Susanne van Leeuwen

26 August was the day for us that no horse owner wants to face. On this day, we received the dreadful call informing us that the great time our beloved Oscar had in the rest home of the Lubbers family had ended. We no longer had Okje after at least 31 years.

We nevertheless had to face the fact that this days dawns once for everyone. Naturally we were stunned. You cannot decide on how or when. Although there is never a good way or a time for the death of a loved one, we could not have prepared for our Okje’s passing in a better way. He was still enjoying the beautiful summer; he was healthy with his familiar nice fat belly on his thin spaghetti legs and looked good in his always-shiny summer coat.

He therefore did not suffer for long, and never again did he have to suffer stiff legs and sore hooves due to the cold and rainy weather. The biggest decision
was already taken out of our hands. We did not have to deliberate or rush to Drenthe; Oscar suffered a stroke and simply keeled over in the pasture.

He did lie there helplessly for long; the veterinarian was called in immediately and Oscar peacefully passed away surrounded by his friends in the pasture and in the presence of the people who had lovingly cared for him in his final years.

And then?

This was followed by a part that we could indeed plan for. What then happens to your comrade, for whom you have only ever wished the best of the best in life? After all, you had good reason to stable him with the Lubbers family, where the straw in the stables is replaced every day, where he could graze to his heart’s content, or where, just like Oscar, he was put in the pasture for overweight horses to protect him against laminitis. To you, just like to us, one thing is for certain; your beloved horse is not going to the butcher. No dog or cat food may naturally be made of him, surely not if you also keep cattle. Unfortunately, you may not bury your horse in the back garden.

Fortunately, there is now an alternative, the Westerhout Horse Crematorium in Beverwijk. There is also a real need for this, as the most animal crematoria are simply too small. Because of the size of your horse, there can be some glitches in the way of a dignified farewell. Nevertheless, this crematorium has found a dignified solution. What I find very special is transportation by trailer with a plate on which you can place your horse and slide the carcass onto the trailer. No hassle with forklifts or pulling ropes.

You do not have to worry about the costs, once you see what you get in return. You really hope that your horse lives forever, and you would pay all the money in the world for that. However, when he dies, you can give him and yourself a dignified farewell for the amount equal to the cost of stabling for a few months. It is worth it.

The crematorium is characterised by the personal attention and the knowledge of how to arrange the send-off. Oscar’s care by the Lubbers family transferred seamlessly to care by the crematorium’s owners. I was struck by the lovely farewell room where Oscar was lying on layer of golden straw with newly styled hooves, as if he simply had gone to lie down in his own stable. These are real people to whom you could have entrusted your horse’s life while alive. They are inspired in their work by the love they have for their own horses.

You can ask them anything and discuss all your needs with them. For example, you can have the remaining ash scattered at sea. However, we wanted to take our Okje home, because he could not swim at all, and he was sometimes even scared of a big puddle. We also have a piece of land at home and when the weather improves, we will set him free there, because there is nothing better than having your own horse back at home. Moreover, there on the perennial grasslands, he gets his own apple tree and weeping willow (he loved them both).

Goodbye Okje, Goodbye loyal friend.