I am usually there for my animal's crossings. There was one where my horse was at New Bolton and I had to make the decision over the phone. This was back in the days before cell phones and I was a sales rep, so I had to make the call from a grocery store and I was crying so hard I could barely get the words out. The most important thing is that his suffering ended as quickly and quietly as possible.
I have been there for 2 horse crossings. Both have been quiet and pretty drama free. Even though I understand and am comfortable with the logic behind the process, I still sob each and every time. My vets have all been understanding about this. I think if you tend to be a hysterical cryer, maybe being there is not the best option.
I would suggest if you are not going to bury on your property, have the livestock person ready to pick up. When we had to euth my mare unexpectedly, it was around 6 hours before they were able to take her body. Because of our farm layout, I had to walk past that tarp multiple times that day and that was really hard.
(((((((hugs))))))) to you for doing what is right for your friend. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
I stay with them until the very end but also I am one that can stay calm for their sake. I was with all of mine except for my heart mare that passed away in the night fom natural causes . That was more heartbreaking for me because I was not by her side telling her it will be alright.... Everybody is different though and if you are more of a sensitive type then it might not be very reassuring for the horse and make them nervous.
I always stay with my animals when they are put to sleep. I feel that if I can be with them during all the good times then I owe it to them to be there in the end too, no matter how painful. I have had to put down two horses in the last two years and my vet heavily sedates them before the final injection. My horses didn't notice the mess I was making of myself and I was able to see them off without causing them stress.
I'm sorry about your upcoming loss and please know that if you choose to not be there, it does not make you a bad horse owner or mean you loved them any less than someone who stays with them.
The first consideration is your horse:
I think it is important the horse feel happy, soothed, and comfortable at the end, and that includes having a familiar, friendly, calm person there.
That person doesn't have to be you if you don't want to be there, but unless your horse is very familiar with and friendly with the vet, perhaps someone else could stand in as the friendly presence? if you board, most boarded out horses actually know the BO or the barn workers far better than they know their owner, and these people are more likely to remain calm than the owner, so someone in this category would work out well.
If there is no one else but you who can be the friendly presence, you'll need to buck up and do it, no matter how you actually feel inside. Pretend hard. Your horse needs you.
The second consideration is you- if you can provide for your horse's needs at the end, it then comes down to what you think would be best for you. Some people need to be there at the end, others would really prefer not.
I will actually be doing this in the next hour or so. There is no way I could leave them alone and let them go through this without me. I am their person....their everything...how could I leave them now?
The decision alone is the hardest part. And then after.... My mare is very sore now and is not living the life that she used to. The worst part of it for me is after...having to go through the whole moving the body and burial. That is very difficult. But I will do that for them and make sure it's done right as well. After all the kids she had for me I owe at least that to her.
I am sorry that this time has come but am glad you are able to do what is in the horse's best interest as far as quality of life. ((hugs))
Me? I like to be there. But I've stood in for friends before who just didn't feel like they could keep composure or were afraid of what they might see.
It's not always a real peaceful situation unfortunately. Most of the time, it's not too bad, but IME, it's not at all like euthing a dog or a cat on the "peacefulness" scale.
If you can remain calm until afterwards, and you're comfortable/prepared for what you may see, then by all means, be there. But if you feel like it's just too much for you, don't. I honestly think it's harder on the horses when their "person" is agitated/upset.
If you don't feel like you can be there, then do go spend a little quiet time first and say your goodbyes.
Again, I'm sorry that you're having to do this.
(you too vtdobes)
A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.
But it is really such a personal choice-- everyone handles the loss and interprets the euth process differently. For what it's worth, I do not think it matters to the horse that you're there-- it's no different to him than being led out of his stall by some other nice person, such as to be turned out. This decision is entirely about what you need.
I think this is so true. It is a completely personal decision and I don't think it matters to the horse since they're not aware of what's going on. And if you're a super emotional person who might lose control, I think it could, as others have mentioned, worry them more in those last minutes.
I have been there for all of my animals because I fall into the group that feels like they have to be. The horses that I've been with haven't been "heart horses," so I can't say how I will handle that when one of my truly special ones goes. I will be there, but I'm not sure I'll be quite so resolute. I had a put down a 4yo mare several years ago and she was in so much pain and heavily sedated that I don't think she had any idea that I was there. In a way I felt that I was there more for me than I was for her.
I had a dog crash suddenly at the vet once and received a call asking if I wanted them to put him down for me or if I wanted to be there. They apologized when DH and I got there and said that they would guess that 50%+ of their owners couldn't handle being there when their dogs were put down. My guy basically waited for us and collapsed into my lap (all 110 lb of him) when we got there. It still makes me cry to think about. But the vets commented that sometimes the emotional owner is not helpful to the dog, and that sometimes they prefer helping the dog make a graceful exit, and always make that offer. Dogs are obviously different than horses, but my point is that if some dogs are better off without some owners present, I would imagine that horses have an even easier time since their lives are not quite as codependent as a dogs.
In regards to the comments about your vet. I can't imagine many vets are terribly cavalier about putting horses down, so I'm not sure I would let that be a concern. Your vet is obviously compassionate enough to make the offer in the first place, and the offer to show the horse to your other horses implies that he or she has the welfare of your animals firmly in mind.
Sorry you're in this position....it's never easy. Please make the decision that feels right to you, and like Crackerdog said, not being there does not make you a bad owner.
I haven't been there with any of my own but have been there for many other people's animals. I can be composed and professional for the others but not my own. I would be an upsetting distraction for all involved. Of all the horses I've been there with for their euthanasia at the vet clinic, the owners were rarely there and the horses were always calm and relaxed. The vet and especially the techs were kind and patient and exactly as you would want them to behave with your own horse. I guess I could see feeling obligated to be there if you didn't have absolute faith that the vet team would handle it as you'd like.
First, I want to thank everyone for sharing their stories and experiences. I have not had to have a horse put down before so this is a sad first for me. My vets are very good and considerate. I feel 100% comfortable if I decide not to be present.
I think I will take the wait and see approach. M horses live at home so I can just go in the house if it is to much. I can hold it together (at least I did with my dogs) but I am just not sure.
I do feel like I owe it to him to be there. He was a severe abuse case and we have been through a lot together. But on the flip side, he gets wound up if I am upset. This part of horse ownership sucks.
First of all (((hugs))) on your impending loss. It is a very personal choice and there is no wrong answer. If you feel you need to be there, its not up to your vet to make that decision for you. Just be sure you understand what will happen so that you're prepared and not totally shocked or traumatized by the sequence of events if you want to be by his side.
It is also not in any way wrong if you feel it will be too much for you to bear.
And no matter what, remind yourself that other than good care while they've been in your custody, this is the most important gift you'll give him.
Because my son died alone (in a car accident), I will never let anything I love pass without me by their side if I can be there, but that doesn't mean my choice is more right or correct for anyone other than me. I was there for Trav, it was an emergency euth, but my memories of him are still of the young, strong, fabulous horse he was right up until the day he passed.
it is entirely up to you. I've assisted horses over the bridge for owners who couldn't manage it, and was honored for the chance (meaning hold the horse, meet the vet, meet the backhoe guy). I can entirely see the pros and cons of both approaches- YOU do what YOU feel is right- for YOU.
SLW said it well. I have never NOT been there for every horse or pony we have aided in their passing. Its my honor to be with them. But not if you can't handle it. That makes everyone, including your beloved animal, stressed and uncomfortable JMHO
My guy made the decision to exit the world on his own (presumed heart attack) as I was in the process of picking a date for another veterinarian to come. I could not be the one to put down my friend and having euthanized more horses than I can count I could not watch my own pass. I had already decided that when the day came I was going to give him a cookie, have DH drive me away and have Dr. Nicole and her assistant take care of him.
It's very different than being with a companion animal when they go. I can usually have the euthanasia of a companion animal be a fairly peaceful thing. Even with sedatives, for a horse it was always a crapshoot. If you wish to be there, that's fine, but I'd also say it's also completely reasonable to walk away.
I euthanized one of my own a few weeks ago, and chose not to stay. I work in an equine clinic and assist in euthanasias frequently, but I found it much easier to drop him off with a good friend and fellow tech, who handled everything for me. It's a personal decision with no right or wrong answer. I have been there for dogs, but regret that my last memory was of them passing. There is no shame in not being there. You have already shown yourself to be a strong, caring person in choosing to do what's difficult, but best for your horse.
I was not there when we put my filly down, but she was asleep. They put her under to clean her wounds, and see how big the holes in her joints were. After we saw the extent of the damage, we made the call to put her down. I snuggled her a bit and the tech braided some tail hair for me, then we walked out of the room.
I'm honestly not sure why we didn't stay in the room. She wasn't awake, though, and I felt almost like I would be in the way. I did NOT assist with the burial, but DH was there and the BO's husband. Hubby told me how everything went.
I have held others horses, dogs, and cats. It's easier to keep it together when it's not your own.
It's such a personal thing, please don't let anybody push you one way or the other, or feel guilty about what you choose to do.
IIt's a personal decision with no right or wrong answer. I have been there for dogs, but regret that my last memory was of them passing.
I, too, have struggled with this decision as my boys are getting older and I want to make the decision while I'm still "coherent", in case it's an emergency situation.
I too would love to be there through the entire process, but I am well aware of all that could go wrong, and if the worst happens during the euthanasia process and I am there to witness it, I'm not sure I could recover from that emotionally.
Someone said something to me in reference to funerals once; they're not for the dead, they're for the living. And I kind of feel that way about this as well. The horse is going to go peacefully no matter what, and it really isn't going to matter to him after. I, however, have to live with it long after.
Sympathies to the OP on a difficult choice-- a heartbreaking moment no matter what you decide.
The circumstances under which my TB was put down -- a traumatic kick that fractured his pelvis -- had me there while the vet came and we tried to determine if he could stand and survive.
When it was clear he couldn't stand up, we made the decision instantly. I knelt by his head while my horse went to "sleep" with the first injection. My wonderful vet said, "Why don't you remove his halter now, so he can leave this world the same way he came in." But I had to walk away before I could perceive him to stop breathing.
I agree wholeheartedly with everyone who has said that it's a personal choice and there is no wrong answer. The only question is what's the best answer for you.
Whatever you choose to do, leading up to the moment and throughout it, please keep a very strong a vivid mental image of your horse at his happiest, whether it's with his nose deep in a food bucket, trotting around a grassy pasture, jumping fences, rolling in a sandy spot, whatever his best moments are. I'm crazy enough to believe that our horses pick up this positive energy from us even if we aren't right there, and it helps them through the transition.
They don't call me frugal for nothing.
Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.