There may come a time where, as a horse owner, you will be faced with one of the hardest decisions you will ever make, and that is the decision to end your horses life. Such a decision does not come easily but it is the last ‘kind act’ you can do for your horse.


Whilst ideally we would all like our horses to pass away peacefully in their sleep; there are many reasons why we have to end suffering. As vets the following scenarios are encountered:

Acute Disease: such as sudden illness or injury, for example colic, fractures and wounds.

Chronic Disease: deterioration of conditions such as lameness, laminitis and organ failure.

Old Age: as horses get older they can lose weight, become stiff and sore when walking, struggling to get up when lying down and becoming quiet and miserable.

Economic Implications: when the horse is not insured to cover costs of treatment or where treatment is not feasible.


Having made the decision to put the horse to sleep you will need to consider what method you feel is right for you and your horse.
There are two methods a ‘free bullet’ or an injection: If a free bullet is the preferred method then you need to consider if you want the hunt or the vet to undertake this. 


In the case of an elderly or unwell horse, consider whether they can manage another winter, summer etc without compromising their quality of life. If you are able to, choose a time and day which can give you the chance to say ‘goodbye’.


;Ideally at home where the horse feels secure in a quiet open space, away from the public eye and an area that allows access for your horse to be collected by a bereavement service or the Hunt depending on the method used.

Do you want to be present? If you want to stay with your horse, you will be asked to stand away at a safe distance and approach only once told it is safe to do so; we generally advise against this.
What happens to your horse once they've gone? It is now illegal to bury horses therefore collection must be arranged via a local Hunt or a Bereavement Service; this can be arranged via your vet or you can make your own arrangements.

The Process

A consent form will be signed by the owner.

You can opt for sedation to be given if your horse is having an injection.

A catheter will be placed in the horse’s neck for ease of administration of the drug.

Your horse will be led to the area of choice and you will be asked to step away or you can leave if you do not want to watch.

Once the injection is complete the horse will stand for a short length of time before he falls to the ground. At this point the horse is not aware of what is happening. If a free bullet is being used they fall immediately.- When the horse is down and still, the vet will listen to the heart to confirm that it has stopped beating. 


During this difficult time horse owners can take comfort in their own memories or to have something tangible, you can elect to have your horse individually cremated by a Bereavement Service and have your horses ashes returned home.

A lock of horse hair can be turned into an item of jewellery or kept with your favourite photo.