End of life Doula - for your horse!

This has had me thinking for a couple of days, I get the whole Doula thing, but not totally sure what benefit it would be to a horse, or any other animal? My personal thoughts, if possible our animals should pass surrounded by peace, love, and if sent on their way, competence from the dispatcher.

It maybe sours my thoughts a little, that the person offering this is also offering “intuitive distant healing” I have seen this person handling their own horse and worry somewhat about their intuition in person, let alone at a distance. Mind you I am also wondering if there is a difference between distance healing, and distant healing?

Side note, my vet is arms deep in calving season here, says she is a cow doula for birthing…my creative side is designing her sign!

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Oh dear. More animal communicator bs. Long distance anything is an obvious hoax.

If you can control your own emotions enough you should be present for your animals euthanasia. If you must, step out of the room as they go down. No stranger will give your animal the comfort and trust you can.


Wait what? You have someone near you offering to be an End of Life Doula for horses?

I mean, ok, I can see it to a degree.

The end of life services I have had to provide as a barn owner (I do not do the actual euth, just the preparation) has involved extensive counseling of the horse owner prior to the planned euthanization, preparation of the site and help with arrangements, consultation with the vet and pickup “guy”, and after-euth counseling.

I do this for free. It’s more work than it sounds. Loads of emotional labor on my part. I sort of viewed it like the better experience I had with Laps of Love than my other dog euth experiences.

But I can’t imagine someone doing this or any other service like it at or from a distance.


Yeah, I would have paid someone local who does this as a business to coordinate [waves hands] all the things. I did not need counseling, but man it was no fun when I had to leave a message at the vet’s office, or see the call come in when I knew it was going to be about scheduling the event. If someone made that all go away and let me know when it was happening, and even showed up that day to just be there in case I couldn’t handle it, that would have been super. Instead, I did all the coordination, and held the rope, alone with the vet.


Me too. This is what I also do. I board retirees so I’ve been at a lot of horse deaths. Many owners are absentee, so it’s all on me, which can be hard. Or they are not absentee, which also can be hard because then I’m comforting them too.

End of life is the only drawback to doing retirement boarding. The rest is great – sweet horses and nice owners! They are a self selecting group.


Good points. I’m not sure I’d call this doula though.


I totally get having someone to organize all the things, that’s a side I hadn’t thought of. I could see a market for that, but I agree that doesn’t sound like a Doula.

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Hm. (I had to look it up.) Maybe?

a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to their client before, during and shortly after [event]

The “distance healing” mentioned in the original post is something else, and I would expect a doula to be physically present, that’s kind of the POINT. So I think the person being discussed is misusing the term.

after administration of the drug in all cases our vets have then taken the lead rope over asking us to remain clear, we have had five euthanized…only one was preemptive

I’ve been at a few euthanisias of our own horses. The first couple were at the vet right in their parking lot and the vet walked up and just gave him the shot and the horse fell to the ground. I found that very hard to watch, just seemed so uncaring. The last one was right here in our pasture. This vet gave him just enough to lay him down and he slowly crumpled to the ground. The vet said to talk to him as he could still hear our voices. So I said my goodbyes through my tears and the vet gave him the final shot. My DH was there but offered very little in the way of comfort. He went off to work or fishing or something while I waited for the truck to come pick him up.

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Most especially coordinating to dispose of the deceased. The rest is not exactly hard. Not sure what a “doula” would do.

I’d settle for an excavator.

That’s nice, I’ve held the ropes for two thus far this year (boarding barn).

The first experience was horrible. I was so mad at that vet I could have screamed. He gave the elderly horse so much sedative that he was having trouble standing, and the old vet walked away, leaving three of us with two lead ropes trying to hold the horse up.

I had to send someone to ask if it was ok if he went down, since the old vet was back at his truck.

The second one was much better. It was a vet that we use personally, and I held the rope.

Right - that was my understanding of a Doula.

It’s not a doula to the horse themselves, any more than a birthing doula’s client is the baby. It’s a Doula to the horse owner having to euth them.

It wouldn’t be a bad business, but I’m sure it would involve a ton of travel.

I’ve also held the rope throughout the process, though that included a conversation with the vet before injecting in which we ran through the process, established where the vet and I would stand, how we hoped to encourage the horse to go down safely, etc.

The one time I didn’t hold the rope was when I put my mare down at a veterinary hospital. They led her into a padded room, laid her down with a sedative, and then let me come in to say my final goodbyes and to be there at her head while they gave the final injection.

I agree that the owner should be there if they can stand it emotionally. While my mare was cared for by a lovely team of vets, vet techs and assistants, she was looking back for me when they started leading her towards the room (and I was finishing up the paperwork with one of the vets).


This is what my vet does - he always walks the owner through the entire process, both before and during. He knows I know exactly what will happen by now, but he still does it, and I find it very comforting. Like Clanter’s vet, he has me hold the lead rope for the initial sedative, then administers the euthanasia shot and takes the lead from me so he can help guide the horse down. When it comes to the small animals, we can choose whether to be there through the entire process or not. I can’t imagine not being there for my animals, though. I know by the time the final shot is given they are asleep, but it doesn’t matter.


Our retired vet wrote an excellent book on euthanasia that is available on Amazon: Goodbye Old Friend, David A Jefferson, DVM. He retired after 50 years in practice. There wasn’t a book on this topic. It is about 75 pages with a few pages on each topic. Everything is real-life experiences with clients and their horses. It includes the suggestion he was given by a client decades ago. Allow other horses to come and sniff and stay as long as they want.

I’ve been there when quite a few school horses have been put down so I knew what it was. When my vet told me it was time we talked about what I had a difficult time with. I set a date for a week later.

I asked the BO to scatter a bed of hay on the ground so he would fall on that, not dirt or grass. The sound of him going down was tough. She sedated him so he looked like he was snoozing. Then she gave him a shot so he went down but much more gently. A few minutes later she gave him the final shot. I hate the head lying on the ground with the eyes open and you can see the whites (he was a Paint). You can’t close their eyes but the tech gently massaged the eyelids so it was half open. It worked and it helped.

He was a different sort of horse with a unique relationship with human beings. He was widely recognized in the area. I emailed many friends and word also spread quickly. I scheduled it for 4 pm so the now-young woman who rode him for 10 years, cantering of course, could be there.
About 2 dozen people came. They crushed me inside a giant hug twice and that really helped.

I had him composted instead of cremated I made the change after reading Dr J’s book. It is above ground burial. I couldn’t watch, but friends were there when he was moved into the trailer. They said it was gentle, quiet, they stroked and talked to him, and didn’t rush. They use a ramp that is used to move downed horses into a trailer. Compassionate Composting has a Facebook page, I think the webpage isn’t working. If you cremate you get a 50 lb box of ashes and it’s a couple of thousand dollars around here. Composting was $800 and I can get as much or as litttle as I want to take home. I’m going to get some compost to plant something - a tree maybe. A couple of other people also want some. I also found some tiny jars 1.5 oz for a few friends.

It was a little less traumatic than I thought it would be compared to what I have seen in the past. I"ve worked hard keeping an image of a living horse, handsome and full of energy. I have a great photo of us after our Century Ride. I hung it where I can see it anytime I need to. He is still with me, behind my left shoulder, since July.


we use a specialized crematory where we have a “family plot” for the horses, each time they have picked up one of our horses everything thing is very specifically said as to this is what I am going to do and this why, even though we have been through the process many times.

When we had the TB mare euthanized at the pickup the crematory wanted to know if she was the one that to buried next Mulligan… yes she is, they were inseparable in the pasture, the mare worshiped the ground he walked on


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When it came time for my first horse, who had been part of my life for thirty years, members of my family came from hundreds of miles away to say goodbye to him, and to be there for me. He was the last link to our childhoods.

My husband had arranged for an excavator to be present, from a local company who told him that they had just the right person to send for the job – a young man with a ranch background, who had experience burying several of his family’s horses.

My horse had never cared for a veterinarian, including this one - my sister made the remark at this time that he was a “one-woman horse” and disliked injections of any type, but he put up no resistance, just looked at me and let me know that he was ready to go. After the injections, we all sang hymns, then the excavator suggested lining the bucket of the equipment with a blanket before he carefully picked my horse up.

He asked me which way I wanted my horse to face in the grave – towards dawn, or towards sunset; I chose the direction that my gelding liked to look out into the far distance. The excavator gently lowered my horse, then we all tossed in flowers, and some favorite grasses and forbs, and the grave was filled with earth.

Later, we marked the site with large stones.

Losing a beloved animal is always difficult, but it gave me solace that my boy’s passing was handled as well as it could have been. I greatly appreciated family attending, my husband’s arranging for the burial, the caring professionalism of the veterinarian, and the unexpected kindness of the excavator.


While I’m sure many would utilize a service to handle all the details of euthanasia and burial/disposal, I firmly believe we owe it to our animals to stay with them until the end.
I stay with every single horse at our place whether it be a personal horse, boarder, broodmare etc. and prefer to hold the lead rope.
They know me and I am sure it provides comfort to them to be with a human they know as opposed to being abandoned.
It never gets easier to watch them hit the ground and take their last breath but I owe them that much.


I agree that someone that knows them should stay when possible. For horses that are boarded, that task can be handled by the barn owner/manager or staff, not necessarily the owner.

I boarded an elderly horse for a couple of years and his owner (who had been one of many making sure the old guy had a soft landing) insisted on being in charge of the euthanasia and held the rope. Not that I wanted to do it, but as she had only visited the horse a handful of times in the 2 years he lived here, it was an annoying gesture. The vet wasn’t even sure who she was.

I’d just like a burial doula. It’s a tough task to organize unless you know it’s coming. For an emergency or unexpected timing, it’s not easy.