Tips for Identifying and Managing Compassion Fatigue

Emotional highs and lows of caring for clients’ horses can take a toll

Farrier Takeaways

  • Burnout and compassion fatigue are often used interchangeably, but are two different experiences.
  • Trauma, even incidences observed second-hand, can build-up over time and lead to compassion fatigue.
  • Compassion fatigue can be managed through a support network and other strategies.

Missouri farrier Sydney Kotow remembers that one horse, that one case, above all others. Early in Kotow’s career, she was asked to work on Flash, a foundered horse. Kotow also holds a Bachelor of Science in equine nutrition and remembers thinking that through her nutrition and farrier expertise she could save the horse, or at least make it more comfortable.

She soon discovered the horse’s owner was unwilling to make changes and would not consider euthanasia. The coffin bone rotated and infection set in. Kotow trimmed the horse every 2 weeks until the emotional burden and her own risk of injury became too great. The distress of the tragic case weighed on her. When the client called to say the horse had died, she felt a huge weight lifted.

“We all get that horse that we put every single thing we have into it and it fails,” she says. “We think about that case, that horse and how we got fired or how the horse died.”

Providing care for someone else’s animal can be gratifying, heartbreaking and downright exhausting. Without an awareness of how the emotional highs and lows of the job can affect your long-term well-being, there is always a risk for life getting out of balance.


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Katie navarra

Katie Navarra

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer who draws from her experiences owning and showing horses, and inter­viewing the industry’s leading pro­fessionals.

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