MY frustration is the perception that somehow putting an old horse down is cruel, and in particular, the perception that putting a bullet in a horse's head to put it down is cruel.
The problem is that some people do it to be cheap or stupid. They use the wrong kind of gun, they miss, whatever. It's a viable option for someone skilled, but it's not something to be attempted by Joe Schmoe.
It's also done IN PLACE OF getting a vet's opinion first, as in the owner was too cheap to see what was really wrong. Or it was done IN PLACE OF exploring other options, as in they're too cheap and lazy to do anything else. I think that's where the cringing comes from when bullet topic comes up.
The worst example here in Utah, about 10 years ago (I did not see it first hand but instead read the press accounts and chatted w/other vets at the same practice), where a filly was put down (theoretically, anyway) and the theoretical carcass was hauled to the landfill and dumped in accordance with county regulations. Problem was, the filly was not dead and struggled in the landfill to regain her footing. Really fortunate that the landfill personnel saw this and got the vet out asap to put her down 'again.'
But that doesn't mean all vet euthanasias are bad. It means one vet didn't do his job and check for vital signs before leaving. I'm usually the person at the Rescue who has to have horses put down, and I haven't yet seen a chemical euth go bad.
I could cite the news story of a cop who came across an injured horse along the road, I believe hit by a car. He was not trained how to shoot a horse, so he shot it in the chest. It didn't die. He shot it a bunch of times before it finally stopped moving.
So there are ways either method could be "bad".
Birth and death are those things that are often painful events, even when we try hard to make it as peaceful as possible.
He's not my horse, but I see him nearly everyday. He's an elderly, nearly white Peruvian with arthritic hocks. He can lay for hours in the sun. He does better when he has to move around. His owner is retired on a fixed income, and when board recently increased, we all worried about what would happen to him.
The BO's husband separates his feed into several piles so he has to move around. People hand-walk him. The young students groom him regularly, and one very light girl rides him at least once a week. Once he's warmed up, he moves pretty well. The BO gives him extra supplements and his hooves trimmed every 4 weeks, which she pays for. He gets extra shavings and extra treats. People at the barn fret over this guy. Some of the co-conspirators have offered to help with his veterinary care or costs, but so far, the BO has refused. She's known as tough and no-nonsense, which she is, but there's a fiercely loyal side of her that is committed to old horses and keeping them well.
So I want to hear about the old horses you decided to keep, and how you are providing for them. The lame horses, the crazy horses, but I want to hear good stories, even if it is that you took one and had it put down so it wouldn't end up tortured. I think we all need to know that there are people out there doing some good!!
We run a farm that is full of old or lame horses (most of our clients are retirees)! Their owners are to be commended for doing the right thing by them. They know what the alternative would be for many of these horses. For some of the owner's, full care retirement is a financial stretch but they sacrifice much personally to be able to keep their horse comfortable and safe. These horse's have great lives that will have dignified endings. They don't deserve any less......
My guy had been off the track about six months when I got him. He's just not going to cut it as a eventer was the reasoning I got from his former owner. Her loss was my gain. My project pony turned into a great hunter, for about two-three months. Then he went lame. After xrays and ruling out every other option he was scheduled for surgery to remove a bone chip. His prognossis was good so I was told to give him away. I just couldn't do it. Even though my dreams were going up in smoke I stuck by him. I dug myself deep into debt but he got his surgery and came out lame. Everyone was shocked by the ammount of damage in that joint, mostly caused by injections. A estranged relative was so deeply touched that I had done the right thing by this gentle giant that no one else wanted that they wrote me a big check. It was enough to not only pull me back in the green but get him settled into his new life. As my best bud. He's worth his weight in gold. On his good days we go for trail rides or he gives walk trot lessons to friends. (no matter how hard they kick or cluck he just turns his head looks at me "Mom am I suppossed do what I think they want? No? Okay" and plods along, until I give the okay or they ask correctly) He loves to come out and play. If run out of time and only work his "brother" he gets jealous and beats his "brother" up! He's currently 7yrs old and for as long as his quality of life is good he has a home with me. When the time comes with many tears, kisses and nickermakers I will help him cross the Rainbowbridge with the help of our vet.
Solo is my 13 yr old OTTB. Found him through animal control 4 years ago - being starved by owner since she was terrified of him. Brought him home, all the wanted food! Noticed he was a bit off in the front. 2 yrs later, he had good weight but not sound. I decided he would be the buddy to my other horse who never could get anyone to play with him except Solo. This year, suddenly sound. Want to run and jump. Started riding him again in February, was placing in the top 5 Hunters and jumpers ( third in his first ever CT event!) from April - july. Judges even told me he had a lot of potential. Went to Jumper show in August, did well then I saw the stiffness again a few days later. Had vet out - Matching bone spurs on his navicular bone both fronts. Been there for very long time, probably result of early racing.
He is now retired again from jumping and for good. Will forever be my walk / trot horse around the neighborhood and he LOVES trail rides. Has the happiest look and always wants to be first. My dream of having a good hunter, no more at the moment. Need to wait for baby TB to grow up. I do remembering saying to my instructor while cooling Solo off this last February ' If I could just do a couple of shows on him, I would be happy' . He must of heard because he did give me a couple of great shows! He will stay with me, I will not sell or give him away just because he has issues.
I mentioned Z earlier, but I also have Candi. Candi is a 22 y.o. appy mare that I picked up at auction a few years ago. I went to pull an OTTB broodie and lost my heart to the lovely appaloosa mare who went into the ring and looked just like a TB in an appy suit to me. She was blind in one eye, but was a beautiful mover. The 'dealer' bid $60 and when no one else bid, I took her home for $70.
My younger daughter loved her immediately, but I wanted an easier life for the sweet old gal. I found a wonderful home for her with a COTH'er in FL. Everything was great until I got a panicked call that Candi was totally blind. I went and picked her up, took her to UGA, where the opthamologist said there was no hope. She was totally blind (no light, no dark, no shadows, nothing) and always would be. So, less than three months after I bought her for $70, I paid a lot of money (I couldn't bring myself to add it up) for vets and medicine and eventually surgery to remove an eyeball.
Through it all, Candi was absolutely wonderful! She's a special mare. I write about her fairly often on here, and she amazes me. She lives out 24/7 in a big pasture or small paddock. Both have trees and she has some sort of internal map or radar that lets her get around without bumping into things. The guys who work at the barn swear she can see. They see her trot to the fence and turn on her own before she runs into it. How could she be blind?
She learned early to "whoa" quickly when I tell her to and she also learned the "up" command that is useful for loading in the trailer, dealing with tricky ground, or other step ups. She does load in the trailer - more easily than some of my other beasties. She also still enjoys the occasional trail ride.
I am constantly amazed at the people who know about and appreciate that mare. My farrier, the vets and techs, the folks at the barns down the road, even the farm owner's (non-horsey) friends know about Candi. Several times I have been surprised to be recognized as "the blind Appaloosa's owner". She's very attached to me, and it's a big responsibility, but it's one I'm honored to have
I guess I should mention a bit about her history.... I was able to track down her papers and she's well bred. It turns out she's actually 3/4 TB and was born in California. She ended up with some folks in Florida who bought her from a dealer for their kids. She was pregnant and shortly after they got Candi home her eye started to 'change' and she went kind of crazy (perhaps from the pain of ERU?! - stupid owners!) so they didn't ride her. She had a colt in July, but it died when it was three days old (they don't know why - again, stupid owners!). According to this lady, Candi went crazy again and 'took up with' their goat. They decided she was a nut and donated her to the place that held the auction where I picked her up in August. When I talked to the former owner she said she was glad I bought Candi because they worried about what would happen to her <sigh>
I cannot talk from personal experience as my horse is still fairly young but I have known some fabulous people who have provided awesome homes to elderly horses. I had leased out my husband's trail horse when he lost interest to a lesson student whose mom had expressed the wish to eventually buy him. When the lease ended, the leasees decided that they wanted something younger, which I mentioned to one of my friends when I was making arrangements to move him to where we lived. She told me about a friend of hers who was looking for a horse or two for her mom who had lost their last horse to old age a few years earlier. Long story (which I told on another thread) short he went to a wonderful family who took amazing care of him until he died of old age this spring. They are in the process of taking one of my friends horses to replace King because they just love to have a horse around the farm.
The same friend who put me in contact with King's people herself kept a retiree until she died. She had purchased the horse in 1998 when she was a sophomore or junior in highschool and kept her until she lost her to colic in 2005. By the time she died, we estimated the mare was 25-30 years old and was unable to be ridden due to a very arthritic knee. She was loved by pretty much everyone who knew her because in her showing years she was a pistol and then in her final years was an amazingly patient babysitter ride for kids (and only kids. If an adult aside from her owner sat on her that last year she turned into a maniac!) to putter around on. SHe was always wonderful to handle on the ground and was the one horse that I KNEW would do everything in her power to avoid hurting someone. She was the horse I used for kids to learn to groom because of that-- her legs could be covered in flies but if there was a kid evenly remotely nearby, she would not stomp. She was just a wonderful horse in many ways.