Need help knowing what the right thing is to do. update pg 3
I was hoping that I could get some opinions and support with a difficult decision that I have to make in the next couple of months.
I have a 24 year old mare who has been retired for about 9 years due to an injury. A few years after her retirement, she developed some neurological issues and now can’t move in a straight line and always stands with her hip cocked. She currently lives in the Northeast. I now live in the South.
The summers are pretty good for her. She can’t go straight due to the neurological issues, but she still gets around. She can only turn in one direction but she’s figured it out. She run up the hill and eats grass all day. The last few winters have been okay. Not great, but she’s done okay. I do always worry that she’s going to have an issue with going down on ice and not being able to get back up.
Now, I was happy with the status quo, and would have just left things as they were through another winter – keeping a close eye and being ready to step in if she showed signs of failing. But my issue is that the barn where she is will be sold in the next few months and I need to either move her or put her down.
The issues with moving her are as follows: She never much liked trailering and she hasn’t been off the property in maybe 10 years? She wasn’t a great loader even when she was young. I am hesitant to force her onto a trailer again. I’m not sure how comfortable she’d be trailering with her neuro issues. She stands awkwardly and leans a lot on her stall wall during the night. If I were to move her, I’d prefer to move her close enough to keep an eye on her, rather than keep her many hours away at a place where I don't have any history. I was happy with leaving her where she was because I knew and trusted the people there, but any other place would be unknown to me. I worry about her ability to transition to a new routine and new pasture mates. And every winter I worry that she's going to slip and not be able to get up and then THAT will be the trauma that forces me to make the decision to put her down anyway.
So my options are three:
1) Chose a lovely summer weekend and put her down and bury her on the farm where she’s lived for the last 16 years.
2) Try to find a place to retire her close to where she is now. I'll still have to trailer her, and I'll be far away.
3) Move her 18+ hours and try to find a retirement place near to where I am now. I honestly don't know if she can trailer that long any more.
I’m leaning toward the first option. I don’t want her somewhere I don’t know so far away, and I think trying to ship her so far at this age would be cruel.
I just need some support here, I suppose. I think the best thing is to put her down, simply because the other options don’t seem like good ideas. She was doing well in her little routine, but I think that trying to move her at this stage in her life would really affect her. But I keep telling myself that if the barn weren't closing, I wouldn't be making this decision, so does that make it the wrong decision?
Please help me work through this, you guys.
Last edited by AmmyByNature; May. 6, 2013 at 01:13 PM.
I would go with 1. I'm sorry about your predicament, but doing whats less stressful for the mare is what most important in my book. You would hate yourself if something bad happened in one of the moves - or if she couldn't adjust. To me there is no other option.
Oh, and big (((((hugs))))).
Last edited by hundredacres; May. 2, 2013 at 01:35 PM.
It sounds like you've given her a long, happy life and worked to keep her happy and comfortable despite her issues. Trailering a badly neurological horse is not only dangerous and stressful and difficult for the horse--it's dangerous for those people who will be working with her.
Putting her down because the barn is closing and acknowledging that's really the driver here isn't a bad thing. The situation that has made it possible for her to live comfortably is coming to an end. Physically getting her to another barn that can *maybe* give her the support she needs is, at the very least, a really big gamble and very stressful. Not putting her through a move is a kindness.
I'm so sorry you've got to make this decision Go up and see her, give her a big bucket of her favorite treats and tell her how marvelous she's been.
I've got a 28 yr old mare that sounds like she's got very very similar issues as your girl. Hasn't walked a straight line in 3 years, but runs and bucks and plays with 'her' yearlings till her little heart's content. Personally, knowing how HAPPY my girl is, I'd find another retirement farm close by if possible. (Maybe a COTHer can give a reco, if you post where she is currently?) if I couldn't find a new boarding situation that works, then I'd go with option 1. But that's for me and my mare, not necessarily what would work for you. Good luck!
I am sorry you're in a position where you have to make such a tough choice and I have a lot of respect for that you've taken great care of her and helped her to be comfortable for nine years post-injury.
If it were me, I would choose option no. 1 and give her a peaceful, comfortable conclusion to the wonderful life you've already given her.
I would scratch option 3 for all the reasons Simkie mentions. Option 2 is the ideal but may be difficult (or impossible) to implement. You've done well by this horse, and it may be time to say goodbye. Whenever I've had tough choices like this to make, I've done what you are doing and listed and weighed the options. The right choice always seem to surface just in time. I think it also helps that we mentally prepare ourselves by considering the options way in advance.
Charter member of the I-Refuse-to-Relinquish-My-Whip Clique
Can you ask your vet? Because if the vet says that trailering 18 hours is impossible for her you might feel better about choosing Option 1, knowing that you really don't even have three options.
This There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing Option 1 now. But if you are as conflicted as you sound, perhaps ask your vet if trailering for that long is feasible and, if he/she says yes, seeing if you can find a suitable place for her near you. If the answer to either of those questions is no, then the decision for 1 is really made for you.
I am not saying there is anything wrong with going with Option 1 without asking those 2 questions, but if it would make you feel more comfortable with Option 1, it may be worth it.
There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)
#1... Better too soon than too late. I don't envy you at all, but I think the only responsible choice is #1. God forbid she go down in the trailer on the way down, plus I think it would be extremely physically stressful on her to trailer that far.
Only other #2 option I can think of... Do you have any friends or someone you know personally you could board her with for her retirement? Someone you would trust? If not, it's got to be #1. She sounds like someone needs to really keep an eye on her and with you being so far away, I wouldn't board her with a stranger.
Sorry you are being forced to make this decision but it sounds like you have given her a great life and why not let her end it while still doing well in the home she loves? Spare her from having to suffer. With her issues, she may find trailering very uncomfortable and have issues adapting to a new environment.
I'm not disagreeing with option #1.
If I had to do the other two I'd
-break up the trailering into a several day trip
- move her to wherever her best horse friend moves. I think the horse social needs are always a factor. But the BFF horse friends layout would need to be compatible.
Just tossing it out there - can you play it by ear, re: the selling? In this market, with cautious financers, farms are taking a while to sell. It could be that the farm won't even sell this year. So you can let her hang out all summer/fall, and reevaluate right before winter. Worst case scenario? You get your 30 days notice that the barn is actually closing, and you do it during those 30 days.
Of course, if the barn is already sold/waiting on paperwork, and you do have a definite "move out by" date, then I'd go with Option #1.
How would she be if she had to adjust to other new horses, given her neuro issues? She could be quite vulnerable with any new turnout partners.
I think this is a very good point.
I imagine the life for a horse that is impaired neurologically to the point where the hind end doesn't follow the front has to be inherently stressful. These are prey animals we're talking about, and perhaps I am taking their cognitive ability too far, but I would think that such an obvious sign of weakness and lameness would make them hyper vigilant for predators or threats, as, after all, a horse that impaired would be easy picking out in the wild.
You mare, having been at the same barn for SO long, might have very little anxiety about her impairment and lameness because she is very comfortable with the location and her friends.
Moving her--even a short move, and even with some of the same pasture mates--might really kick in a high level of anxiety over safety for her. I am reminded of elderly people who are able to hide and compensate for some pretty severe dementia or Alzheimers, until circumstances force them to move. Familiar surroundings often enable them to cope quite well, and really hide the degree of mental impairment, but when they move, they often take a huge nosedive in their ability to function and live on their own. I know we're not talking about dementia in your horse, and horses are not people, but I do think it's important to consider your girl's stress level and potential coping skills she's built at her current home that might might lose moved elsewhere.
I also have a retired neurological horse. Mine is minimally impaired right now, and we will see how she progresses as she ages. I am not looking forward to having to make these decisions for her, either, but I do firmly believe that it is always better a month too early than a day too late. If your girl fell in the trailer or went downhill drastically in a new home, could you forgive yourself? I'm sorry to be grim, but those are the questions I would be asking myself.
I wish you the best of luck, ABN, and I am very sorry you're faced with this decision. I wish it were easier
She's had a nice long retirement ... her issues are mostly manageable but
she's having more issues as time passes and she's not going to get better.
It sounds as though they have gradually been worsening.
I do not blame you for not wanting to move her to an unknown farm when
you are so far away and can't drop in to check on things every so often.
I would not trailer a nuerological horse very far - maybe 1/2 hour tops. But
no way 18 hours.
The only thing I can suggest to you other than option #1 is to see if the current
barn owners can recommend a farm nearby. They may have connections
that you do not. Also, check with your vet - s/he may know of someplace
suitable. If neither pan out, then you know you'll have no other option.