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Geriatric Dilemma

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  • Geriatric Dilemma

    As if I didn't have enough problems...

    In my heart, I decided my oldest two geldings would go together when one of their time's came, I knew when it came down to it, it would be difficult.

    My very oldest is 36, his buddy is 30. The 30-year-old has had injuries to his front legs in his lifetime that required he be kept up in wraps and gradually let back out, and he has survived his thick tendons til now. He came in very lame Monday night, gave him bute, kept him up for the past few days, farrier came today, it's not an abscess, and he's very much better but just the time on the leg while the other hoof was being trimmed caused him to walk off sore. This isn't about what is wrong with him so much as if I decide the time is now, my husband has trouble with it all.

    I have to do what I think is right by the horses, and I know it's going to mean taking some hard comments from him. Maybe I'm just checking in to get some moral support, maybe some of his perspective coming from another soul.

    My reasons for euthanizing the two soon:

    Summer-it's always been harder on them (in Virginia) than winter

    Lameness and chronic discomfort-I have diligently kept it under control but I feel like they're both on the edge of teetering into not being so.

    Nutrition: they can't utilize hay at all and even have to chew up grass and quid it out, still enjoyable but not giving them much nutrition. That they get from soaked hay cubes and LOTS of senior feeds. They look grand, but are taking in more to stay on that edge too. At some point, they won't be able to eat enough to cover their ribs and keep muscles to get them around.

    Herd dynamics: They have been the top boys in the herd, and have left that post to stay a bit segregated from the younger three. They both love to play gelding games and they take as much as they give out in face-fights with the younger ones. This could have been what got the one injured, who knows. Segregating them both now means they pine for the big field, the injured one is staying up for now and his buddy is hanging out in a run-in situation where they can still be with each other. By himself, the older one is really lost. If the situation was reversed, the 30-year-old would be too.

    I liked what someone said when they stated it was better to let them go a day too early than a day too late. THAT'S where I am.

    I will not lie and say that economy has nothing to do with any of it, I have kept them both and made choices about my whole life based on spending for the animals instead of what a lot of my family and friends spend their income on. I don't want to say that letting them go will save me a lot of money (I don't really have) but it is true, and it will. I still have several horses/ponies over twenty and a couple of costly younger ones with issues. It still has nothing to do with the current situation, or my decision, but in my mind, if I ever got in serious financial straits, I would sooner euthanize than pass off any of the old guys.

    I've known one of these guys longer than I have had my husband, and I've had him for 29 years. The other one I have had for 19 years. I don't want to wait til they are sick or very weak, or injured seriously. I want to do this in the next couple of weeks probably, if I don't chicken out or cave.

  • #2
    You are only asking the question because you already know the answer and want someone to validate your decision, so here you go: go for it. It's never a bad time to give the greatest gift one can receive when it's coming from the heart. Godspeed.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home


    • Original Poster

      You got me there, but I can't tell you the value of this forum for stuff like this. I love my husband, he only hurts out of the hurt he can't cope with, but we've been down this road before, and I need some friends.


      • #4
        I had to let an old girl go here just over a year ago, our circumstances were different, she hadn't been here very long, but she was the sort of mare who got into everyone's hearts.

        Hers was a sad and bad story of failed trust and faith being put in the wrong place, suffice to say that the brood mare/amble around confidence booster that I thought I was buying turned out to be a rescue case.

        I spent months gradually fattening her up, and spending time with her, and she got well enough that I was starting to do ground work, then she got more problems. It was obvious that she would never be fit enough to either ride or breed, but I was happy to have her hang around, and keep the others company.

        When she started to go downhill in the winter I kept wondering why I kept her around, but I still couldn't bear to let her go, until one day I looked at her and I knew. I cam't explain it I just knew that it was time. I made all the arrangements and had the job done, with only a tinge of sadness, but mainly a profound relief for her.

        I think that if you listen to your own heart and theirs you know when it's time.

        ((((((hugs))))))))) it is he last great gift that we can give our animals, and one that my mum was desperate that we would grant to her, one that I hope someone grants to me.

        Life should be measured both in terms of quality as well as quantity. Death should be if at all possible dignified and pain free.

        Dammit, sad day again, I'm going to go hug my arthritic mutt, the deaf guy with the cataracts and the heart murmur. I'm going to look into his eyes as I give him his evening pain pill and see if he has the 'spark' this evening. I'm balancing the days, so far his good far outnumber his bad, but the balance is slowly changing.
        I'm not sure if I grew out of stupid or ran out of brave.

        Practicing Member of the Not too Klassy for Boxed Wine Clique


        • #5
          There is no easy answer with these things. So much to consider - the comfort of the horses as well as their interdependence. When you have spent that much time with an animal you know them as individuals, their personalities and behaviors. Your history with them is tied up with your family. Losing an ancient cat who arrived as a kitten when my son was three felt like I was losing his childhood.

          At this point it sounds like you are keeping a lid on things. The 30 year old is not in dire straits, and has his friend to keep him company in the new arrangement. They are still in decent weight and enjoying their meals. If either was to have an acute colic or be unable to get up, the decision would be simpler.

          How to know when it's time? I'm not sure there's an answer and have been guilty of waiting too long with some of my pets. My horses colicked at 20 and 25 within a year of each other due to internal tumors (way too soon and I still beat myself up about what I could have done differently - nothing, apparently). There was no saving them and my heart was broken for a long time.

          As long as they're eating I can't pull the plug. We have two 20-year-old cats whose kidneys are failing and who get fluids weekly and special meals, and one is so arthritic that her walk is completely erratic, but she's the first one to the bowl meowing for dinner, and purring on my lap after.

          Seems like I spent the last 5 years with my oldest mare wondering if this would be the year, and worrying about the details of what to do with her after (saw someone with similar thoughts on another post, and it is guilt provoking, to be caught up in details like that). You see it coming and can't help but make yourself sick over it. Both of ours are buried on our property which is comforting, somehow.

          So that is my rambling discourse, perhaps not much help. It is going to hurt no matter what, I can only tell you that the passage of time, as always, has been a great help.


          • #6
            Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
            You are only asking the question because you already know the answer and want someone to validate your decision, so here you go: go for it. It's never a bad time to give the greatest gift one can receive when it's coming from the heart. Godspeed.
            She's right. You already have your answer. But if you need to hear it from others know that you have my support as well.
            "Reason is, and ought to be, the slave of passions." David Hume


            • #7
              You have my support also, as hard as the decision is to make, and as hard as it will be to convince your DH that this really is the right thing to do for your horses.

              And, yes, I am walking in your shoes, with a 28 year old and a 24 year old, that have their fair share of issues that come with age. It is not their time yet, but I do monitor their health and general happiness levels every day.
              There are friends and faces that may be forgotten, but there are horses that never will be. - Andy Adams


              • #8
                Have you consulted with your vet? It might help with your husband, if the vet says it's time to let them go gently.
                Or your vet might be able to reassure you that they have some more quality time left.

                I always say, I hope my mare, 32 this year, does me one last favor and simply goes to sleep forever in the sun in the pasture one morning.


                • #9
                  I support you 100%.My biggest regret is that I didn't put my boy down a day too early.....I will never call myself a true horsewoman because of this.


                  • #10
                    And my support also. You know what you must do, but the support from others is a blessing. I do like the idea of having the vet check to help ease your husband's mind.

                    I am facing much the same thing with my old guy. He has good weight (due to his soaked bucket feed) and on a good day, moves pretty well. On a bad day, it hurts to watch him. He is on pain control, but it can only do so much. He also gets these "mental" troubles when he will worry himself into a near frenzy which is something he has never done in his life before. I think it may be caused by diminishing of his vision and maybe hearing, but who really knows. I nearly called the vet a week ago, but then he came out of it & is doing good now. So, it is a day by day thing. My vet has seen him and agrees that the time is close, but months or weeks, we just don't know now.

                    The financial part is also a consideration as he is costing me extra each month to more then equal another horse. My vet said he has put down a fair number of horses based more on financial reasons then health reasons. At this point, I keep pouring the money into him with a smile to see his handsome, stately self each day.

                    It is tough, but he has been with me 28 of his 31 years, so I have been so fortunate to have him so long.

                    Be brave and know that you will be giving them the greatest gift. And that they also give us the greatest gift.
                    There is no such thing as "bad" horsemanship or "good" horsemanship. There is simply Horsemanship or the absence thereof.



                    • #11
                      More support for "a day early". Waiting is more for us than them.Horses can be very stoic about pain,which doesn't mean they are "happy".I have had to make this decision as well,and it is terribly hard to do,but it is awfully nice if they can leave life while they are still