Aboveground Burial for Horses

Disposing of a horse’s body is becoming more challenging with tightening burial and landfill regulations and fewer rendering plants. Learn about an alternative solution.

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Above-Ground Burial for Horses
Where permitted by jurisdictions, proper carcass composting offers an environmentally responsible way to dispose of dead horses. | Photo: Alayne Blickle, Horses for Clean Water

While attending the 2019 Best Horse Practices Summit in Maine, I had the opportunity to tour a unique equine business called Compassionate Composting. This company deals exclusively with composting dead horses.

Before you wrinkle your nose and turn away, consider that many places across the country have fewer and fewer options for dealing with a horse’s body after the animal has died. Rendering companies are under more scrutiny to reject carcasses of animals  euthanized using barbiturates such as sodium pentobarbital, which is the most common choice for euthanizing horses. Many states or municipalities don’t allow ground burials due to water quality concerns. If you prefer sending your horse’s body to a rendering service, among the remaining choices are euthanasia via gunshot or captive bolt. You could also find a way to transport the horse’s 1,000-pound body to a landfill for disposal.

Or, you could consider what is referred to as an aboveground burial—the composting of a horse’s body. Composting is a biological process that aerobically (requiring oxygen) breaks down carbon-based organisms, or anything that used to be living, and turns it into a healthy, finished material that has beneficial uses on pastures and land. The process is cleaner than anaerobic decomposition (not requiring oxygen) that occurs at landfills, which is very slow and creates the methane (an environment-damaging greenhouse gas) and other foul odors

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Written by:

Alayne Blickle, a lifelong equestrian and ranch riding competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award-winning, internationally acclaimed environmental education program for horse owners. Well-known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approach, Blickle is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners since 1990 teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction, firewise, and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Blickle and her husband raise and train their mustangs and quarter horses at their eco-sensitive guest ranch, Sweet Pepper Ranch, in sunny Nampa, Idaho.

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