"disposing" of horses

Sorry for the gross / depressing topic, but I am doing some research…

How do you dispose of deceased horses in your area?

We are fortunate in my immediate area that we can bury them on the farm. The other option is to pay a rendering plant to take them away after they’ve been euthanized. But in different parts of the country, you may not have the option of burial, or a rendering plant may be too far away (or so I am told.)

What do you do with horses that are permanently unsound, chronically ill, or otherwise at the end of their useful years?

How important to you is the option of sending your horse to auction, or selling directly to a slaughter buyer?

Thanks in advance for your responses. I would especially like to hear from folks in different parts of the country, e.g., Rocky Mountain states.


$50-75 for Valley Protein? We’re paying either $125 or $150 per horse, which is what I had to pay after I had my own horse euthanized.

So sorry to hear that you’ve lost 3 in one year. That’s definately not right!! How sad for you…

A friend of mine had to have a horse put down last summer and got it cremated–she showed me the lovely container, which was in the shape of a horse lying down on a marble base with the horse’s nameplate on it…having had another friend who had also had a horse cremated and had to lug the boxes through several moves, I had to wonder whether the woman knew that a large portion of her beloved steed rests elsewhere…?? I’ve only had to bury a donkey, and thank goodness, my dad has the heavy equipment to get the job done…we were able to do it even though the ground was really frozen.

At least in my county in Colorado, we can bury horses on the property (we’re outside of any city limits). However, you asked how important alternatives like meat buyers and auctions are, and I’d like to respond to that, although I’ll probably get flamed.
I think those alternatives are very important. I think we as horsepeople need to work hard to have laws regarding the transport and keeping of slaughter-bound horses made stricter, but I think trying to outlaw selling horses for meat, as I beleive recently happened in California, is THE WRONG WAY TO GO.
It’s great that people on this board have enough money to chose to pay both to have their horses euthanized and also pay to have the carcasses taken away to be processed, but not all people have that option. If a horse needs to be put down/slaughtered, and the person who owns that horse doesn’t have the several hundred dollars necessary to have it euthanized and removed, but the auction is no longer an available auction, I think you are going to see a lot more horses dying slowly and painfully from starvation and neglect: I can’t support him anymore, but I can’t get rid of him.
I’d rather see state and federal regulations regarding the treatment of slaughter-bound livestock (not just horses) toughened up so that they are treated humanely in their last days, and see “killer auctions” remain legal. I think that is the most humane route for the animals involved.
And, no, I don’t want to ever think of one of my babies going to the killer, but I also know --especially living in Colorado’s ranch land – that not everybody enjoys my financial well-being. Plenty of cash-poor, land-rich folks own horses. Some aren’t being taken very good care of anyways, but that problem will just compound if slaughter is no longer an option. Yes, we do have many wonderful people devoting their lives to horse rescue projects, but there still aren’t enough of them to take in every neglect case. We have pounds built in practically every town for unwanted pets; unfortunately we don’t have the same options available for unwanted horses.

Loudoun Hunt in Virginia, but this was about 5 years ago. We had two horses we sent there.

To me, this solution beats 48 hours in a double decker cattle truck without food or water, but I agree, euthanasia followed by burial or cremation would probably be the best option. It is what I plan to do with my two horses when the time comes.

Oops, sorry, should have read all of your post! I don’t know if this helps at all, because I am not in Rocky Mtn. states, but the boarding/riding stables where I have kept my horses in MD/VA have been great about NOT sending the horses to the killer auctions. I think only in about a handful of cases did they send the horse to a dealer (where it almost certainly went to the killers).

Generally, they either give the horse to a student or former student who has a farm, give it to the Equine Rescue League, put it to sleep if it is truly crippled, or send it to the kennels where it will be humanely destroyed and fed to the hounds. In my opinion, these options are better than sending a crippled or old horse to an auction where it will likely go to slaughter. However, not everyone is able to find a suitable home for their horses, or there may not be a horse rescue organization in their state. Its a difficult issue. I would also be interested in others responses to this question.

When I lived in Oregon we referred to it as “the one way trip to Hubbard”. There was a “killer plant” in the mid-Willamette Valley. When you took a horse there they were immediately put down. The people came back out with the halter. The horses did not stand around in horrible conditions. I think there was some money compensation.

I had to have a OTTB gelding put down here in AZ about 5 yrs ago. He had a bad heart valve. I called my vet when I had made the final decision. She told me of a rendering facility in the area. I arranged to have the horse hauled there.(I cease to function at times like these.) She met them, did the euthanasia at that time. No morbid waiting to have the corpse removed.

When I bought this guy he was iffy. At the time I thought what I paid I could recapture by the pound. But you know when that time came, $$$'s were the furthest thing from my mind.

When I had my mare put down 11 years ago (it will be exactly 11 years ago in 2 days) I paid about $200 to have her buried. There is a lady named Roberta who owns her own company called Dignified Dead Animal Disposal in my area, and everyone seems to use her. Fortunately we haven’t used her in a long time. I’m pretty sure the horses get buried in a landfill…probably the Simi Valley landfill that Coreene mentioned, since it is in my area.

I have an unfortunate story from this summer. I had to put an older school horse mare down, to a very bad colic. Surgery just wasn’t an option. The problem was it was Saturday night when it happened and the service only picks up on weekdays.

So I had to get Sadie in the horse trailer so we could put her down there. We hauled the trailer to a neighboring private farm for the weekend. I work at a park district owned stable and there was no way we could have a big tarped horse laying around for three days. It was a very bad weekend, and on my birthday no less !

Fortunately she loaded like a pro and went very calmly. It was very upsetting. I’d had the vet come back after hours and all my kids were gone but there was still a bonfire group coming. So who comes walking up to look just as we do it! Fortunately they coudn’t see anyting but one look at my face and the leaders ran the boys away.

wow. That was months ago but the story still gets me. I couldn’t tell it till now. Thanks for listening.

Cashmere, that’s where my vet went to school too. Is your vet in the Chicago area? I think that was a very nice gesture. The first car was for a mare that had cancer in her head/sinus. It was really sad.


My 18 yo OTTB had EPM complicated by the effects of all the steriods he had been given on the track (he raced fairly successfuly until he was 8). He was having seizures and falling down (at 17.1 that’s pretty scary), so we decided to put him down. After making a bunch of calls, we euthanized him and had him cremated. But in Greenwich, CT, which is where he was living at the time, you aren’t allowed to have the ashes. I live in NY and so did my vet at the time, but the local laws and the state laws were very strict. I wish I had a tack box table to remember him by.

As to hunts and horses, many hunts can’t take horses anymore because laws have changed. I think Radnor still does, but that may have changed recently. My godmother gave Radnor her horse’s body a couple of years ago. He had hunted forever so it was a fitting end.

but that hasn’t stopped me yet. All the oldsters are buried on the farm. Now that we have the new watershed rules, I’ll probably have to be a bit more stealthy about it.

I see you are from Illinois. I had a wonderful experience with my vet doing a donation to the University of IL also. In fact, I keep the note from the school in my jewelry box. We had to put down my old (30+) short stirrup pony when I was in college. She had a stroke in the middle of winter and we found her very sick and lifeless in her stall. We last checked the barn at 8pm, so she went down sometime in the night before the 7am feeding. Although it was a terrible loss, it was comforting to know that part of the euthanasia $ would be going to the vet school for equine study. And back on topic… we called for a rendering service (we would have buried her had the weather conditions been in our favor).

I couldn’t possibly send Paddy to a rendering place. I don’t have enough land to bury him right now either. I would like to have him cremated when the time comes. Even if I only keep a small bit of his ashes, I like the idea better of him not being in a landfill or animal food.

(You can tell I’m not in the horse “Business”.)

doc ellen, you know regarding the price per pound theory. I never have known exactly where one would go to exercise that option. I am guessing some grotesque killer plant.

When I was looking at Mac, my OTTB, he was 9 yrs old, not running well(hindsight as it is duh?) 16 hands, paid 1200.00 for him. Figured at some rate per pound at the time I could recapture that expense. He did have a heart murmur and the vet wouldn’t pass him as totally sound, but said some do fine with murmurs.

Of course I had to be kidding myself, and really rationalizing getting back in to horses to my husband with that line of thought. There is noway on this planet I could ultimately take the killer plant route. Spending one week, shoot one minute, with any animal, and they are mine to forever spoil.

I had him for about 6 months when he went through a bad colic. Never really came back after that. We exhausted all methods of diagnosis locally. My vet suggested taking him to Phoenix for an EKG and we did an ultrasound of his heart. It was fascinating watching the technology at work. However we found he had a bad tricuspid valve.

Well when you are an aged gelding, that does not give you a bright future. The vet had me treating him with Lasix for the edema, and Digoxin for his heart condition. I treated him for about 3 - 4 days.

And then a light came on, “What the H— am I doing this for?” Mac has no future. As I would walk down the aisle to his corral I saw this very old man shuffling down the hall of the nursing home. He certainly did not look content. Again their was NO treatment that would reverse his condition. So at least give him the diginty we are allowed to give animals.

I am very thankful to have had a local vet that was so in tune with my decision. I know if given the choice again, of having a horse that is no longer SERVICEABLY sound, I would give them diginty in their death.

It was a very difficult decision, but I believe it is as much our responsibility in caring for them both in their joyful lives as in their diginified death.

I have since gone through one other horse, traded him though, for the most wonderful gelding, that made all the pain and sorrow worth waiting for him. See photo below.

Thank you for bring this topic up. I don’t think people are aware of the options when this time comes.

A couple of years ago we had to put down a mare with a broken leg in April.

Our vet, who is a whip with Casanova, said that the hunt club was not an option then because it was too warm.

The implcation was that, in the middle of the winter when spoilage is not an issue, the hunt would take a horse carcass.

I have unfortunatly had 3 horses die in the last year. The first, a yearling filly was found dead in the field (her pasture buddy, another yearling had jumped the three board fence, she must have panicked and ran into a two inche splinter that had broken off when the other hit the fence, it was dark and we found her shortly after( within a half hour), she was burried on the farm. We had an old very unsound mare put down in october (also burried) then a month ago one of my show jumpers broke her leg jumping in the ring ( over a tiny jump w/ a working student) she was put down and burried.

Thanks for the replies to my morbid question. Hope to hear from more regions of North America (don’t want to leave out the Canadians!)- or anywhere else, for that matter.

Cactuskate, I’m sorry about your OTTB. Kudos to you and your vet for how you handled things. But can I ask (sensitively!) about the money-back-per-pound thing. Is that a viable option for folks in your area? I am often told that disposal issues are a regional thing.

Maybe more common to ship them off in Texas, since the slaughter plants are there?

Again, many thanks for tolerating this touchy subject…

Valley Protien has cost me $150 each time. I doubt that Taffy being half sized will be half price. They did come in the sleet/snow though. Got to be grateful for the little details.

The “dead stock” truck will come and pick them up to take to rendering plant. My vet arranges for them to be there at the same time the horse is euthanized so there is no delay in removal. We are not charged for this…at least not a few years ago anyway.