When I die, I want my horses to….

How would you finish this sentence?

Over the years I have had several concerned owners tell me their plans or ask for my advice…but in most cases I think that the issue goes largely undiscussed.

About a month ago I met a man who had recently bought a very nice, very well trained horse from a boarding barn. He had stopped by the barn on another matter and the barn owner mentioned that she was selling a ‘western’ horse. This man rode western. The owner of the horse had died a few months prior and her family members had never been involved. The family asked the boarding faculty to please sell the horse to pay for the board. The board bill had been current until the ladies unexpected death. For two months board the horse was sold.

When I die, I want my horses to….What would happen to your horses if you were to die today?

Every situation is going to vary so greatly that it is impossible to say what the ‘right’ answer is, except, I do know that it will be easier on those left behind if they have some idea of what they should do.

In the example above the family members didn’t realize that the horse was actually worth much more than two months board. The horse was also boarded in a barn that specialized in a different discipline…so they also didn’t know how to value the horse. Add to that the trauma of a death in the family and it is easy to see how this could happen.

Some people are surrounded by family members that are involved in the horse industry and would likely be able to step in and help make decisions but not every one is.  If your family isn’t very involved then please consider making your wishes known.

During my career I have had owners ask me if they could leave their valuable show horse to me in their will. 

I also know of another woman who designated a portion of her life insurance to the continued care of her horses should she suddenly die.

I also know of a lady who has left instructions for her two horses to be euthanized upon her death.

Everyone has a different thought on what they would like to see happen….or at least a clear picture of what they would NOT like to see happen. 

Death is a tough subject for anyone to talk about but in almost all cases it is better to be open and clear with your wishes far before the information is actually needed.


  1. Mary Belle Hutchison on June 7, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    When my brother died of cancer and left behind 3 dogs and 2 horses, a friend of mine and I were able to take the horses and my sister took the dogs. I realized then that had we not been able to step up, the animals would not have had a good end. After my horse died suddenly, I thought long and hard about getting another since I was now in my sixties and had had a brush with cancer myself. The win-win solution was to adopt from the Standardbred Retirement Foundation which re-homes Standardbreds from the track. They retain ownership for life, and should anything happen to me, he would return to them to be cared for life. I get to enjoy a wonderful horse with the peace of knowing that he will always be cared for, even if I am not here.

  2. Tracy Stevens on June 6, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks so much for broaching this very important subject. I own a custom, handmade horse tack website, SpanishHorseTack.com, and I market to a lot of Facebook groups.

    After I recognized a photo of a horse I knew as a 3 years old colt standing in a kill lot and heading for slaughter listed in one of the rescue groups, I networked this horse, whose name is Summer’s Bolero, to every group I belong to and this horse was saved. The next day, I started two horse adoption network groups on Facebook: the Bolero Gaited Horse Adoption Network and the Bolero Appaloosa and Spotted Horse Adoption Network.

    These groups have been online for over a year now, and our members network horses whose owners have died and have been sent to auctions and purchased by kill buyers ALL THE TIME.

    A few months ago, 20 purebred Fox Trotter foals were auctioned together from a kill lot on Facebook. Several people who love that breed got together, formed a group and saved those foals–some of these foals were 4 months old! Their mothers were all sent straight to slaughter, along with over 150 purebred Fox Trotters in that one herd! We were later told that the breeder had suddenly died, and his family sold all of his horses at an auction. These horses were bought by kill buyers, but the foals were too small to ship to slaughter, so they were left behind to fend for themselves….

    Even though horse slaughter is illegal in the US, over 130,000 horses are sent to slaughter for human consumption every year in Mexico and Canada. If you do not know what happens to horses in slaughter plants in Mexico, it is the WORST CRUELTY I have ever read about!

    We see horses whose owners have died, divorced, gotten sick or lost their jobs sold at auction every day, and many of them end up in the slaughter pipeline. We also see a lot of horses who are sold under the kill plant per lb purchase rate, and horses given away in free to good home ads end up in the slaughter pipeline.

    PLEASE spread the word to your animal loving friends about what is really happening to our companion equines who trust us. Please tell them if they need to sell their horses to always sell them above the per lb Slaughter Plant rate, between .70 and $1.00 per lb. Please warn them that kill buyers will lie to purchase a horse cheap, and say that the horse is going to its “forever home” but instead the horse will suffer a horrible death. Please tell them to always ask for and double-check references for any person buying their horse. It is also a good idea to have a buy-back contract so if the person who purchases a horse ever needs to sell that horse, then the first seller would be contacted.

    Horse slaughter is not humane euthanasia at all, especially in Mexico. If you don’t know what happens, please search for Horse Slaughter Mexico; our horses deserve much better than this…

  3. MamaQ on June 6, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Everyone needs to verify the laws of their state and whether legally their requests are viable. Owners have requested horses be put down after they die only to have heirs after realizing the cost of euthanizing sell them to brokers.
    Leaving instructions and provisions in wills will not necessarily protect your animals especially if heirs are not local. Wills are probated long after death and in the case of animals, the animals are often disposed of prior to probate because of cost of care and funds entangled in a will are not readily available. Horses and other equines are often classified as property and if there is no will direct heirs receive the rights to property over everyone but those who the deceased owes money to; also as property equines can be attached by anyone the deceased owes money to private, public or government. It is best if leaving the care of an animal to a non-family membership to set up joint ownership that includes value if a buy-out is needed long before death. Even if leaving the animal to a family member nothing binds them to your wishes. Family members can be very cold and ignore final wishes after death; that I can tell you from experience. Leaving a horse to a business is just as dangerous. A business is just that a business and every horse has cost and price.
    As to leaving money to your animals or insurance again each state, each insurance company has different laws and rules not to mention death taxes. Some insurance companies will not allow you to leave money to your animal(they do not have human rights or as my insurer informed me no social security number.) You need legal guidance and a legally bound overseer of your horses’ welfare that can take immediate action and who will be notified immediately of your passing or inability to care for your horse.
    Some heirs in trying to fulfill wishes of euthanasia have found interference from animal rescues intervening to “save” the equine. Public opinion can over rule common sense.
    Don’t make plans on a wish and a promise but with legal backing and don’t be trusting. It sounds harsh but it is your animals’ welfare at risk once you are gone. You also need to make plans whether you are 25 or 85. Death and illness do not only happen to the old.

  4. Ronda Parker on June 3, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    I’m on the sixth generation of my bloodline. If my daughter were unable to care for her at the time of my death I would want to be creamated and buried with her; although, I hope it is a few more generations down the line.

    • Patsy24 on June 4, 2016 at 9:46 am

      She has another owner with 2nd rights. In my will, I also request she be kept at a trainer friend we both know and I would leave a sum of money for her care. Unless! she lives another 25-30 years and I die young, in which case, I would ask her to be euthanized. I am passionate about my mare’s welfare

  5. Michelle on June 3, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    I recently lost one of my best friends in a completely unexpected death. She was single and had horses, as well as many other pets. She had no will, and no written information about the pets. By the grace of God many good people came together to find homes and tried to do what we thought she’d want us to do. It was very hard to go through emotionally, physically and financially. Take the time to write things down about pets dates of birth, any medical needs, Veterinary contacts, farrier needs etc. Have it notarized and store it where someone can find it. You just never know and my heart is broken in so many ways.

  6. Carol Bredeson on June 3, 2016 at 1:12 am

    I had a lawyer draw up a Trust, that amount other things,
    states who is to care for my horses, and sets aside money to cover the cost of that care.

  7. Sheila Busch on June 3, 2016 at 1:09 am

    well when I die my bullet go,s to my daughter Dawn and it is in my well and trust. He well never be sold and he own,s my farm and Dawn gets it too.I have cancer and that is what I want for my horse and my fur baby,s. My farm well never be sold because my family well always have a place to come too.

  8. Jesse on June 3, 2016 at 12:12 am

    If I died, I would want my mare I’ve owned for 6 years now (since she was 2 years now 8) would stay with my husband. She is my pride and joy; she should be continued on barefoot care, fed from a slow feeder box, and be rode at least 3 times a week by him. He should think about the time she cut her back legs open and I started balling because I thought we’d have to put her down, how he was my hero when he said we could trailer her to the vet for care with some of our savings and how she ended up being completely sound even though she’d severed a tendon. I doctored her per the vet’s instructions, and he watched me ball again when we were able to lope for the first time after she’d healed, I was so happy she was ok. Or the time we first met how he started to slide to one side bareback while I was lunging him around me at a walk; he squeezed onto her to stay on and she started to trot. He was worried about falling off, and I was so proud of her for remembering our lesson from the day before; when I squeeze you need to trot. She’s not just a horse, she is a memory of me. She is a memory of us. She should stay with him if I die.

  9. Mia on June 2, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    I have been asked by friends to be their horses’ godparent and to help facilitate the dispersal of their horses as I see fit.
    The paperwork was written up by their attorneys and signed by the parties involved.

  10. Nancy on June 2, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    I raised both of “my boys” and this is the only home they have ever known. I certainly pray to out-live them so I can ensure that for them. Reality is, we never know. I pray they will be kept together, as they are actually brothers and only seperated for weekends or the occasional few months to college with my grand-daughter. But truly, there are no guarantees in anything.

  11. Randi Bates on June 2, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    My QH gelding would be donated to my local therapeutic riding center for use with the students and veterans. They would see to all his needs and give him good care for the rest of his life.

  12. Dino on June 2, 2016 at 7:47 pm

    In our will we leave my horse to a therapeutic riding program along with a substantial sum of money. If the horse proves unsuitable for their program they can dispose of it any way they wish.

  13. Lindsay on June 2, 2016 at 7:36 pm

    We have it written in our will, if we should both perish at the same time, that a friend of ours in the equine business would facilitate the sale end of our horses. Our family isn’t involved in the horse world. If one of us should die before the other, the one left would take care of what we have. It is a tough thing to ask of a friend.

  14. Nicole Dorsey on June 2, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    My three Paint mares are in my will. When I pass, if the daughter does not want them, they will be euthanized and buried together on the farm. If the daughter (who also lives on the farm) decides to take them then she will make sure they are all buried here. I have 11 horses buried here now. When you belong to me, I love you to the end, and then you are buried here. Oldest horse buried here is Dudley age 35 and the youngest is a stillborn filly. If I could do it, I would be buried here too. Considering being cremated and having my ashes put in Dudley’s grave.

    • Carol Lott on June 4, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      I think that would be a great idea for you to be cremated and put with your horse or ashes spread where ever all your horses are buried!! ❤️❤️

  15. Linda Kabobel on June 2, 2016 at 5:37 pm

    I have asked my trainer if he would take care of my horse when I die…no immediate plans of that though. He said yes and I know she will be well taken care of.

  16. Jennifer Clements on June 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    Actually discussed this a few times with the fiancé as he is NOT a horse person….. my old horse (pushing 30 yo) would get a nice spot in the field with his friends and anyone else I had at the time would be sold or given to appropriate homes with the help of my horsewoman daughter and my riding instructor. Kiddo is getting to clean out the tack room 😀

  17. Rob Pearce on June 2, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    I am lucky, all my horses that have died our I have had to put down, and there have been a lot, I was able to bury on our rqnchwhen we had it, since then other ranchers have let me bury on thier places. I worry about my current horses. I have no kids, not married, and parnets are older. My little Enochwill be 23 when I am 80. I worry if I will have money to care for him. I think several ranching friends wouold care for him. I need to. make plans and ask them. It is a big worry for me.

  18. erin on June 2, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Given to a performance trainer I show my horses and the trainer can make some money and find them a show home.

  19. Yvonne on June 2, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    My horse will is being left to a friend in Oklahoma. Arrangements are made.

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