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Very Tough Decision...

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  • Very Tough Decision...

    Seeking advice...a horse I bred ten years ago is living in a wonderful home 10 hours from me. He was retired at 5 due to a neurologic condition. The current owner recently contacted me informing me she could no longer care for him, for various reasons. After several emails back and forth, we both came to the conclusion it was probably time to put him down.
    It was hard at first, but after a couple of weeks I came to accept that decision.

    Today I had a very generous friend contact me, letting me know that she would pay for his upkeep if I bring him back here. She would continue to do this until the day came when he was should be euthanized for medical reasons. The decision to euthanize now came from many different elements, but money was at the top. Also concerning me is how that long of a trip would affect him. Although I have seen a video of him recently, I really don't know how far the arthritis has progressed and if that trip would overstress him. And I don't know how logical it is to keep this horse going...to move him from the place he now knows as home.

    If this was your horse, what would you do? Continue with the original plan or bring him home?

    Thanks for any insights!

  • #2
    Is there a way for a vet to take a look at him and evaluate his ability to make the trip?

    What I got from your post was that the money issue was the largest factor in deciding to euthenize now.

    Since the money problem would be a non-issue if your friend takes him, then in my eyes it all boils down to if he can make the trip.

    Unless I am misunderstanding the situation.


    • #3
      I am very sorry to hear about the choice you need to make. It is yours and yours alone to decide and no judgement from me other than it is obvious the well being of the horse is where your heart is.

      I guess if it were me I have to go visit the horse and see 1st hand if quality of life were even possible with the move and after the move. Sometimes arthitis is very managable . Sometimes when compounded with other health issues not so much.

      Whatever you decide I hope you and his current owner can find peace with the choice.


      • #4
        You might want to use Nigel Tuffnel's philosophy (from Spinal Tap): "Have a good time, all the time." That's what a good HO tries to produce for her horse. She does the very best for the present situation within it's particular constraints. So your only problem is to figure out what the constraints are.

        Look, if money was the big problem and now it is miraculously removed, go onto the next criterion: Will the horse do OK in the trip and will he be happy in his new digs? Then the third one: How will the people surrounding the horse feel about it? Remember that if he'll do OK on the trip and have a good life in his new spot, that's good enough for now. If you or his benefactor change things later, you can euthanize then.

        IMO, the best euthanasias are the ones that had early and careful planning stages. In other words, if you have opened the possibility of putting him down once, you did the hardest work. Now you just need to set up the criteria that tell you what to do in future situations.

        In short, give the horse a shot at the move if you can and remember that you can change your mind later.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat


        • Original Poster

          Thanks everyone! There are a ton of factors here. I started to list them all, but it is just too long to explain in this forum. This horse has learned to compensate for his limitations. But I don't know how much pain he is in, or if he is in any. When I got the diagnosis 6 years ago, he was grade 4 on the neurologic scale. I think the vet thought I should euthanize then, but I could not. Maybe I should have. Maybe I was pushing the hard decision off on someone else. I think I was in denial at that time about how bad the diagnosis was and I was hoping he would improve. Now I am worried that he will someday fall and not be able to get up. His owner told me that last winter was pretty hard on him; he got stuck and couldn't move a couple of times but luckily did not go down. If that would happen where I board, it could easily be 8 hours before anyone would find him as there are only a couple of boarders there and the owners don't watch the horses.

          He would need to be seen by a specialist for an accurate evaluation of how good or bad he currently is. That is not available where he is now. I could bring him here and have him evaluated but I don't know if it would be fair to ask him to make that trip to an unfamiliar farm. What if he would fall in the trailer? It could put everyone in jeopardy. I should mention that he is an 18 hand, probably 1800 lb horse.

          The "give him a shot now and evaluate later" is what I keep reconsidering. I just want to be sure I am taking every factor into consideration.

          I really appreciate the input!!


          • #6
            I was in a slightly different situation, in which I was keeping a friend's heart horse, who was dealing with a chronic limp and beginning to have more bad days than good. What we did was arrange a quality of life evaluation with my vet, for which my friend flew down. That day the mare was feeling perky, and the vet thought it would be reasonable to move her back to her owner's keeping several hundred miles away (I had been boarding her while my friend dealt with her divorce) and monitored more closely. We did that, buteing her for the trip, and mare and friend enjoyed a few more months together before the mare was humanely euthanized.

            I guess my point is, don't let the length of the trip deter you from what you might otherwise think is a good plan for the horse. Whether it *is* a good plan depends on lots of factors which only you can evaluate.
            Originally posted by HuntrJumpr
            No matter what level of showing you're doing, you are required to have pants on.


            • #7
              I think euthanasia at his current home sounds like the most kind thing to do.

              A grade of 4 is very bad! And if he already had an issue of getting stuck, and winter on it's way - i.e. slick ground is coming, I don't think that is fair.

              For a flight animal, not having a good grasp on where their feet are can be a worrisome issue (I believe). He is at risk of falling and like you said, he could potentially be down & hurt for hours before someone would be able to notice & help him.

              Sorry you're having to go through this :-(


              • Original Poster

                Thanks! I am still going back and forth, trying to decide the best road to take. He never did appear that bad neurologically when he was with me. But yes, the diagnosis was definitely not a good one and I definitely see the problems of winter, cold and slick footing.

                I think my next hobby is going to be rock collecting.


                • #9
                  We recently put down a horse that had an undiagnosed neurologic disorder. For the past 8 years he had never been "quite right" and we went through many diagnostics and interventions trying to fix him. Over the past year he became uncomfortable under saddle and we retired him 6 weeks ago. The change he went through in the last 6 weeks was amazing. He lost weight, became very sway backed, and he started standing with his hind end "under" him. We made the decision in the face of a predicted difficult winter to euthanize him while his quality of life was good. Our fear was that he would go down in the field and we wouldn't be able to get him up and help would be far away. It was a difficult decision but now that it is done I have a huge sense of relief.

                  Good luck these decisions are never easy.
                  "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man." Mark Twain


                  • #10
                    I think the kindest thing you could do is put him down where he is now. He's happy and as good as he is ever going to be. Go visit him if it will ease your mind. But remember, horses live in the moment. Show him extra kindness, stuff him full of treats and give him a gentle end.


                    • #11
                      So sorry you have to make this call. I am of the opinion that quality of life, be it horse or human (or any species) is far more important than quantity, or length, of life. If the horse is having trouble in his own pasture now, than that would not bode well for him to handle a move smoothly. I don't think the "when" is as important as the "how" when it comes to euthanasia. I used to work for a vet and IMO, most people who truly love thier animals wait too long, and the animal suffers unduly because of the owner's fear of "doing the wrong thing". We are all going to die sometime, animals don't waste their time contemplating death like we do. You gave this horse a comfortable retirement, if you decide that the trip etc. is probably too much for him, or too risky for his handlers, you should not feel guilty. I always look at it this way - when you let one go, you open up a "space" for another one in need.


                      • #12
                        I'd euthanzie him where he currently is. I wouldn't want to put him through the stress of a 10 hour trailer drive and I could never forgive myself if I brought him home and found him down in a pasture. I'd much rather stuff his face with carrots and yummy snacks, love on him, and let him go while he is happy, not distressed.
                        "People ask me 'will I remember them if I make it'. I ask them 'will you remember me if I don't?'"