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sadly giving up on EMND horse

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  • sadly giving up on EMND horse

    This past spring we bought a gorgeous PRE for my daughter as her to be bronze medal horse. He is a lovely horse with a great temperament, terrific breeding, and very talented movement. Shortly after we got him (he came from SK, Canada and we are in the US), he started acting spooky, in pain and sore in his back. Shortly after his one and only show 9where he did well), he started to waste before our eyes. We took him in to Cornell and had the Full Monte workup done to rule out and in everything, and he came back with a definitive diagnosis of equine motor neuron disease. We have done the expensive natural vitamin E, his weight came back, but his back muscle motor neurons appear to be fully dead. We tried putting him back in light work, but he is just so uncomfortable and is in pain and tried to buck voraciously.

    I am of the "one spinal column per human lifetime" school of thought and even though we paid a small fortune for this horse. I am ready to give up. My husband and I do not want to put anyone at risk, and are considering options for him that would be free, since we feel it is unethical to pass him along to anyone for money or without complete and full disclosure.

    Does anyone here have ideas of a possible life for a horse like this? He is only 8, almost 9. He can be ridden at a walk and is a gorgeous animal. We do not want to send him for slaughter, and our vet can not put him down when he is a happy horse out at pasture with a good appetite and a sweet demeanor. We board, and if we had our own place, we would just let him live out his life in a pasture.

    Any ideas welcome.

  • #2
    I am very sorry for your situation.

    I have a stunningly beautiful hunter A circuit hunter type pet at home.

    Would he be safe and comfortable in retirement? Is that an option for you? Could you find an inexpensive retirement place for him?

    My heart goes out to you!


    • #3
      I guarantee you that someone on this board is going to ask whether you have insurance for loss of use.

      I am sorry you are going through this - can you find a cheap, pasture board situation for him? I have several friends with retirees that live in very large paddock/mini-pastures that have run-ins for shelter. The horses are happy in their retirement and their change of life from being in more of a full-care environment.


      • #4
        Wow, sorry to hear this! I wasn't really aware of this disease. It sounds similar to ALS in humans. I actually work on drug development in ALS--wish we were further along and could offer you an experimental drug!

        If you can't afford to board him I think that no one would blame you for putting him down. It might be the wisest decision, however hard.


        • #5
          Your vet *cannot* put him down? Have you asked, and he has refused?

          If that's the case, find another vet. It is absolutely ridiculous for a vet to refused to euthanise an animal, especially one that is not sound and actually a danger to ride. If you are in Colorado (or perhaps some nearby states) I can provide a few vets that would be willing to help you.

          If you are dedicated to finding him a spot to live out his life, is it possible that he could be driven comfortably? A useful horse is always easier to rehome successfully.

          I don't envy your position at all and I'm terribly sorry for the outcome here


          • #6
            I agree that you need to find a vet who will honor your wishes to put him down in his normal surroundings. Short of that you can look into a terminal study at a University.
            McDowell Racing Stables

            Home Away From Home


            • #7
              There are plenty of inexpensive retirement board options. I'd try to find one close to home if possible so you can check on the horse occasionally. If not, perhaps someone here can give you a reputable recommendation.


              • #8
                Find another vet who can see the reality of a horse that has virtually no quality of life and will do the right thing. Every horse deserves the ultimate kindness when there is no hope of a pain-free existence being a horse and doing what horses do: MOVING. Standing around and looking pretty is not what most horses would vote for, I'm sure, given the choice. A sweet temperament can mask a lot of misery. Very, very sorry for you, your daughter, and the poor horse.

                Would donating him to a program doing research into this disorder be an option?
                Click here before you buy.


                • #9
                  You could try to find him a companion home -- which, generally, are incredibly difficult to find -- but with you paying for his vet and farrier. That way you don't have any board costs. It makes taking on a "useless" horse a little more attractive for people.

                  I'm not saying you *should* find him a companion home; I can't tell from your OP if the horse would be better put down or not. If not, then a bills-paid companion might be an option.
                  Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/peonyvodka/


                  • #10
                    Is the horse in pain walking around just being a horse? Some of you make it sound as if the horse should be put out of his misery, however, is it actually the case that the horse is in pain just being a horse? I am guessing no as the vet refuses to put him down? If the horse is truly too sore to be retired comfortably then I totally agree that the horse should be put down....obviously.

                    I do sympathize with the OP ,the whole situation just sucks! I have two geldings that are retired under the age of six. I pay board on both of them. There are probably smarter things to spend my money on, but I do it because they are happy and healthy and I know in my heart that to take the life of one of my horses simply because it doesn't do something for me anymore is simply wrong. These are living creatures and I feel strongly that if people cannot be responsible for their animals in situations where they need to be retired then they should pick up another hobby, perhaps motorbikes ect. Call me crazy but that is just how I feel.

                    "Simple: Breeding,Training, Riding". Wolfram Wittig.


                    • #11
                      I am so sorry. I had a mare that had similar problems, although there was never a clear diagnosis. I did choose to send her out to pasture for 6 months to see how she would cope. She became better in pasture and I found a light riding home for her where she could live out in pasture and be cared for by someone knowledgeable who had her own property.

                      If she had been bad enough I would have had no problem finding a vet that would put her down. She has actually had some issues at her new home that sometimes make me think she should have been put down.

                      IMO sometimes what is best for the horse is making the hard decision to end their life, even when others are trying to guilt trip you into not doing it.
                      On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                      • #12
                        In this economy, I do not understand why any vet would refuse to put down this horse. I am totally against slaughter, having seen videos of slaughter in action. Any vet should understand that it is best to put down a horse than to send it off to either slaughter or give it away. I've seen the results of giveaways when horses were starved.

                        Some of the retirement places are good. But some are awful.

                        I hope your vet will reconsider euth-ing your horse. Perfectly sound horses are being offered for free and cannot be given away. Those with issues are not going to find homes. Even the handicapped riding programs give away donated horses. Otherwise I'd suggest giving him to one of them. Best to euth if you cannot afford to board him.


                        • #13
                          For those pushing for euth, please note OP stated he can be ridden at the walk only.
                          This does not sound like a horse in terminal pain.
                          If the horse is in constant, untreatable pain, I'd be surprised if her vet had not already suggested putting him down.

                          I agree with Simkie's suggestion of evaluating him as a driving horse.
                          But driving horses definitely need to use their backs, so he may not be suited.

                          I lost a lovely TWH to suspected EMND (vet hospital lost the tissue samples, so no definitive necropsy) - he went from showing in October to skin & bones and lying down most of the day by December. I let him go in early January.

                          OP, {hugs} to you & DD - lousy situation for you all.
                          *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                          Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                          Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                          Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                          • #14
                            I know nothing about the disease, but could you try turning him out for 6 months to a year and re-evaluating him then? Does he have to stay on the expensive vitamin e supplement for life?

                            I would be very hesitant to pass him on to someone else. Even with full disclosure there is no guarantee that someone would not try to ride him or sell him to someone without disclosing his issues. This happened with me and a neurological horse I had. Even with a written contract and open communication, you can't prevent others from making stupid decisions.

                            The majority of vets in this area are the same way about euthanizing, but you can find one that will honor your request to euthanize if you look around.

                            Good luck to you...I am sorry you are going through this.


                            • #15
                              Wow, I am extremely surprised that your vet would refuse to put down a horse with EMND. I would look for a different vet that will. Even with vitamin E supplementation these horses can still continue to go downhill. And with weakness in his back and hind end, he may end up hurting himself severely in a retirement board pasture and laying there for hours before anyone finds him. I would find a new vet.

                              And I must also say that driving him as some suggested would be far worse than riding him. He has weakness of the hind end, which is exactly what a driving horse has to use the most.


                              • #16
                                I would never want to drive a horse that had displayed explosive behavior under saddle due to a disease that is still present. SCARY. Getting bucked off is one thing, but a horse with a leg over a shaft that's still attached to the vehicle where I'm sitting--nope, never again.

                                To pay for an otherwise healthy 8 year old horse for the next 15-20 years is a GIGANTIC financial hardship. If the OP doesn't have the wherewithal or her own property to keep a horse for years and years it is perfectly reasonable to consider euthanasia.
                                Click here before you buy.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by caryledee View Post
                                  I would be very hesitant to pass him on to someone else. Even with full disclosure there is no guarantee that someone would not try to ride him or sell him to someone without disclosing his issues. This happened with me and a neurological horse I had. Even with a written contract and open communication, you can't prevent others from making stupid decisions.
                                  Ditto this as well. I gave away a pleasure horse that just had a bad knee, the things he went through after that still haunts me.

                                  The problem with neurological horses is often the disease actually makes them "fabulous movers". And even most vets cannot spot a neuro horse unless it's falling on them. You give away a big, fancy horse like this and chances are the horse WILL end up being ridden and shown, maybe end up at a sales barn and sold for a lot of money to some unsuspecting buyer. I have seen it happen with a horse I leased that had some weird issues.

                                  I think the OP has a really difficult decision to make, but knows what the right one is.
                                  On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                                  • #18
                                    So sorry

                                    If you don't want to try to find a less expensive "retirement board" option (which is what I did for my chronically lame horse and my older pony) then I think putting him down is a totally acceptable decision. If you vet refuses, look for another who will.
                                    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                                      For those pushing for euth, please note OP stated he can be ridden at the walk only.
                                      This does not sound like a horse in terminal pain.
                                      Agree that he doesn't seem to be in pain but IMHO there's a kindness in letting a horse go well before it gets to that, under these circumstances (untreatable progressive disease).
                                      "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                                      • #20
                                        Sorry to hear this.

                                        What did the vets say about the possiblity of any future improvement?

                                        The reason I am asking is I recall your original thread and his Dx came not that long ago. Correct? I am not at all up to date on prognosis for EMND, but was just wondering of possible merit boarding him over winter in an ecomonical turnout/run in situation with a solid citizen or two and giving him the winter with continuing Vit E and then re-evaluate as spring approaches.