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Putting an 11 year old horse down.

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  • #21
    I am so sorry, elizabeth, that you will have to deal with something so awful, and he is only 11. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img] My only thoughts might be:

    ...a retirement farm for horses, where he could simply be turned out 24/7, buted as needed, sad as that may be, and just shoed to keep him comfortable, no riding stress, unless YOU dictate how much and when, etc., and don't take no for an answer when you ask his new "owners" to do something with him.
    <<Ah, sorry, just read your latest post about his turnout troubles. Has he ever been on 24 hour turnout for an extended amount of time to let him adjust to it? To let him get the idea that he has time to do more than just run? Or have you done that, and he still just runs and runs and runs....>>

    ...therapeutic riding sounds good also, as long as he would only be doing minimal work, or as much sa he can eaily tolerate.

    ...possibly a pasture buddy for someone with another elderly/pasture ornament horse--someone you know and trust and that you may have an agreement about what happens if XXX occurs, etc. You want to be able to move him out, change things for him if needed, not just sitting at home worrying.
    <<Again, the turnout thing, hmmm>>

    ...I also agree with what heidi said about shoeing--if you think the bill is high, just imagine what some one who is not attached to him as you are will think. Not pleasant to imagine.

    ...if nothing else seems viable, maybe the best thing would sadly to be to give him to Cornell. It would be insanely difficult, but like you said, the last thing either of you needs is a situation in which you would be worried and he might not be receiving adequate care. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img]

    Good luck, I am so sorry you have deal with such an awful situation.

    [This message was edited by Kellybird on Mar. 03, 2001 at 10:31 PM.]


    • #22
      Those are good suggestions, Merry and Kellybird. Shipping him to __(wherever you live) would be a good idea. You could check up on him every once in a while. Many people want a companion and would love to take care of a horse. You could possibly split the shoeing costs with somebody who could provide a loving home for him.


      • #23
        I think that Merry's suggestion of feed-leasing may be a good one. That way:

        -you would not have to pay the bills
        -you would still be in control of where he goes
        -if he somehow gets in a situation you don't like, you can take him out of it because you still own him

        For example, you could find a place where a little kid could pay for his food, board, etc. in return for use of him. Then maybe they could sign an agreement where they are only allowed to walk, trot, canter...or whatever is best for him...


        • #24
          Texas A&M has a special equine foot program, and a friend of mine just donated her horse when his feet were more than she could care for. I can give you her email address, if you'd like to talk to her about your options.

          And there is an equine vet/podiatrist in Lexington or Louisville who is THE expert on horse feet. He has appeared at Equitana and does long distance consulting via foot x-rays. I forget his name again, but someone on the board knows. He has a web site, for some reason, I didn't bookmark it. It may be that he can suggest some miracles for Buster, that might or might not involve some of the things that Louise mentioned.

          Is it not possible that you could donate to Cornell with a proviso that if he is well enough to be sold, you would have first refusal?
          "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
          Thread killer Extraordinaire


          • #25
            My friend had a horse that had an extreme case of navicular disease by age 8. She loved the horse very much and didn't want to just dispose of her. She found a place in So.CA (near my barn in fact) that had 2000 acres for horses to roam. She pulled her shoes and turned her out, and she was sound in a year! Now, I'm not saying that Buster would improve, but have you considered that having the ability to constantly move around over various terrain might make him more comfortable? I mean, he might run initially, but any horse truely out to pasture soon seems to lose the impulse to really run around, IMO. And the more you don't let them run around, the more wild they are when they do get out.

            I also faced the same dilemma with my first horse, Whitney. She was in her 20's and I was a poor college student. She was really off in the hind end, apparently from an injury that never seemed to heal in the stifle region. Plus, her hocks were not so good, and this was in the days before Adequan. So we finally decided that the arthritis and old age had taken it's toll and had her put to sleep. It was horrible, and I still wonder if I made the right decision. Whenever, I think about it, I get really sad. But also, I just couldn't afford to keep a horse as a lawn ornament and keep paying for expensive tests/treatments, etc....not on a Target cashier's salary. That still makes me feel guilty....that the financial part of it all came into the decision.

            So I would suggest that if you are willing and able to pay for him to be turned out to pasture, you might want to consider trying it for a month or two, and if he is too miserable, then consider other options.


            • #26
              You are in a tough situation. I only have one comment to make about donating your horse to Cornell. I do not know anything about the methods and practices that Cornell uses when they euthanize a horse. I can tell you that the method that two very large and very well known vet schools use is not very nice. This is something you might want to consider if you donate your horse. I can honestly say that I would be having a hard time making a decision too if I was in your situation. My thoughts are with you and your horse.

              [This message was edited by Laurel on Mar. 03, 2001 at 11:09 PM.]


              • Original Poster

                Oh, you guys are wonderful for working through this with me. Let's see:

                Merry -
                Yes, the vet thinks he can be made serviceably sound. My trainer's hubby (jumphigh83's husband) actually thinks we can get Buster back to where he was a few months ago - sound for W-T-C without Bute. Further:
                (1) Buster has proven to us that he is good with beginners. With me, he might buck and a spook if he feels good in the cold weather. With beginners, he plods along, very aware of who he has on his back. Again, his prior owner used him as a lesson horse, including for W-T-C. No lunging needed, but he needed to get out each day - either ridden a bit or a bit of turn-out (not a field's worth with other horses, b/c then he will run)- otherwise there was a risk that he will be rude (out of boredom since he is used to getting out of his stall each day for an hour or two).
                Merry, if you think there is hope for finding a kid to have him out here or a W-T program that needs an extra horse, that changes my calculus. That puts me in a position where I can keep half an eye on him. I can give him to someone who wants him, but I can do it on the condition that they call me if he gets unuseable or I can check in every month to be sure he hasn't taken a turn for the worse. Then it would be acceptable, in my mind, to put him through the stress of shipping him out here. He then has an option at living, and we can do it in a way that I can ensure he is not suffering at the hands of a misguided free-lease person. And offering to pay for shoeing or part of it is actually an option I had contemplated from the beginning. (My vet and I discussed it a few weeks ago, as a way to ensure that a person with a good home could AFFORD Buster.)
                (2) My trainer thinks he is bombproof on trails, and every other trainer who has had him has thought that. I, however, have only ridden him on trails a few times. The first time per season, he looks for a reason to spook. After that, it is old hat.
                (3) I don't think his legs would hold up as a police horse if he was ridden on concrete. I don't think he bombproof enough, either, though he's not a flighty TB either. He, like most Appy's, is darn loyal and sensible.
                (4) Companion horse is a tough call. He is very friendly, and he has never NOT gotten along with any of his pasturemates. The problem, however, is that he gets them to play and run. I guess the question is whether he would stop that after a week or two with the same horse. . . . In Md., he did. He ran like an idiot in the gelding field, but he quieted down in a two-horse paddock. In NY, he ran like an idiot with three other horses, but he quieted down with just one other. . . .

                Kellybird & AAJumper & AOJumper & Rockford & Vineyridge & everyone: Thank you for working through all those options for me. As I noted above, when I had Buster in Md. and he was on-his-head lame, he still ran like an idiot, every single day, and the barn owner finally had to take him out of the gelding field b/c he would get everyone running. And at jumphigh's farm, I put him out with the 40 year old horse and two mares, and he raced the freakin' 40 year old. That is how he came up lame two weeks ago. But, as I noted above, he settled down when he was with just one horse. Maybe it is worth a try, if I can find a retirement/turn-out facility in SoCal. It is better than the other option, to be sure.

                AAJumper, can you e-mail me the name of the barn your friend brought her horse to for retirement? At least I can call them and discuss it. The worst that could happen is that he could come out here, it wouldn't work, and then I would put him down. Which is where I would be anyway.

                Vineyridge, UC Davis has a donation program? Maybe I should check in with them. . . .

                That's what was making me think Cornell was my only resort. I could not see a way to bring Buster out here because I had no back-up plan. I love where AAJumper keeps her horse, but it is a show facility. And if we cannot get Buster sound enough to be put into a program, he really will not fit in there. A kid program, though, or a W-T-C program is a good back-up option. Or even knowing that there is a retirement facility that I can try retiring him at is good to know. That means I have options. That means it might be reasonable to ship him out here to CA, keep him at the place where AAJumper keeps her horse for a few months to see how sound we can get him, then figure out what to do. . . .

                Guys, will you please let me know specifically that you know of turn-out or retirement places or of places that would want a W-T-C horse so that I can be sure (well, as sure as anyone can be - I know circumstances always change) that I really do have options?

                Thank you, all of you. I now have things to think about.

                [This message was edited by elizabeth on Mar. 04, 2001 at 01:39 AM.]


                • #28
                  If you are willing to pay to have him shipped out here and then board him and see how sound you can get him, that's an admirable gesture. If he stays serviceably sound, yes, I can at least give you 3 or 4 riding schools/programs that I can vouch for that MIGHT need a low-level school horse on a feed lease deal.


                  • #29
                    This is such a horrible thing to deal with. Now not all horses show clean on an x-ray, I wonder if it is not the ringbone that makes him "on his head lame". I would tend to think that, shoeing him for Naviclular up front would eleviate the pressure of the overload to lighten the back end. In addition, that may be why he runs around like it doensn't bother him, when it is calssifing but the excess concussion may "loosen" the area making him sore. Did they tell you what type of ringbone?


                    • #30
                      Re the turnout/idiot thing... you may think you have already tried everything, but...I have seen many, many cases in which too much "care" has inadvertently led to just the catch-22 situation you are in, Elizabeth. It sounds like you would have little to lose by considering the following. In many "full-care" situations, individual turnout is the norm, and often, in smaller paddocks...or coming off a regular work routine or any regime that results in fitness, many horses will become impatient with t/o, bothered by flies, lonely, etc--and as we all know, will run the fence line like, well...IDIOTS....! Whatever causes it, the running habit can be a real pain to deal with, but I have (in several situations, not just isolated cases) known them to be cured of this--think of it as "deprograming?" The complication that he gets lame from this might even help you a little, strange as it may sound....I would suggest, finding a new barn with huge, grassy turnout, where horses are kept 24/7 outside, with pleasant and very placid turnout companions (the more the merrier), and tranquilizing him before turning him out?? If he runs, give him some bute, a cold hose session, and turn him back out...if he is sore enough and out enough, he won't run forever, even if he does run for a mighty long time (days, and days)...and if he is out long enough on R&R, he may even cure himself of some of the soundness problems that have sucked you into this cycle of restrictive T/O, pent up energy, running, lameness, more restrictive T/O, more pent up energy, etc...This may sound drastic and, but I would even go so far as to suggest that you have those expensive shoes pulled off and let him go barefoot for an extended period --months, and months-- during which time he gets NO work, and let his feet find thier natural balance (refer to the COTH artical several months ago on the natural foot, especially the parts concerning navicular)( I assume he gets a biotin supplement to keep his feet as healthy as they can be)...If you are able to try this, you might just end up with a drastically different horse than one whose only options at the moment seem to be veterinary research and the grave, or an uncertain future at the hands of adoptees.


                      • #31
                        I didn't notice p.2!!! But I think that if you have the time to try it, the extended t/o, supervised "no" care is the way to go! Let him race the 40 y/o's and all the rest---they won't, don't, really won't run FOREVER---you just have to find a barn where the owners know that (ou'd be surprised at how many don't)--the fact that your trainer's husband really believes that he can be "brought back" to use reinforces my hunch that with less, not more ($$) care, your horse may indeed eventually return to work--be forewarned though, nature takes a LONG time to undo what we have unwittingly "done"--it may take a year or so of turnout (feet take about 6-8 months to grow down from the coronary assuming a good hoof suppliment is used) before you will have a "new" horse to evaluate....and in my experience, many TRAINERS are very reluctant to wait that long...

                        [This message was edited by JustJump on Mar. 04, 2001 at 08:37 AM.]


                        • #32

                          I feel for you and for Buster, but -- bottom line, is that I think you should have him put down yourself. Your options are:

                          DONATING HIM: I have tried to give horses to Vet schools. At U Cal/Davis, I was all set to sign the papers, then I asked the vet I was dealing with (for the lameness problem) "If this was your horse, would you donate him?" After an awkward pause, the answer came back "No". Vets know the schools need donations so thay cannot discourage you, but this vet told me about the big field that the research horses are out in. A new horse is at the bottom of the pecking order and if he cannot get out of the way fast enough, he will get kicked and bitten by the others. He will also be pushed out of the way for the feed/hay. Plus, they cannot allow horses out in these fields to have hind shoes on, because of the damage to other horses (and front shoeing is sporadic--not automatic, if a shoe is lost).

                          This vet made it very clear that donated horses are NOT kept according to the standards you and I would keep them. For a lame horse, to me, donation is not a good option.

                          GIVING THE HORSE AWAY: I agree with all of the above. No matter how careful you try to be, you cannot know that Buster will not end up in a very bad situation.

                          RETIRING HIM YOURSELF: Retirement pastures are not cheap. And if you are 3000 miles away, you cannot keep an eye on him. And, as you said, he will run himself lame.

                          TAKING HIM TO CALIFORNIA: I have been a beginning attorney in California. I know how hard I worked for a (relatively) modest amount. I certainly had little time to spend at a stable for the first couple of years. That is a LONG van ride for a lame horse. And board is horrendous out there -- you would have to have him in a program to keep him worked during the week, since there is no turn out... (and on weekends when you work both Sat and Sun). We are talking probably $800 + a month just in board/training. Could you do it? Probably. Coupd you do it and also support another horse which can do the things you want to do? Probably not. Buster is 11. He easily could live 15 more years. Just think of the escalation in board bills by the year 2016.....

                          I know my view is not a popular one. It is a pragmatic one. I think that we owe our animals a good and pain free life, and if we cannot provide it, then we owe them a dignified and pain free death. Giving him away to an uncertain future is just avoiding making the hard decision yourself. But, ultimately, it may not be the kindest thing you can do.

                          [This message was edited by PamM on Mar. 04, 2001 at 08:39 AM.]
                          "He lives in a cocoon of solipsism"

                          Charles Krauthammer speaking about Trump


                          • #33
                            NOt really the same situation, but I had to make the decision to have me dam of my two current horses put down. At 27 and not doing well I simply couldn't justify shipping her from southern Ca to michigan. She was CA born and raised and I didn;t think she could handle the change, if she made it out in the first place. The lady in CA had tried to find a place to retire her too, and such, but had no luck, so I felt it was the irght decision. I felt it unfair after a life of providing beautiful foals to send her someplace where she might not have the best care. HEr age and the fact that she was not doing great ( loosing weight, etc) made the dicision easier. But I still feel badly that i didn't try to do more. Though I am focussing on maintaining the two I have, which is very hard on a day care teachers salary!!! But I am committed to it.
                            I think everyone has made some good suggestions... I would seriously look into the theraputic riding program.. if he can be kept sound... then some programs might be able to maintain his shoeing. Often times such programs get donated services as well, or highly discounted services. remember your $150 shoe job is not because of the shoes.. it is the cost of the farrier's time and efforts. So if the riding program has a farrier whois willing and knowledgeable enough to do the shoe job it may not be as expensive to maintain the horse.
                            Also i would be wary about so much Bute. Bute can be vary harsh on the stomache. Obviously if dosne't upset him too much now, but in the long run it could get ugly. You may want to try some less intense medication... my mare was supposedly diangnosed with ringbone and she is fine for dressage, but as she is 15 I have her on next level, and the B-L solution ( aka Buteless). WE tried a low does of bute, but she refuses it so I found an alternative. I have had great results. And she is happy. Of course she is not navicular, though i have a hard time understanding your horse has navicular if the x-rays are clean?? I would suspect the ringbone more, especailly if he is running.
                            Lastly, I had to donate a horse to someone, as he was chronically lame. I had inherited my curretn two horses, and simply couldn't afford three horses, I have trouble affording two!!! but I was lucky enough to find someone whoe I knew only wanted a lawn ornament possibly to do some trail rides. i know he is happy at his new home. I was shocked to find out he gives their kids bareback leadline rides in the yard, but obviously he is at peice at his new home. I knew I made the right decision when he immediately bonded with the husband. He had always hated and feared men due to an abusive trainer, and to see him loving on a man made my decision easier. I knew they would take care of him. And they agreed that if they couldn't take care of him they would send him back to me...so I could find a new home if need be. So you can find a good home, it does take time though.. it took me almost a year to find the right place for him. So don;t give up.


                            • #34
                              You are in a very difficult situacion but I think your inital thoughts on sending Buster to Cornell or having him put to sleep at home where you can always know he is safe is the best decision. I have had navicular horses come into my barn and horses with ringbone as well. I have nerved and given away the navicular horses and found them excellent homes but there is one problem with that. The horse will eventually need to be nerved again. The nerves do regenerate and how can you be sure that the person who took your horse will give him the medical attention he needs or not sell him/give him away without disclosing the fact he is nerved. Unfortunately with ringbone it just progresses and I have looked into helping or stopping the growth but it was not feasable. Vets told me there was only a 5-10% chance that it would help my horse if he did not summer terribly and then develop an infection at first.
                              My aunt is a board certified surgeon and tenured professor (large animal) at Cornell. I would be happy to privately give you her number as she is very well known and respected as a surgeon and teacher as well as an animal lover. When I had to put my favorite pony in the world down due to cancer, I would have done anything in the world for him. I vowed to God that I would even give up teaching if he would just let my pony live. Well my pony started to degenerate and the time came to act. I did not put him down at my house because I could not bear that but I sent him to Marion Dupont Scott Center where they had been trying to help him through this. There he was peacefully put down (witnessed by a friend since I could not bring my self to be there) and studied so that there was hope to learn more about cancer and how to cure it. He was only 14 years old, the best little guy you could ever ask for and in a report later that month I received a very kind letter which stated that Willy must have been living on sheer will and love for me because 60% of his major organs were infested with cancer.
                              Sorry, got a little choked up rememebring him. That was 9 years ago. I will never forget him but will always remember my good decision. Good luck and we are thinking of you.


                              • #35
                                Elizabeth, PamM made some extremely good points. We all say, 'I'll NEVER sell.' or 'I'll care for him to the VERY END.' Yes, we owe our horses, all our pets actually, a good life and a dignified end. Do not cringe from putting him down because you think he DESERVES something else. What he deserves if for you to control his future and prevent a 'bad end.' If you put him down, it is over. He has lived a good life, you have provided him with excellent care and he dies. May we all be so lucky...


                                • Original Poster

                                  Twister, thank you.
                                  I haven't said anything since last night b/c I have been thinking this all over.
                                  PamM and everyone else has raised good points.
                                  I think I am going to e-mail Picturesque this afternoon for her aunt's number at Cornell.
                                  All I keep thinking is if I bring him out to CA, and he gets off the truck in bad shape (which my vet predicts), and I cannot get him back to servicable, what will I have gained for him? And if I then just turn him out . . . . I forget to mention that he is a horse that is like a dog. He needs attention - he needs people.
                                  I don't know, I'm still thinking.
                                  Thanks, though, Twister and PamM, for giving support on the option of putting him down. If that is where I end up because that is the way I feel safest that he is not going to suffer, so be it.


                                  • #37
                                    You have to do what you feel in your heart is the best thing for you and the animal. Just remember that horses aren't people...they live day to day and don't have glorious ambitions and dreams of someday achieving this or that. And if each day is miserable for them (or even not much of a "life"), then you have to remember that their reality is one day at a time. If you feel that ultimately his quality of life will suffer, then you have to do what you think you need to do. It would be great if we could all retire each and every horse we've owned, but it's just not possible for many people for financial reasons.

                                    It's like this cat I have...he is so cool. But he got a fibrous sarcoma last August as the result of vaccinations. So I decided to have the vet remove the tumor, in hopes that he could live a while longer, but I opted to not have him go through the radiation treatment. I just can't pay that kind of money and put him through the torture of having the treatments (he HATES vets). And someday, the cancer will come back and I'll have to put him to sleep. But all he'll know is that he is uncomfortable (if the tumor comes back) and that he is no longer happy. It's not like he can think "I am going to go through all these treatments so that I can have an extended life of mouse-hunting."

                                    So even though it is a horrible decision to have to make, just know that you are doing what you think is best for his quality of life (whatever your decision may be). And if his quality of life will not be good, then you have to do what you have to do. And it is not a decision that anyone can stand in judgement of...you know your horse and the situation, and no one else can really second guess your decision, IMO.


                                    • #38
                                      I put my 11 year old quarter horse down just a couple of months ago. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I, too, investigated the vet school option but did decide against it because they could not take him for a month.

                                      He was in pain most of the time and was becoming dangerous. He was always a biter while being fed-- I mean, take a hunk out of you, not a nipper. There is a threshold of pain when anyone rebels and he had reached that. He began to try to bite you when you went to get him out for his therapy. He was in pain, he was unhappy and, while I had offers to have him be a pasture horse he was always the low man, and I felt he was now dangerous. It made logical sense to put him down to end his misery and know for sure that he was not going to end up at the killers or that he would hurt anyone. That being said, it still was not easy. But, if there is a "rainbow bridge" I know he will be there waiting for me.

                                      You need to try to do what is best for your horse, not what will make it easier on you. It would have been easier for me to give him away but I felt that was not the right thing to do. You are also going to come up against individuals who will not understand your decision if you opt to put him down. There are some people who will keep animals alive no matter what. That was the second hardest part to deal with, they make you feel like a murderer. I have since come to the conclusion that they are really cowards and unable to make the hard decisions - they let it "happen" naturally or they drag it out so long while the animal suffers from their lack of compassion for them.

                                      Every case is individual. I wish you well and hope that you can come to the decision that is right for both of you what ever it is.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Oh, mrs. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img]
                                        I'm sorry. That's very sad.
                                        But thank you for sharing. I am glad you and my other friends out here on the BB understand and are willing to share their stories to help me.

                                        This is hard stuff we are dealing with. I had to put my dog to sleep, when she was 15. Up until the day I had to put her to sleep, I prayed that God would just take her, so that *I* didn't have to make the decision. It sucks. No two ways about it.


                                        • #40
                                          Oh elizabeth, am so sorry, this is very hard. We tried to keep our old guy going. Did Palesin and Arquel every 6 mo. It did help with both the ring bone & navicular. He would be slightly off, but enjoyed life. He made the decision for us one day. He too ran when out, played so very hard. Rotated his coffin bone thru the sole. He was in retirement, and had a stall. Like you we could not let someone, hopefully give him the correct care. Guess what I am trying to say is that retirement can be in many forms. If you are able to oversee it, and have the final say, it is a good option. No matter what your decision, everyone here understands.... [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_frown.gif[/img]