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Need Advice - Not really sure what to do

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  • Need Advice - Not really sure what to do

    This is super long, sorry. We've been through the wringer and there's a lot going on so bear with me on this one please!

    So I've had my horse for 5 years now. I,ve known him since he was about 9, and bought him when he was around 11, so we believe he is about 16 now. We aren't positive about his age as he was originally picked up from at New Holland and we got no history or info.
    In the last two years, he has had some major health issues. This time two years ago, he was in my barn's lesson program, happily helping teach students while I was away for a condensed school program. A few months later, he had a major laminitic episode and we discovered he had developed Cushing's Disease and started him on a half-dose of Prascend as recommended by my vet. He improved, though we suspected the half dose wasn't enough, but the vet insisted his bloodwork indicated it was the right amount and we shouldn't worry.

    Fast forward to last June and he has another laminitic episode and while it wasn't terrible, he took a while to get comfortable afterwards so we switched vets and upped his prascend, which helped immensely, but we kept him on light turnout for a couple weeks while we tried to get him adjusted to a smaller paddock (he is so convinced that he needs to be in the main field that he will either jump or dismantle fences to get into that field)

    The day he was supposed to go back out on regular turnout, he was found unable to move or put any weight on his right front leg. Vet was called immediately, and it was discovered that he had somehow managed to break his elbow overnight and had radial paralysis in the leg because of it. (We still have no idea how he did it, the stalls are well-maintained, nothing seemed disturbed, the front of the stall is fully-barred and the window in the back was latched closed. Luckily, the fracture wasn't terrible and our vet assured us that as long as the radial paralysis resolved, he should recover just fine.

    Well, because he was now weighting unevenly, despite our best efforts, we had another major laminitic episode, which became a founder episode. X-rays revealed a 17.5 degree rotation on the left front and 13 degree on the right. Based on his level of pain, we are pretty sure most of the rotation occurred before this episode, but since these are the first radiographs I've had of his feet, we can't know for sure. We couldn't get him to stop getting painful. More bloodwork revealed he was insulin resistant so we started him on Thyroxine L and saw an almost immediate drastic improvement. Once again, vet was optimistic so back to rehab.

    We then began a series of misfortunes, the most major of which being an open sore that refused to heal due to swelling which caused an old scar on his pastern to split around a full 3rd of the digit, an almost bowed tendon (my fault, I wrapped a bit too tight one night), and finally a post-founder abscess that began draining out the top of his right fore on the medial side.

    The post-founder abscess then led to the medial side of that hoof beginning to crush and for a while, it looked like the whole hoof might slough off. Luckily, it did not, but he lived on Banamine for a couple months while he kind of floated in a gray zone between okay and ouchy.

    Now, he's comfortable on a single dose of bute (which is mostly just precautionary) and we've started walking in-hand.

    Any other horse, I would have put down long ago, but even when he was obviously uncomfortable, he never seemed ready to give up. He was his usual goofy, silly self through it all, which is the only reason my barn owner and I decided to kept going. He never once looked miserable, got grumpy, or was anything other than the lovable goober he's always been.
    The last vet check up, my vet says that with given the proper rehab and shoeing, he could easily be ridable again, which is more than I could have hoped for.

    Unfortunately, none of this was cheap and I'm really struggling financially now. I've been out of work since returning from school and am struggling to find work. Working at the barn has curbed those expenses, but I've blown through every cent of my savings paying for all the vet care and shoeing (with pads) every 4 weeks.

    I have put so much time and effort into him over the last 5 years, especially recently and it kills me to think that I have to let him go, but I can't afford him any more. My barn owner has already been very generous with me, but I'm already behind on board and without reliable income and no more savings left, I'm stuck between a rock and an even bigger rock

    TL;DR: Horse had a rough, expensive year and still needs rehab, but I cannot afford him anymore. Not sure what my options might be, but I know I can't keep him.

    My problem now is what to do with him.
    I doubt anyone would buy him or even be willing to take him for free. After all his issues and the fact that he's still in rehab, and will need to wait until his feet are grown out and solid enough to be doing much, he's basically a money pit right now. Add in the fact that he needs special turnout because of the cushings and insulin resistance, and that he's got some problems with turnout*** and he wouldn't really make an ideal pasture buddy.
    If someone were willing to take and rehab him, they'd have a wonderful light-riding, kid-safe horse. He's the kind of guy you can pull out of the pasture after months off and he's perfectly well-behaved and willing. He's super out of shape and was never trained to any sort of exceptional level, but he was always a valuable school horse. However, like I said, I'm not sure I'd be able to find a suitable home for him if I went this route.

    I don't know if I could get a rescue to take him as he's expensive to keep and isn't super adoptable in his current state and, like I said before, has some turnout problems that might make him hard to place as even a buddy.

    I don't really want to put him down as we've overcome so much, he's still fairly young, and he still obviously has the will to keep going, but if that's my only option, I will. At least he would go while he's happy.

    Any and all ideas are welcome!

    *** He tries to pick up ponies like they're chew toys and doesn't really "speak horse" so he doesn't read the social cues very well.
    The worst issue though is that once he has bonded with another horse or group of horses, you CANNOT try to introduce a new horse to that group. He is not a lead horse, but will still "defend" his friends to an extreme degree. Not joking or exaggerating when I say it's like he is possessed and will attack the newcomer relentlessly. He has hung a horse on the fence (and continued to bite the shit out of him), chased a horse to near-exhaustion, and left another scarred. It DOES NOT matter if he has met the newcomer already either away from the group or over the fence. One of the horses he attacked he talked to kindly over the fence for over a year and the other was a former friend he had been turned out with previously.
    He is not violent at all with people, no bite or kick in this horse at all.

  • #2
    The sad news is that with all his problems most people will run from him like he is carrying the plague.

    He is not the type of horse any owner in good conscience should pass on to another. He has bled you dry and will do the same to the next unsuspecting ( or fully informed) person who has him.

    The hardest thing to do is put him down, but from what you describe it really is the only right option if you can't keep him.

    I am sorry. You have done so much and he sounds like a real special guy.


    • #3
      I think your only option besides euthanasia would be if your current barn owner would be willing to take him on as a free lease, and pay his expenses with the payoff being a great lesson horse to use once he's rideable again. I think that would be asking a lot since you aren't sure how long his recovery will be or if he will be rideable again, but it's the only option I see for him at this point. Otherwise, you've done your best, and kept him happy, and there's something to be said for letting him go while he's still happy and not waiting for the next laminitic episode. He won't know his life was cut shorter than it could be. It's never an easy decision to make, and it sounds like you really love him. Good luck.


      • #4
        This is what "gets" laminetic horses, the "cascade effect". One issue piles up on top of the previous one, caused by the previous one, and contributes to the next issue. Each issue in itself can be fatal, one on top of the other just makes it all worse, and more expensive for the owner to attempt to fight it. And harder for the horse, more pain. Horses are often very stoic creatures, and can sometimes withstand pain, and remain outwardly cheerful. But inside, the progression continues. That is HUGE coffin bone rotation, it is not minor, it is not survivable with any chance of recovery. The future is not rosy for the horse, and veterinary intervention has already taken it's economic toll on continuing to try. It will not continue forever, the end comes in one way or another, you (and your horse) are fighting a losing battle. This is not something that someone other than YOU can deal with, you can not pass this horse on to someone else, and lose control of his care and decisions in his best interest. Decide on a date, make the arrangements, and make the calls you need to make. Feed him a carrot, and kiss him goodbye. Hard as it is, it is part of horse ownership.

        This is where you need a good friend, another horse owner who knows you and your horse is best. Since you have been the one trying to keep this horse alive and have a huge emotional investment into the horse, now is the time you need to step out of the picture. It is best if you are not involved in the final step of his life, that of his death. Your emotional attachment may be problematical for him, the fact that you will be in emotional turmoil may upset him, he will know you are upset, but won't know why, making him tense and concerned if you are present. You need a friend to take over for you, to be there to lead him out of his stall, to be there to meet the vet or other method of dispatch, to do this job for you. Someone who does not have the emotional attachment to the horse that you do. This way, the horse's last moments will be relaxed, not dealing with an upset and emotional human. This is the final service you can do for him. Go away and cry by yourself. Let others take over with this job.



        • #5
          You have already done more than most people would have done. Unfortunately money must be part of the treatment decisions we make for our horses. Given the history you've shared I wonder if it is reasonable to think further laminitic episodes are unlikely. Cushings/PPID tends to affect the horse's ability to heal in general, and even reduces the effective coverage period of vaccines.

          With everything you have already done for him it will be even harder to let him go now. I sympathize and offer virtual (((hugs))).

          My older horse injured himself earlier this year and is currently on limited turnout and hand walking. He has PPID as well. Surgery is an option if he doesn't heal, but it will require a lot of discussion and a very good chance of success before I agree to do it. He also has heaves and I wonder how that affects the risk of general anesthesia. He is a wonderful horse, the sort that anyone would love to have, and we have been through other major injuries (well spaced) in our 20+ years together. I want to give him the chance for another five years of fun.

          Despite his PPID, heaves and PSSM he is in great shape and we were going to try endurance riding this year (starting with 25 miles). We have an ultrasound on Monday and I am hoping for healing. But I have my questions and concerns ready for any discussion regarding surgery.

          Money will be part of it.

          (((Hugs))) I hope you find a job soon that will make the money part of things less difficult while you decide what's best for your horse.



          • #6
            Read "THIS IT BE RIGHT" in the Off Course Forum.

            I hope it helps.
            Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

            Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


            • #7
              Time to give him his final reward. He deserves it.


              • #8
                Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                Read "THIS IT BE RIGHT" in the Off Course Forum.

                I hope it helps.
                This ^^



                • #9
                  I will ditto the above fine folks.

                  A day with every yummy he ever dreamed of eating and a gentle passing would be best for all concerned...especially him. He knows not of tomorrow or maybe. He knows now and now hurts.

                  (((( Understanding Hugs ))))
                  <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.