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How did you know when it was time?

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  • How did you know when it was time?

    I am struggling with the decision as to what's best for my mare. She's 19y/o TB, while I know that's not super old, she has not aged well. She suffered injury to a hind suspensory years ago and was retired, it was not caught very quickly due to the vet missing the diagnosis completely. Anyways, due to that and her completely post-legged conformation the injury never healed correctly and the other suspensory is shot as well. Her fetlocks have dropped quite a bit. Even with that she never seemed like it bothered her too much, I know it has to be uncomfortable but she still runs around the pasture and bucks like a madwoman. Winter has always been a little harder on her than the rest of the year.

    I was home for fall break this past weekend. When I got to the barn yesterday morning to feed all 4 legs were swollen and she was very sore. Gave her some Bute and wrapped her legs. She looked better and was moving normally (for her) in the afternoon. She didn't get any bute last night; my dad called this morning to say that she looked better this morning, swelling down and not as painful.

    Anyways, I've been struggling with the decision as to whether or not the time has come for a while now as winter approaches. She was my first event horse and I've had her for years. I don't want her to suffer but I also have a hard time justifying it if she's still acting like she's fine. So I guess what I'm asking all of you who have had to go through this is how you knew when it was time to let go?
    "There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse." - Robert Smith Surtees

  • #2
    Vol, it's always a tough time, seeing a wonderful horse going downhill. And I think you know the answer already...and understandably you are here asking
    for support and camaraderie. I'd do the same, faced with a really cold winter coming on here in TN.

    The most wonderful thing about horses is how they get into our hearts, and it also makes letting go really hard. Celebrate the time, and love you two have shared, and know that other people who love their own horses face the decision you are facing. You know your horse best,and you know in your heart what she is telling you. Hugs to you.
    What would you try if you knew you would not fail?

    Comment


    • #3
      You'll know and you are asking the right questions of yourself and in observing where she is on a given day. There is nothing that is easy about this decision, but doing it when there are more good days than bad saves suffering for you both.

      I put down a dear friend last year. The previous winter had been tough, he had deteriorated physically over the summer and then he would rally and have good days, good weeks. I was terrified I was going to find him down in the field, who knows for how long, and be forced to end it. I elected to take the information he was giving me and stop the decline sooner rather than later. I noticed he stopped "wearing" shavings - he wasn't lying down and he loved a good nap. He leaned against the stall wall, this became progressively more ofter. So, he was tired and afraid to fall down or he was tired and couldn't control his backend to stand resting. He fidgeted through his last bath. That was my final straw. He LOVED bathes (He actually loved any grooming. I body clipped him, ground tied at the Kentucky horse park on arrival day of a horse trials,trailers, golf carts, horses, dogs, . . . he would stand still all day if you were fussing over him.) and he just wasnt steady enough to enjoy a bath. I cut that bath short, banked the walls of the foaling stall, shed a few tears, checked the weather and called the vet and the backhoe service. It was to be a day and a half later at 9 am. So, I spent most of the next day at the barn. He got the most amazing supper and an equally pleasing breakfast. Close friends, who I had told, came by to say good bye. I had second thoughts the morning of as he drug me out of the barn like we were about to do a jog at a 1*. I knew that he was having a good day and I'd so much rather say good bye on a good day. My husband was there, my vet was a very good friend, she talked me through the entire process, that was a gift, 2 other close friends were there and then it was done done. You can't take it back. You can tell them how sorry you are that their body was failing them and how you so wished it could be different. Their suffering is over, yours is not.
      I can visit his grave daily. I know I did the right thing and YES, he might have had another 2 days or 2 weeks or 2 months, but those last 3 days he was the center of attention, time revolved around him and we were all witness to his passing.

      I've stood over a friend in the pouring rain who had to sit on his horse's neck to keep him down till the vet arrived because the horse spiral fractured behind. This horse was going downhill for some time and my sweet friend couldn't decide when was the right time.

      I've knelt in the cold beside a horse in congestive heart failure who's owner just wanted one more day.

      Don't be selfish, let her go before the decision is made for you. It is one of the kindest things we can do and you, too, will suffer less in a predetermined scenerio.

      Comment


      • #4
        Just had to respond to this

        I got this off another board, but I think it's relevant to your post:

        originally posted by 4XChestnut on EMG
        When do you know it’s time? The toughest decision of all.

        I don't mind sharing it here. We all secretly want to walk out in the field one day (far in the future) and find our beloved equine flat out and already gone, but realistically that's not going to happen for most of us. We're going to have to make the hard decision. Those stories printed in the horse magazines about the heroic efforts people made to prolong the life of their aged equine, and the description of their descent and ultimate hanging-on-by-a-thread condition before the owner had the guts to admit that it was time to let go always made me sad and angry (for the horse's sake). I felt it was cruel to prolong a life with no real hope of recovery or any quality, and promised my first horse (when I bought him) that when it was his time I would give him the last summer and then let him go.

        First of all - this is the biggest one - TRUST YOURSELF! YOU know your horse better than anyone else, YOU can see the little things sooner, better than ANYONE else in the world. Don't close your eyes; look, track, judge every single day you see your horse. What defines your horse's personality and characterizes your interactions? Watch for the slightest changes - not once, but if they are growing more frequent or worse, or you realize that X has become the new 'norm' it is up to you to work out why and what you can do to help.

        Second - be real for your horse's sake. If she/he is not comfortable for any period and the vet offers something, be direct and upfront and ask the hard questions. Will it improve back to where it was? Will this treatment heal the problem? Will it just mask the problem? Will it create more problems? Will this be an ongoing always treatment? Can I afford it? Then go away and face the answers. Do you just want to prolong your horse's life because "I'm not ready yet"? Believe me, you never will be. Are you improving the quality of his/her life, or just increasing the time spent suffering?

        Third - look for and project the factors that make your horse less comfortable. In my case my first horse had two months where he wasn't doing well in his last spring. Factors - weather, temperature. Projection - autumn, spring, even a warm spell during the winter. Two months is an awfully long time especially if you can see it is likely to repeat too often.
        A good relationship with your vet is a real help. Mine simply asked me "Are you sure?" when I made the appointment and that was it. Six months later he told me that he doesn't like euthanasia and even tries to find new homes for animals if he doesn't feel they need it - but when I said it was time, he had no doubt that I did know. You don't want to be arguing with your vet at this time.

        Close your ears to all your well-meaning friends who can't believe you are doing it and did you try such and such - you know your horse, you ARE right. You will question yourself every day, but keep going back to the first thing.
        Make the necessary plans early - whether you are going to go spoil your horse, stuff him full of carrots and then go away, leaving him tied to the wash rack before the vet comes, or stay through the whole ordeal (or anything in between) you won't be able to do anything else on the day.

        We cannot control our horses’ environments the same way we can for our small housepets. Dogs and cats can be kept in a warm environment, with limited forays into the cold. We can medicate them more easily and frequently. We can feed them special diets more easily. Horses by their very size and nature limit how much we can do for them. These limitations must be acknowledged and accepted when we decide on treatments for our horses’ ailments.

        I want to let my friends go on before they are enduring existence. Before every bone is showing. Before the depression or drug stupor takes over their life. Before they spend grinding weeks suffering pain and discomfort. I want them to leave knowing the sun on their bodies, the breath of warm air in their lungs, the half dance step of delight at going out or meeting up with a buddy. Knowing that I love them.
        This blog might be of interest too:

        http://endgame-journeys-end.blogspot.com/
        Last edited by RedHorses; Oct. 19, 2009, 04:24 PM. Reason: add blog link

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by eventingVOL View Post
          I was home for fall break this past weekend. When I got to the barn yesterday morning to feed all 4 legs were swollen and she was very sore. Gave her some Bute and wrapped her legs. She looked better and was moving normally (for her) in the afternoon. She didn't get any bute last night; my dad called this morning to say that she looked better this morning, swelling down and not as painful.
          For what it's worth, if one is stocked up in all four legs, I'm less concerned than if it was just one leg. You know your horse, consult with your veterinarian, but my rule of thumb is that it's time when day-in/day-out living isn't comfortably possible for them: when they can't comfortably ambulate or graze, when they don't or won't or can't eat, when they don't or can't roll, when you can't keep them at a comfortable temperature without heroic measures, etc. As far as "comfortable" goes - will some of the older guys be a bit stiff some mornings? Sure. But I look at it as the difference between whether giving them a bute and alot of turnout will help, versus when they can't get by on that or are in distress or alot of pain. It's not an easy set of decisions, but I think consulting with your vet is a key part of it.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by carolinagirl191 View Post
            You'll know and you are asking the right questions of yourself and in observing where she is on a given day. There is nothing that is easy about this decision, but doing it when there are more good days than bad saves suffering for you both.

            I put down a dear friend last year. The previous winter had been tough, he had deteriorated physically over the summer and then he would rally and have good days, good weeks. I was terrified I was going to find him down in the field, who knows for how long, and be forced to end it. I elected to take the information he was giving me and stop the decline sooner rather than later. I noticed he stopped "wearing" shavings - he wasn't lying down and he loved a good nap. He leaned against the stall wall, this became progressively more ofter. So, he was tired and afraid to fall down or he was tired and couldn't control his backend to stand resting. He fidgeted through his last bath. That was my final straw. He LOVED bathes (He actually loved any grooming. I body clipped him, ground tied at the Kentucky horse park on arrival day of a horse trials,trailers, golf carts, horses, dogs, . . . he would stand still all day if you were fussing over him.) and he just wasnt steady enough to enjoy a bath. I cut that bath short, banked the walls of the foaling stall, shed a few tears, checked the weather and called the vet and the backhoe service. It was to be a day and a half later at 9 am. So, I spent most of the next day at the barn. He got the most amazing supper and an equally pleasing breakfast. Close friends, who I had told, came by to say good bye. I had second thoughts the morning of as he drug me out of the barn like we were about to do a jog at a 1*. I knew that he was having a good day and I'd so much rather say good bye on a good day. My husband was there, my vet was a very good friend, she talked me through the entire process, that was a gift, 2 other close friends were there and then it was done done. You can't take it back. You can tell them how sorry you are that their body was failing them and how you so wished it could be different. Their suffering is over, yours is not.
            I can visit his grave daily. I know I did the right thing and YES, he might have had another 2 days or 2 weeks or 2 months, but those last 3 days he was the center of attention, time revolved around him and we were all witness to his passing.

            I've stood over a friend in the pouring rain who had to sit on his horse's neck to keep him down till the vet arrived because the horse spiral fractured behind. This horse was going downhill for some time and my sweet friend couldn't decide when was the right time.

            I've knelt in the cold beside a horse in congestive heart failure who's owner just wanted one more day.

            Don't be selfish, let her go before the decision is made for you. It is one of the kindest things we can do and you, too, will suffer less in a predetermined scenerio.
            What a beautiful post, carolinagirl; it made me cry. Your words were *so* clearly from the heart, and thank you for sharing your poignant and painful story with the rest of us...This is the very hard thing that we all have to face, at some point (I've been through it), and it helps tremendously to have support among other horse people; they are the only ones who can truly understand.
            "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

            "It's supposed to be hard...the hard is what makes it great!" (Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own")

            Comment


            • #7
              I just lost one to "natural causes". He was 27, he was getting a bit feeble, I thought the day was coming but no reason to do it yet.
              Then he had a painful passing that I will not go into. It only lasted a couple minutes, but I am not so fond of "natural causes" any more.
              Good luck with your decision. I think losing Derry the way I did will influence every other horse down the road whose is put into my care.
              www.ncsporthorse.com

              Comment


              • #8
                My mother lost her mare of 32 years in 2001. We were hoping for a few more months, but she came home to her already gone in the pasture (steps away from her favorite persimmon tree!). It devastated her to not be at her side when she passed. Being able to hold them and tell them they are loved when they cross that bridge is an invaluable gift to both you and them.

                PS> I usually look at their eye when I am faced with that decision. When that light in their eye is gone, that is when I have known I could make the decision with resolution.
                Sir Chancelot- 8 yr TB/ App

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