Saying goodbye to your best friend will always be hard. But some careful planning may make things a little easier when the time comes. Thinking about how you would like to have your horse put to sleep and how you would like them to be taken care of afterwards is important in case the decision needs to be made unexpectedly. The majority of horses will be taken away by a fellmonger or fallen stock collector who collects farm animals as well as horses. There is also the option for collection by a crematorium. If you have your own land, you may want to bury your horse. However, despite it being your property, there are a few things that must be taken into consideration before choosing this option.

In Scotland and Wales, the rules specifically state that only a horse that is kept as a pet may be buried. However, all horses in England can be buried. 

Although horses are treated differently to farm animals, the horse should still only be buried if it is not carrying a disease that is harmful to humans, wildlife, or other animals that may graze the area. If there is any doubt, you should ask your vet for further information. They may advise against burial if there are any concerns.

Before deciding to bury your horse, you must contact your local council

They will then direct you to the trading standards and environmental agency departments who will discuss the rules and regulations that must be followed before the burial can take place. After a discussion with you, the local authority may look at plans of your land. As well as make a visit to the proposed burial site to ensure that the location is suitable. 

The most likely stipulations for the burial site will be that it is atleast:

  • 250 metres away from a water supply, this would include a well, borehole or natural spring
  • 30 metres away from a watercourse, such as a river or stream
  • 10 metres away from a field drain

These requirements are put in place to prevent contamination of water near to the burial site. Some medications that are used in horses can be detrimental to the surrounding environment if they enter the water. Therefore it is important that the requirements are adhered to.

When preparing the site, consider the work involved

There must be at least 1 metre of subsoil from the bottom of the hole. And there should also be at least 1 metre of soil covering the body. There also mustn’t be any water appearing at the bottom of the hole when it is first being dug. With all these requirements, it is likely that you will need to hire heavy machinery to create the burial site. This may be an added complication if the horse passes away suddenly.

Although these are the most likely restrictions to be put in place, your local authority may require extra rules to be followed. So it is worth contacting them in advance of any illness or injury to your horse so that an appropriate plan can be made. 

If you are struggling after your horse has gone and would like to speak to someone, your vet will be able to direct you to the bereavement support services that are available.

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