Working with and being so engrossed in all things equine, you get to know quite a few horses over the years – whether personally or through regular online and e-mail updates from proud riders and caretakers. And each year we say farewell to some of these cherished friends as they make their way across the Rainbow Bridge. Regardless of how they leave us, it is never easy, so doing or making something to help you remember your horse can be very therapeutic.
Physically grounded memories
Many people still want to keep their horses close to them in some form after they have passed. There are an abundance of ways to cherish the memory of your horse, and everyone goes about it in a slightly different way depending on their personal grief and remembrance processes. It could be a horseshoe in a drawer or a show halter on a coat hook, a dress sheet won at a show draped over a couch, or a personal creation displayed in a frame.
That physical item can act as a vessel for memories and stories, to be shared with others when they ask about it or simply to be recalled in your mind whenever you look at it.
I discovered horsehair pottery a few years ago while visiting a friend. She had a set of ornamental clay vases with intricate black designs on them that looked like rising smoke. Upon asking about them, I learned she had had one done for each of her horses, using strands of hair from their tails.
Potters make horsehair pottery by taking a clay creation of your choosing (everything from custom bowls and vases to pendants and frames) and laying strands of the horse’s hair against the clay when it’s at a certain temperature. The clay absorbs the carbon from the strands of hair in a unique design. It can be a neat way to bring your horse into your home.
Shadow boxes can be easily designed with a kit, or to your own specifications by a framing and art store. You can include photos, shoes, ribbons or souvenirs from memorable shows and events, stall or halter plaques, rhythm beads that your horse wore, bridle charms – whatever you feel best represents your horse and the time you spent together.
As with anything, don’t get too caught up in trying to fit your horse’s whole life into a “box” – sometimes people get terribly worried and upset that they won’t be able to do justice to their horses. Put together a collaboration of your favorite things that, when you look at them, will bring you a warm feeling and hopefully a smile to your face, however small at first.
Putting together a scrapbook of the time you spent with your horse can be therapeutic for some, and painful for others. Take your time with it, and if you find it too difficult, there is no reason you can’t put it aside for a little while and come back to it at a later date.
You can include photos, horse show results or brochures, riding journal entries, articles in which your horse is mentioned, small souvenirs from shows or events, poems and quotes, lyrics from “your” theme song(s), DVDs with video coverage, drawings or sketches, certificates of accomplishment or registration, photos of offspring – anything you want to remember him by!
If you are someone who already keeps a scrapbook of your horse’s endeavors, it can be a nice thing to have after his passing when you want to take a trip down memory lane.
While ribbons can seem superficial to some, for others they commemorate an exciting accomplishment or obstacle overcome, a fun adventure, new friends made, and more. Ribbons are a symbol of hard work, sweat, blood and tears of frustration turned to joy and accomplishment.
If you have such ribbons sitting around in boxes and want to display them more prominently, there are people who will turn them into a beautiful and intricate ribbon quilt, weaving those memories together and allowing you to keep them very close to you. It can be nice to sit with the quilt on a dreary day and remember each class or event.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words – and having a portrait done of your horse can be a quiet way to remember him and keep him prominent in your life and home or barn.
Take some time to research artists – each will have an individual style, and eventually you will find one whose work best resonates with your particular horse’s energy, thus doing him justice in the way you would like best.
Horsehair jewelry is becoming increasingly popular. With strands of your horse’s mane and/or tail, jewelry artists can create beautiful and intricate designs in the form of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, broaches or rings – basically anything you desire. The pieces can include pendants, charms, or stones that might spell out your horse’s name. It’s a nice way to remember your horse and keep a physical part of him close to you 24/7.
Diamonds are forever
Three-day event rider Ronald Zabala-Goetsche made the news recently when he spoke about his plans to have a diamond made from the mane of his horse, Che Mr. Wiseguy. There are a few companies that can do this for you, using either hair from your horse’s mane, or his ashes should you choose to have your horse cremated.
In nature, diamonds are created by exposing carbon to heat and pressure over millions of years, resulting in a stone that can then be cut to brilliance. Laboratory diamonds emulate this process in a much shorter timeframe, using the purified carbon from your horse’s hair or ashes. Most diamonds turn out a canary or topaz color, with some additional more expensive color options like blue and red.
A donation in memory of your horse to your favorite rescue organization, veterinary centre, research centre or university, is always appreciated and allows your horse to live on in the other equine lives he has helped to better.
For horses that were active in a particular discipline, some people like to sponsor a class at one of the horse shows they used to attend with their horse. Memorial classes can be a nice way to have your horse’s memory live on while nurturing the sport he loved and supporting future horse and rider teams. Be sure to get a photo of the winning horse-rider combination for your horse’s scrapbook!
While personal memories are forever, it can be nice to have something physical to remember your equine companion, something you can pull out as you share stories about your horse with other equestrians or family members, or as a way to simply continue giving him a physical space within your barn or home.