Home » How To Dispose Of A Dead Horse: Everything You Need To Know

How To Dispose Of A Dead Horse: Everything You Need To Know

Disposing of a deceased horse is not something that crosses most horse owner’s mind until the moment happens.  As a horse owner myself, I can tell you that dealing with your beloved horse after they die is an emotional and stressful time.  Not only have you just lost an animal that you love, you now have to figure out what to do with it.

So how do you dispose of a dead horse?

There are several options for disposing of a deceased horse.  The cheapest option is to bury or compost the horse on your own property.  You can also transport it yourself to a landfill or rendering plant.  However, the easiest way to dispose of a dead horse is to hire a professional carcass removal company. 

To help save you heartache and stress, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about disposing of a dead horse.  

What happens after your horse dies

Whether you were there to say goodbye or you came across an unpleasant surprise, you now have a heavy body lying on the ground that needs to be taken care of.  You can’t just pick it up like a smaller pet.  A backhoe, heavy equipment or a winch system is required to move a horse.  A large truck or trailer is also needed to haul it away if you are not keeping the body on your property.

Is it illegal to bury your horse on your own property

There are two options for disposing of horse carcasses on-site.  The first is burial.  This requires space and equipment to dig the hole.

If you plan on burying your horse on your own property, it is much easier and less stressful to have everything ready to go if the situation allows before the vet arrives.  Emotions will be raw enough and having to see your horse’s body laying there while the hole is dug can make it even worse.

Burying a horse on your property is legal in most states but local ordinances may have their own restrictions.  Make sure you find out before you start digging.  Setback distances, hole depth requirements, timing restrictions (usually 24 to 72 hours after death) and ground water contamination issues must be accounted for.  

If you don’t own the proper equipment to dig the hole (at least 7 feet wide and 9 feet deep) and move the carcass, it can be expensive to rent or hire out. 

You can rent the required equipment from United Rentals or other local rental companies.  You can expect to pay the following daily rates from United Rentals:

  • Mini-Excavator:  $300 – $500
  • Backhoe Loader: $460

The mini-excavator only has a scoop, which is great for digging, but will take longer to fill the hole back in.  The backhoe loader has a scoop for digging and a push bar for back filling the hole.

Can you compost a dead horse 

Static-pile composting is a cheap, environmentally acceptable and convenient way of disposing of horses on-site.  The biggest obstacle for some is overcoming the knowledge that their horse is laying inside the pile.  This visual may be too painful for some owners.   

Static-pile composting is a low cost option and consists of completely covering the horse with a carbon-based material like wood chips or sawdust and letting it sit untouched for 6 to 12 months.  After one year, only a few large bones may remain and can be thrown away.  The compost pile can be turned, combined with other compost or used as fertilizer.

The resulting compost should not be used in vegetable gardens but works well in flower beds and can be spread in non-food crop fields. 

Static-pile composting is a great option for large farms or horse owners who have enough space to leave the pile out of the way and undisturbed.  Livestock composting is legal in all states except California and you should contact your state’s Department of Agriculture for specific details and restrictions.

If this seems like a good option for you, make sure to also read this comprehensive guide on horse composting by Cornell Waste Management Institute. 

If you are really considering composting, you are going to need about 10 yards of wood chips but before you go out and buy them, which will cost you around $30 a yard, check to see if you can get some for free.  Check with local tree services or your electric company to see if they have any you can have.  These services are constantly needing to get rid of wood debris and mulch.   

There is also a company called ChipDrop that delivers wood chips to gardeners for free.  You can’t request a specific amount or delivery time but it may be an option if you know you will be needing wood chips in the near future and you can’t find other free sources.  Check out their website to see if it is available in your area.

Off-site options for disposing of horse carcasses

If you can’t or don’t want to bury or compost your horse’s carcass on your property, it must be hauled away.  There are three options for you to consider.  For each option you can personally transport the carcass or hire someone to pick it up for you.  

However, some horse removal services decide where they will take your horse, most likely the landfill or rendering plant, based on contracts they have setup.  This option requires the least amount of work or stress on your part.  If removing the carcass as fast and easily as possible is your goal, then hire a local horse pickup service.

Option #1 – Landfills

Waste Management allows the disposal of horse carcasses in some of their larger landfill facilities across the country.  To see if one near you accepts horses, call (800) 963-4776.  

These landfills require 10 ton minimums.  Of course, your horse doesn’t weigh that much, but you still have to pay that minimum weight fee which runs about $400 ($40 per ton).  You can also ship the horse carcass to the Waste Management facility in a rail car that they provide but that will cost you at least $1100.     

If you transport the carcass yourself, you must be able to unload it from your truck or trailer.  You can rent a dump trailer from United Rentals for $190 a day.  

Option #2 – Rendering Plants

Renders have been a long-time option for disposing of deceased horses.  There are around 300 plants operating in the United States currently.  Horse products are utilized in a number of ways but make sure to confirm that the facility you want to use takes horses.  It would be unfortunate to drive all the way there to be turned down.  Keep in mind the use of de-wormers and euthanasia agents may prevent them from taking the carcass.  The drop off fee ranges from $75 to $250.

Option #3 – Burial and Cremation

Believe it or not, there are horse cemeteries throughout the Unites States.  Your horses can still be buried even if you don’t want them on your own property.  This is the most expensive way to dispose of a horse but some people choose go this route.  Fees are dependent on each company and the options/services you choose.  It can run upwards of $2000.

Cremation is also an option and you can usually decide if you take your horse’s ashes home or not.  You pay per pound and can expect to pay at least $1000 for a standard size horse cremation.

Burial and cremation entities may also offer pickup services if you can’t transport the carcass yourself.  Pickup fees start at several hundred dollars and can rack up higher than the cremation itself if you are not in close proximity to the crematory.  

You can find a list of equine burial and crematory vendors on the Humane Society’s website which I discuss below. 

Who do you call to pick up a dead horse

I recommend you keep a list of contacts and phone numbers handy before you need them.  The Humane Society has put together a comprehensive list of vendors that provide services for euthanizing, burying, cremating or rendering horses across the country.  It is broken down by each state and includes regulations regarding the topic and phone numbers to call for each service.  

As a horse owner, you most likely have a local veterinarian already taking care of your horse and will use them for any euthanizing needs.  Make sure to ask them for local contacts for carcass disposal that aren’t listed on the Humane Society’s website.  This is the most common source you will use.

How much does it cost for horse removal

There’s nothing worse than going through the rough ordeal of euthanizing your horse and then finding out how much everything is going to cost you.  The cost of each disposal option is a deciding factor for most.  The idea of cremating your favorite trail buddy might be your favorite but the hefty price tag may not be feasible.  Exact pricing between vendors and services is subject to change but the following table gives ballpark estimates to help you decide which option is right for you.

ServiceCostCost Breakdown
Home Burial$300 – $500 Equipment Rental
Static Pile CompostingFree – $300Wood Chips
Landfill (you deliver)$400 – $590Trailer Rental, Landfill Fee
Landfill (shipping)$1100Rail Shipping, Landfill Fee
Rendering$250 – $440Trailer Rental, Drop off Fee
Carcass Removal$150 – $400Removal Fee
Cremation$1200 – $1850Cremation (per pound), Pickup Fee
Burial$2000Burial fees

How do they haul away your horse

This part gets hard.  Not everyone is going to be able to watch their beloved horse get loaded into the truck.  From personal experience, I choose to watch so I could have some closure.  

The removal service I used brought a large dump trailer with a winch.  The trailer tilted up to bring the back end closer to the ground and they pulled my horse slowly into the trailer by his back legs with the winch.  

If you do choose to watch this process, don’t be startled if there are other horses or livestock already in the trailer.  You may not be their first stop of the day.

Saying goodbye

Sadly, it cost me more to put down one of my horses than it did to buy him.  On that day, there was only one person offering horse disposal services in my area.  As I had no other fast option, I paid his $350 fee.  

Add that to the astronomical emergency visit vet bill and like I said, more money was shelled out for my horse dying than his purchase to begin with.  Hopefully, you can avoid this scenario by being better prepared with all your available options before the time comes.