Hello All- Long-term lurker, first-time poster here. I need some advice on rehoming an unwanted horse for an ill friend. This horse is one that I would not normally recommend to be rehomed, but the situation forces it.
Owner is a trainer/friend of mine who is fighting cancer. She is not going to get better and has just been put in hospice care. Three of her horses can be easily dispersed/rehomed, but the fourth will be difficult. My friend is too ill and in too much pain to work on this, so I’m taking it on. I have also ridden this horse extensively, so I know her well.
To say the good things about her, mare used to be used as a lesson horse. Kids, beginners, clueless people etc. have ridden her. She’s been used for high school equestrian team and has competed in the low levels of lots of things; HUS, jumping, western pleasure, and dressage. She has been schooled to 1st/2nd level dressage. I leased her for 6 months last year and got her schooling 1st level fairly easily, until I ran into problems and had to stop riding her. I took her to a schooling show and got a respectable 65% on Training 2, and 63% on Training 3. Given her age, conformation, and physical condition I think getting her to 2nd level would be stretching it.
The Bad- Mare has demonstrated some nasty, unsafe behaviors under saddle and on the ground. Two years ago when I was riding her she bolted as we were going over ground poles, bucked, and dumped me. I ended up breaking my back in the fall. I have no common sense and kept riding her. She bolts after jumps (I’m confident it’s a pain/anticipatory reaction) so we switched to just dressage. She has a huge spook, and ducks and spins when she does spook. I did reduce her spookiness with a combination of heavy work, diet, turnout, and supplements, but she will always be somewhat spooky.
Towards the end of my leasing her the mare began spinning, bolting, and bucking frequently (every ride, sometimes multiple times a ride). I don’t mind the occasionally buck going into a canter transition, but we would be trotting down the long side and out of nowhere she would drop her shoulder, spin, and take off bucking. Eventually, in the midst of one of these fits she launched me hard into the ground, and I was out of the saddle for two months with a bruised pelvis. After that I decided to not ride her anymore.
Mare is a 18 year old OTTB, somewhat of a difficult keeper. She is serviceably sound, with no history of injury, but in my opinion needs hock injections if anyone wants to ride her safely. My belief is that her misbehavior under saddle was a pain reaction, which increased as I asked her to work in a 1st Level frame and carry more weight on her hind end. She can be a terror on the ground too. She bites, runs people over, is hard to catch, and is a monster to bridle. She even likes to try and squish people that go into her stall in between her butt and the wall. She’s an all-around fun, sunshiny mare. It takes a competent horse person to handle and ride her.
I won’t rehome her without fully disclosing all of her issues/quirks, but I can’t imagine who would want her after I get done honestly describing her. None of her issues on their own are complete deal breakers, but added together, combined with her age, relative physical issues, and the current horse market makes me doubtful that there is a home out there for her. She would have some value as a lesson horse, but given her vices under saddle I am not comfortable marketing her as such. I am committed to keeping her out of the slaughter pipeline.
I promised my friend I would make sure she is taken care of. If I could afford it, I would keep her myself, but I don't have the money right now. If it comes down to it, I will have her humanely euthanized rather than see her get shipped to slaughter. But I really don’t want it to come to that; with the grief that comes with seeing a young, vivacious friend succumb to cancer I don’t know if I can bear putting a healthy horse to sleep, especially one that belongs to my friend.
I’d appreciate any insight on how/where to market this horse, and if you think it can even be done. Stories of how difficult horses found good homes might also make me happy right now, in this sad time.
How will you feel if you do rehome her and she badly injures her rider--or worse? How will you feel if you rehome her, and she winds up going to slaughter anyway because of her difficult nature?
She sounds like a tough horse on a good day and nearly impossible on a bad day. You've already stated above that you think she's got some pain issues.
Why is a visit with the vet on a lovely, sunny day after getting a good grooming and a bucket of carrots a bad thing for this horse? She is aged with some very difficult issues. This is not a horse I would let out of my possession, for fear of a very bad end. Do right by her and put her down yourself.
I can only imagine how upsetting all this is for you and I am sorry.
A few years ago I went through something somewhat like this. The horse was ultimately euthanized, it was the kindest thing for everyone involved. I guess my advice is, what is important right now is your friends peace of mind. I would focus on that and the horse, later. Hugs.
"Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
--- The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.
Hugs for you situation. You're are a very good person for taking this on for your friend. Could you market her as a pasture friend or babysitter (for young horses... not people)?
I know that you don't want to hear this, but I agree with Simkie and EqT. Sometimes the best thing is to euth. Somebody on here said "There are much worse things for an animal than death."
If it's any consolation, I don't think that the mare is healthy. Mentally or physically. She may not be sick, but she's in pain and she's not mentally okay. At 18, it would be hard for her to bounce back from that, even with a professional. I mean this in the kindest sense.
I'm so sorry. Many, many hugs.
Last edited by Superminion; Jan. 8, 2013 at 08:44 PM.
I agree with the majority who have posted so far that euthanasia would not be an unkind solution.
It seems that unless you are able to have a vet perform (expensive) extensive testing to determine the source(s) of the pain that sets her off you run the risk of her severely injuring any new owner/rider no matter how complete a disclosure you make of her previous behavior. From watching friends go through similar situations (I have not experienced this with a horse I personally own), even spending thousands of dollars with very competent veterinarians may not lead to a treatable diagnosis.
One of my friends died of cancer too young. In her will she asked that her beloved horse be put down after her death rather than be sold (she was a dear horse) and eventually out of the control of her friends, and end up on that downward spiral as she got older.
It was a controversial decision, but in the end her husband did as she wished.
We wanted to save her, promised to take care of her, etc. but her wish was our command.
Thinking it over, the mare did not know the difference. She had been doted on all her life and a change would have been hard.
Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique
What the others have said. You'd be doing "everyone" ...horse and new owners a disservice to rehome this mare even with full disclosure. Eventually she WILL hurt someone and end up going to a bad situation herself. I'd wait until your friend passes and then address the mare problem. Sorry you have to be the one to make the choice, but it would really be the best all around.
Taking on this mare and ensuring that she has a peaceful end is not in any way letting your friend down. When people are sick and suffering they often don't have the physical or emotional reserves to deal with a hard decision like putting an animal down. Taking on the burden of a difficult decision like this would be a gift to your friend. I don't think you should feel guilty that you can't take care of the horse for the rest of its natural life.
First let me say that I cant imagine the difficult decision and position you are in. It sounds that you are not taking the matter lightly and are giving it a lot of thought. It also sounds you are trying to honor your friend as well as take care of what potentially could become a dangerous situation.
With that said, I find it sad that a horse that has raced, packed kids and clueless people around as a lesson horse has her fate decided under such sad circumstances. If it is pain related maybe with some time off in a pasture doing nothing but relaxing and recovering she could heal and return to work. Is it possible you know someone who would be willing to try to tackle this with the agreement that if the mare doesnt recover that then euthanasia would be considered?
I can only think that if I was the person that was ill and owned a horse under these conditions, I would want the truth. I would want to be given the opportunity to make the decision.
I'm so sorry for your friend and for you in going through this as well. I had a horse who sounds similar and ultimately I decided to put him down. He was dangerous on the ground and had bitten two people (not me), and I could not trust him around anyone - he was even dangerous and aggressive toward me and DH. I finally realized that I was waiting for him to hurt someone before I made the ultimate decision and that wasn't t he right thing to do, so I put him down before he could do any serious damage. His last day was happy - grazing in the pasture, nice warm mash, roll in the sand. I felt like I did wrong by him because despite all the chiro/acupuncture/saddle fitting/bit-bridle changing/shoeing protocols, etc. I couldn't make him right. But ultimately, I do think I did the right thing so that he wouldn't be a danger to anyone anymore. Who would buy him? And I couldn't give him away knowing what might happen to him or somebody who tried to handle him. Very sad.
Peace to you and your friend during this difficult time.
I'm so sorry you're in this situation... even more sorry for your friend.
I lost my husband to cancer when he was just 35. So, I know how bad it sucks.
I also know as an animal lover that I would want to have my animals taken care of. I don't know how sick your friend is, but I don't think it is right to tell her you'll take care of her horse and then put it down. I think you should be honest with her and let her know that you'll try to place the horse, but if you're not able then you will euthanize to keep the horse from falling into bad hands. Heck, you could even put a "good" spin on in... if there is such a thing... she'll have her mare to meet her at the bridge!
I recall a friend of mine who's mother passed away. In a dream her mother came back to her and said, "I HOPE YOU'RE HAPPY NOW!!" Her mother had a beloved dog that my friend couldn't take in and she figures that some other family member took the dog to the pound and it was euthanized.
I had an old tb mare that I'd had since I was in HS. She had never been truly happy, she worried and fretted, till we moved her to our farm. I never wanted her to be in a situation where she wasn't happy again, so I had made arrangements with a friend that if anything ever happened to me that she would euthanize her. I lost my mare a few years ago and I'm glad she got to live out her life in a place that made her happy.
Everyone- thank you for your kind words and sage advice. I'm a bit of a mess right now, but it makes me feel better to be working on this project. Obviously this means more to me than just rehoming a horse. It's signifies the one thing I have left that I can do for my friend.
I agree with those who have said that euthanasia might be the best solution, and that this is not a horse that should be rehomed as a riding horse (and probably not even as a pasture buddy). I've even said that about this horse in the past. I've never had a problem with humanely euthanizing unwanted horses, and if I need to to ensure that people are safe and the horse doesn't suffer, I will. However, I've never euthed a healthy horse and emotions (mine) are running high. I've been sobbing at red lights all day, then getting mad at myself for being so upset, because at the end of the day I am so lucky and I get to live out my life, be with my family, and ride horses, and she won't.
My friend/trainer takes a slightly different view of this horse, and thinks that she could be rehabbed as a riding horse maybe. I don't agree, and many people that know the horse agree with me. I know my friend would be crushed and heartbroken if she knew that her horse would be euthanized, so I'm not going to go there quite yet. My friend knew the horse was a nutbag, and she was going to keep her forever. And she would have done so, if it weren't for getting sick.
The one thing we have going for us is that my friend has been a horse professional in this community for many years. There are many horse people that care for her and know what she is going through. My thought is to advertise the horse as a lawn ornament for those people, in hopes there's some competent person who wants to help out and has pasture space. I would of course be willing to take her back anytime. What are people's thoughts on this? Too risky?