16 years. He was 12 when I bought him and he was a rescue. I learned so much from him and he learned that hands really can be gently. He passe on 7-14-2014 from colic at 28 years old. The horror of that day will always be etched on my heart, but that did not stop me from finding another appy in need of a loving home. Eddie would have wanted me to find a way to help another. I miss him each day, and I know that he’s waiting for me when it’s my turn.

  15. Darlene on December 20, 2014 at 11:37 am

    My daughter & I raised an infant Arab, he grew into the most wonderful lad ever…never had a mean bone in him, he loved everyone, followed her into her house and was just a 4 legged family member. In the meantime, daughter married a man with horses. Blaze went across the Rainbow Bridge when he was 25 and yes we were both weeping hard….a few years later, my soninlaw’s roping horse, who had helped raise 3 boys, passed over at 36. We miss them terribly, they had super personalities. In the meantime, we have the others to love, but I don’t know if I will ever get over Blaze…
    The horses I had before, I am sure are there waiting….when Blaze left we dreamed the same dream, and they were there together, frolicking in a beautiful meadow. I hold on to that….

  16. lawolfe5 on December 20, 2014 at 9:58 am

    I bought an older school horse (in his 20s) with some health issues. Loved him with all my heart and lost him only a year later. Two days after he passed, our barn manager handed me a lead rope to a rescue in very bad shape that had just come the week before. She said he needed a person and I needed something to distract me. I ended up adopting him and rehabbing him for a year. It involved a lot of work and a lot of love. He was late twenties and broke his leg and I had to let him go, as well.

    I literally told God out loud that I was done with horses because it hurts so much to let them go, but after 7 months of grieving I just adopted a new rescue last week. A mare. I expect almost a year to rehab her as well and after only a few days with her, I can talk about my precious Merlin and Charlie without utterly breaking down — not because my new mare has replaced them, but because adopting her has added a new source of love and hope and joy and that balances the sadness.

    Getting another horse does not mean an end to the sadness or that the hole left by a previous loss is filled. But it does help. If you only have sad things to think about that is what you will think about. You have to actively find ways to bring love, joy, purpose, faith, hope — something positive — back into your life so that you have more to think about than just the pain of loss.

  17. Lori Sozio on December 20, 2014 at 9:40 am

    I just wanted to say that I love that quote and it is by Dr. Suess. I just lost my 31 year old donkey and my 37 year old gelding this year. I still miss them both everyday. For me, it helps to make a little garden for them where they are buried. I found an amazing almost life size donkey statue for Dusty and I am still looking for a proper statue for Sage.

  18. Christine on December 20, 2014 at 9:04 am

    I too was crying as I was reading this.I lost my heart horse in January of 2013.She was a beautiful old style Morgan mare,a dream come true after raising my family.Some of my best memories were had on her broad Morgan back.I loved her so much.I think my answer to this question is that you never get over losing someone or something that special.Pain gets less ,but grief runs deep and comes to the surface sometimes when you least expect it.Give yourself permission to grieve.If you didn’t love them so much,it wouldn’t hurt so badly.I have a new Morgan mare now,but no one individual could ever replace that first love.In my mind she was definitely irreplaceable.

  19. Sara McNeil on December 20, 2014 at 8:56 am

    When I am feeling sad about my horses that are gone, I read this poem. I don’t know who wrote it, but it helps me every time. You never get over missing them since they have a special place in your heart forever, but loving another horse helps ease the pain of missing them. There are so many horses out there that need love – look for a horse that needs you.

    Don’t cry for the horses that life has set free.
    A million white horses forever to be.
    Don’t cry for the horses now in God’s hands.
    As they prance and they dance in a heavenly band.

    They were ours as a gift, but never to keep.
    As they close their eyes forever to sleep.
    Their spirits unbound. On silver wings they fly.
    A million white horses against the blue sky.

    Look up into heaven, you’ll see them above.
    The horses we lost, the horses we loved.
    Manes and tails flowing they gallop through time.
    They were never yours, they were never mine.

    Don’t cry for the horses. They’ll be back someday.
    When our time is gone, they will show us the way.
    Do you hear that soft nicker? Close to your ear?
    Don’t cry for the horses, love the ones that are here.

  20. Vickie on December 20, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Is never easy and each person handles it differently. Two of my horses died the same night, they were struck by lightning. That was 6 years ago. The sadness of missing them is still with me, if I remember something significant I’ll tear up. But I smile for the time I spent with them. One for 8 years and one for just 10 months. They each left their mark on my heart

  21. Dana Golladay on December 20, 2014 at 7:31 am

    We had to put down my husband’s horse in February. Six months before he had been diagnosed with a dental tumor. It was very fast growing and over time he looked like he had a softball on the side of his face. The vet said it was only a matter of time. One morning I went out to feed and instead of coming to greet me like normal he lingered back. I took off work that day to day with him and the whole day instead of grazing with my weanling colt who was his best friend, he stayed off to himself.It was the only sunny day we had had, and he stayed laying down on his favorite spot on the hill. I knew he was telling me he was ready to go. We cried and held him until it was time. And once he was gone we cried and held our other horses. What helped me ease the pain was a friend of mine sending me a link of you, Stacy, at a show and you recited a poem that was exactly what I needed to hear to move on. I still miss T.J but I am seeing signs and traits from him in my now 2 year old colt that was his very best friend.

  22. Heidi on December 20, 2014 at 1:50 am

    Last week I had to put down my thoroughbred mare who taught me how to ride again and was my best friend all through high school. What a great start to the Christmas season… I am now raising her two month old foal myself. It was very sudden and it broke my heart. Although I have grown up learning about death and dealing with the loss of animals it didn’t make it any easier losing my best friend. I look at her foal and have mixed emotions seeing that if she didn’t have a foal she wouldn’t have been in the foaling paddock and she wouldn’t have had to be put down. But I am glad too having her baby to carry on her bloodlines because her injury could have just happened in the paddock too. She is buried underneath a huge tree in the bottom paddock and I have planted many flowers on and around the mound. I am in the middle of making her a plaque and seeing that quote brought a little smile to my face. So I may just have to use that to describe the time I had with my gorgeous baby girl.

  23. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel on December 20, 2014 at 1:22 am

    Perhaps my way of dealing with my animals’ passing seems cold and uncaring. That is far from the truth. I grieve also. Like you, I grew up with animals; dogs, cats, chickens, horses. I knew that dogs and cats didn’t have long lifespans and sometimes we ate the chickens! In the era I grew up, (I am almost 61) the dogs and cats were pretty expendable. We loved them while they were with us but if the got old, sick, or run over, (or if you were a kitten, we had a horse that trampled kittens that got under his hooves) we knew there was always another waiting to be adopted and loved. It was far better to “get over” it and get another watch dog, trail buddy, or mouser ASAP. I never had to have a horse put down. As they aged and/or I out grew my horses, they were sold to another family who needed a quiet, aged gelding and I took on the next young rogue. When I was 20 I sold a grade Appy gelding to help pay for my wedding. With a baby on the way and two more that followed shortly after, I didn’t have a horse in my life again until age 39. I got a Crabbet-bred Arabian mare from a breeder who was reducing and changing the pedigree lines of his broodmare band. He sold her to me for a song. With children entering college and a Methodist minister husband I was thrilled to be able to afford a horse again. She was a sweet mare and I perhaps foolishly bred her right off the bat because the Arabian folks I was getting to know said she was a good mare and I should breed her to the Region 14 Western Pleasure champion at the time. The stud’s owner told me she was the best bred mare her stallion had ever covered. I bred the best to the best and hoped for the best! I was supposed to sell him and “make that mare pay for herself.” but he was a cute little chestnut colt without a wit of Arabian type. So much for the best to the best…but I fell in love with him. True to my up bringing, I sold the mare and kept the baby when he got old enough to start working. Today he is coming 21, his dam is coming 34, and is a pasture pony with a nice family who adopted a child from Haiti. My cute, but not typey Arabian, Heavens Epic Geym is a dependable and loveble, albeit quirky but I wouldn’t want him any other way, trail horse. I just bought helmets for my two grandsons to start riding. They are 6 and 4. When the time comes to put him down, I will be thankful for all the blessings God has given me through this amazing experience.

  24. Jess on December 20, 2014 at 1:17 am

    I went thru the same thing last year. I would love to say it gets easier… It does but I still have triggers that make me break down and remember my boy Odi. Odi was my everything my one in a million horse! What gets me thru my sad times is remembering all the great things we did and accomplished in his wonderful 32 years! I will agree with Stacy 100% I grew up and learned very early about losing animals but as hard as it is smile and remember the amazing time with our treasured babies!

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