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Putting a mostly healthy horse down. The emotional side.

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  • #61
    I've put 5 down in the last 6 years. All were "somewhat healthy". One had EPSM and was dangerous to be around. 12 years old. Not a pasture pet candidate. One was my retired Eventer who bowed RF in his paddock. 23. Stall rest was killing him. He might have healed but was so unhappy he was better off dead. One had an ongoing eye ulcer and was so freaked out about the treatment he would spin away when he heard me coming and bash his bad/blind eye on the wall in his flight. 23. One could have gone on forever, mildly lame, occasionally colicky, unrideable due to a very-bad-man in his previous life. 14. The last was daughter's Eventer with an ever growing in and external GIGANTIC anal melanoma. 23. The last 2 went together, in our hay field next to the river. You are doing the right thing. If she is dangerous, she is unhappy and or painful. Better to let her go a month too soon than a minute too late. You are also protecting her. Better to put her down, in a peaceful situation, having eaten a bag or 6 of carrots and peppermints than to go off to a less sympathetic situation. All she really knows is that you love her, she's getting treats and she's getting a needle stick. Once you decide and make the appointment with the vet, you'll know it is right. Make the date for a week away then watch her. You'll know. By giving yourself that block of time, you make the grieving less miserable. Dote on her during that week. It is truly miserable but you're doing the right thing and doing her a favor. Good luck.
    Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


    • #62
      I am so sorry that his will not work out.

      You have my understanding, and sympathy.
      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.


      • #63
        Originally posted by CHT View Post
        Sorry to hear about your gelding. Actually my chiro thinks this may be the issue with my gelding (retired for the past two years). We are getting him x-rayed this Friday. I don't think that wondering about him is helping me either. Did it freak you out at all to think you had been riding a horse with a fractured neck?
        Man, losing a horse is one of the most traumatic events. My parents were professional trainers and had a big barn while I was growing up, so I've seen the life cycle up close and personal, but I'd never had to put my own horse down. Thank you for your condolences. Talking about it, especially with other horse people who TRULY know what you're going through, is very helpful for your grieving process.

        It completely freaks me out to think he was being ridden his whole life with a fractured neck. The rads were HORRIFYING. However, he never showed one inkling of pain until the low-grade intermittent lameness that caused me to investigate and, ultimately, to diagnose his issue. I truly believe that he led a happy, joy-filled life up until the last six weeks. He loved jumping unlike any horse I have ever ridden. He was just a little 14.3 quarter horse/paint (and I had previously leased fancy WBs), but he could jump the freaking moon. He just had this huge heart and an immense love for his job. He was very expressive and we were very in tune with one another, so I do think I would have been aware of he had been in active pain during the two years I rode him.

        What is crazy is that two weeks before he went "off" we were happily jumping around Training level cross-country. He didn't have a care in the world and was putting the TBs to shame with his high energy shannagins. What made it easier for me to put him down was to see the distinct difference between him then (so recent in my memory) and him at the time of diagnosis. In just a few short weeks (once the arthritis hit the right spot and started causing active pain) he turned from joyful, exuberant, and affectionate to dull, sullen, and sad. I was not easy to put him down, but I do believe it was right and best.

        Everyone handles this differently, but I know I needed to be there in his last moments. I pet him and cradled his head as he went down. I kissed him and calmed him and was there for him through the whole experience. I think we both felt reassured by one another's presence. In the end, I wanted him to know how much loved him and that I was there fore him no matter what. It was absolutely the hardest day of my entire life and I still miss him every single day.

        I also had a small, beautiful memorial for him at the barn, which helped. We brought champagne and toasted his memory (his name was Blame the Champagne and I had brought champagne for the barn on the day I bought him). I wrote down phrases about loss and horses on pretty doilies. We read them aloud and tied them to gold and white balloons to release into the air. We shared memories of him, pictures, and tears. Everyone at the barn was very supportive and kind and it was clear that he was well-loved. I recommend doing something like this, even if it is just you and a close friend or two.

        My thoughts and prayers are with you in this most difficult time.


        • #64
          Originally posted by Lori T View Post
          That is exactly why I have never spoken about putting down any of my horses beforehand on this thread. It is a personal decision to be made and only you and those involved can make that call. It is easy to be the armchair quarterback.
          Yes, I was completely shocked at the people who thought they had a right to criticize my decision. They were not there, had not been actively participating in our lives and training, and did not know the details, yet they felt entitled to discuss my decision openly with others and, ultimately, to condemn me for my decision. My previous trainer, who I had left only to have my guy closer to home and not for any negative reasons, refused to help me find a new horse because I hadn't called her when he first went lame. She said, and I quote, that she was the first and only person who should have been notified. The crazy part was that I had even considered calling her, but what could she have done other than drive out (1+ hour), tell me he was lame (already knew that), and told me to call a vet (already done that)? Eventually, after months of silence, I asked her if she was upset with me and when we talked on the phone she proceeded to scream at me, accuse me of not "engaging my f'ing brain," and told me that she could have fixed him (God complex???). I had already explored EVERY option, including paying for him to be out of pasture for the rest of his life (even if it meant me not being able to afford another horse), but the vet said it was unsafe due to the current state of his neurologic condition. Also, my very best friend and his horsey God-mother was very angry with me for not keeping him at the hospital overnight so she could say goodbye. I think everyone has a right to feel sad upon the death of a horse, but no one has the right to criticize or comment on YOUR decision (as long as you are a kind, compassionate, careful horseperson of character who is getting professional help, which it sounds like you absolutely are). My point is, don't broadcast your decision. I learned the hard way that, for whatever weird reason, people will take their grief out on you, which will only make this agonizing decision ever more traumatic. Find one or two close and supportive friends and keep them close by. Find inner strength, confidence, and peace and just do what needs to be done.


          • #65
            Originally posted by RiverBendPol View Post
            Better to let her go a month too soon than a minute too late. You are also protecting her. Better to put her down, in a peaceful situation, having eaten a bag or 6 of carrots and peppermints than to go off to a less sympathetic situation. All she really knows is that you love her, she's getting treats and she's getting a needle stick.
            This. My thoughts exactly. A horse has no concept of it's future. It's not worried about watching grandkids grows up, or paying off the mortgage, or cashing in a retirement fun. All it can understand right now is pain (or, in her case, perhaps unhappiness/mental anguish/fear). It was better for me to put my guy down while he was mostly "healthy," on a beautiful sunny spring day, on OUR terms than to wait it out for months and years as he wasted away from pain and lack of use and the progression of his condition. It obviously depends on what your vet says, but in the case of a neurologic horse (who is going to continue to get worse), the likelihood of them getting hurt was too scary/risky for me. My vet said that eventually they begin to fall down (hence the not-safe-for-pasture thing) and that he often winds up putting them down in the field, in crises and pain and panic, rather than peacefully at the onset of the condition.


            • #66
              Someone DID get hurt & I could've prevented it...

              When my wonderful event "pony" tied up, I sold him as a husband's horse for nothing to get him into a great home. I ended up with only a few dollars to spend on an 11 yo OTTB who was seemingly flawless - beautiful mover, beautiful conformation, threw beautiful babies. Cute jumper but didn't seem to care for people. NEVER EVER came to the stall for a treat or a scratch; would pace the fence line/weave at stall front if schedule got 10 minutes late (truly, no exaggerating). But she was GORGEOUS & I thought I'd gotten a great deal for my low price point.

              I took this mare w/me to So Pines where my trainer was leasing part of Stony Brook. The other half of the barn was being used by some racehorse folks and they would use the track while we rode in the infield. My mare would just lose it on days when the horses would fly by on the track (not even close to us really). Oh - and when confronted with something that would set her off (and who knew what that would be on any given day), she would race backwards at the speed of light and then rear, sometimes flipping over. The mare got better so long as EVERYTHING in her world remained exactly the same.

              Mare left So Pines for home 2-3 weeks before I returned home. She was turned out with a couple of retired, quiet horses and no one messed with her so as to not set her off, etc. I didn't want to have to un-do anything. Like it even mattered....when I got home, Mare was cuckoo. We tried to reclaim her, worked with a friend who also rode w/my trainer and was familiar w/the mare. My friend was a trainer; had a 40+ years of horses under her belt, competed successfully at Intermediate level. When I told her I was going to have the mare put down after she had broken my ankle during an episode while I was mounting, my friend begged me not to, saying she really liked her and thought she could use her - she thought it was just a bad match, me & the mare. So I took a little money for her feeling okay since my friend was completely in the know about the mare's special brand of crazy.

              Fast forward about 3-4 weeks. My friend had been the only person to ride the mare during the short time she'd had her. NEVER had a bad experience, though the mare still was not personable, etc. - but nothing dangerous. I'd drop by and see her grazing out in the field, quiet and seemingly normal - no red flags. Then one evening my friend decides to put a capable lesson kid on the mare - advanced kid; they w/t/c & jumped a little. Lesson goes okay until almost the very end when something sets the mare off, she rears and in an unlikely turn of events, runs forward - around the giant outdoor, tearing around completely unstoppable, kid has to bail - gets bruised up but not hurt too badly. They never get the mare to stop and have to wait for her to just run it all out. Other lesson kids are standing in center of ring trying to not lose it, parents are losing it at the rail....horrible. My friend said it was the scariest thing she'd EVER seen in all her horse life. She sold the mare the next day to a meat buyer. Not something I would've done but she wanted something out of her investment since keeping the horse was not an option. She wasn't going to pay the vet to come out and euth & didn't feel comfortable about her aim.

              The mare should be dead of natural causes at this point but for the longest time, I worried that the meat buyer would get an offer for the pretty, great moving mare and she would go on to hurt someone else. It was a MIRACLE the mare didn't hurt anyone seriously while I or my friend had her...and she may have prior to my owning her. She was tatooed but we never did any research about my mare's background...back in those days the Internet wasn't main stream.

              Dangerous horses should be put down. Accidents happen with even the best of our equine partners...to walk away from a situation with a known dangerous horse....

              OP I don't envy your position but be better than me.


              • #67
                I have absolutely nothing new to add, but I just wanted to tell the OP that she has my utmost respect.

                This isn't something easy to even BEGIN thinking about, and you're already putting the wheels in motion and dealing with the inevitable feelings all of this brings up.

                You can give this horse a KIND ending, something that may not be guaranteed if she continues living - with you or with someone else.

                Last edited by Oberon13; Apr. 10, 2013, 04:16 PM. Reason: utter lack of proofreading


                • #68
                  This past fall, I put down my TB mare. She was 25 and had issues... she wasn't sound, and had terrible allergies, and had lost the ability to regulate body temperature. I put her down not because she was in a horrible, miserable state, but because she WOULD be and sooner rather than later. I let her go on a cool fall day when she was happy, rather than waiting for the cold of winter to zap the last of her mobility, or for the stress of severe arthritis to finally fracture her leg, etc.

                  Making the decision was the HARDEST part of the whole ordeal. I'm telling you this because once I decided to do it, and picked a day, the rest was easy. Sad of course, but easy compared to the months of what ifs and whens. I was at peace with my decision and still am. That doesn't mean I'm not grieving. I still have days that I just lose myself in thoughts of her and spend an afternoon in tears, but I don't regret the decision.

                  I was there for the euthanasia and I am so glad that I was. It was not pretty, or simple. She wouldn't go down and we had to lay her down. Then she wanted to get up and we had to hold her down. BUT all in all, it was peaceful and she drifted off with her head in my lap.

                  You already know what to do or you wouldn't be posting. Pick a day, set the appointment, and you will be receive some peace. And if you don't have the support you need around you, send me a message. I'll be happy to listen to you via phone and offer any comfort you need.
                  Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.


                  • #69
                    Just Jingles for all involved ~

                    Just sending Jingles and understanding for you during this most difficult of times ~ ((hugs))
                    Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                    • #70
                      I think the fact that you are considering this option suggests very stongly that it is the right thing to do. I can't say I've been in your situation, but I was in a similar one. The decision was tough to make and it tore me up - for days before and after. But, I have to admit a bit of the burden (I did not realize was weighing so heavilyon me) lifted when I made the decision and there was actually a huge sense of relief when it was over. Don' t get me wrong, I was still sad, but I knew I had done the right thing.
                      Good luck.
                      Y'all ain't right!


                      • Original Poster

                        DH is still trying to avoid the discussion. Gets grouchy and says he "needs more information". Wants to give her away (so she can end up at the slaughter house?) or drug her (to what end?).

                        I know some suggested donating her to a school, but this is a horse that doesn't adapt to small changes, much less big ones, so I would just be condemning her to high stress to save myself from the pain of actually doing the deed.

                        I told him I am discussing the details with the vet tomorrow, so if he wants to discuss with me or vet he needs to do so before then. I think he wants it to be all my decision...or hopes that if he puts it off long enough that I will change my mind. My fear is more that either she or I will get hurt if I wait much longer (both her BFFs are leaving end of month, so I would like to save her the stress of that).

                        I have been considering the need to put her down for a long time, particularly when she snapped her ankle as a 2 year old doing something ridiculous, but I guess to him this is a new thought.

                        Thank you again for the thoughts. My anxiety is through the roof, and your words are helping.
                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                        • #72
                          I can totally empathize. Two years ago I put down my old dog who was my best friend -- it may seem not that similar, but the essence is. She was not sick, she was shiny and happy to be with me. But her hips were shot and although she was not crippled yet, she had fallen a few times and it was not going to get better.

                          It was one of the worst days of my life, laying in the grass with my wonderful equine vet who put her down for me. She was perfectly happy wandering around the farm in the sun and was, visibly, just fine. He was very kind and assured me that I was doing her a wonderful favour instead of waiting for her to be in pain and more stressed by her situation. I did feel like I was "killing" her, I won't lie, and the days leading up to the appointment, I was a mess.

                          At the same time, I KNOW it was the right thing to do in the big picture. No fairy magic was going to happen. I still miss her terribly, but at the same time, I am glad I did not wait until something worse happened and she and I were both more unhappy, more stressed. The animals really don't know the difference.

                          So (hugs) to you, it is very hard, but part of enjoying their love unfortunately. My only advice (aside from following your gut) is to have the vet sedate first -- some go down very easily, some don't and I will not do another euthanasia without sedating first so they are completely chill and clueless.
                          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                          We Are Flying Solo


                          • #73
                            I don't think there is any scenario where my husband would say this animal needs to be put down, no matter how dire and obvious it would seem to others. He may agree with my assessment but he would never come to that decision on his own. That just isn't something in his make up. That said, he had no experience with pets except for a Tom cat they let out at night who came in to sleep during the day as a kid so animals are not his thing. Hopefully your husband will support your decision once the date is scheduled.
                            McDowell Racing Stables

                            Home Away From Home


                            • #74
                              OP, so sorry you are going through this. You know the right thing to do and have 4 pages of comments supporting you. I had a dog that was my best friend. I got him fixed when he was 4 and he completely changed. He attacked me and my other dog. I took him to a trainer who told me that I was no longer the alpha and would never be again. I looked for a new home for him, but a JRT rescue person convinced me the dog was not safe in any home and that the dog was not happy. I hated to put him down. I loved him so much, it makes me cry to even type this. However it was the right thing to do. He had a great last snack and quietly went to sleep forever. It will be the same for your horse. HUGS!!!!


                              • #75
                                Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                I don't think there is any scenario where my husband would say this animal needs to be put down, no matter how dire and obvious it would seem to others. He may agree with my assessment but he would never come to that decision on his own. That just isn't something in his make up. That said, he had no experience with pets except for a Tom cat they let out at night who came in to sleep during the day as a kid so animals are not his thing. Hopefully your husband will support your decision once the date is scheduled.
                                We have the same partner.

                                CHT, I'm so sorry you have to make this decision, but you can't worry about DH's feelings right now. It's your decision, and yours only. He'll get over it.
                                "Everyone will start to cheer, when you put on your sailin shoes"-Lowell George


                                • #76
                                  Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                  I don't think there is any scenario where my husband would say this animal needs to be put down, no matter how dire and obvious it would seem to others. He may agree with my assessment but he would never come to that decision on his own. That just isn't something in his make up. That said, he had no experience with pets except for a Tom cat they let out at night who came in to sleep during the day as a kid so animals are not his thing. Hopefully your husband will support your decision once the date is scheduled.
                                  This is correct. OP I messaged you about my scenario - my husband was out of town when I put my gelding down. He was truly upset with me. It wasn't his horse, he's not a horseman, and he just didn't understand. Since then, he's had some sort of epiphany and he gets it. It could be that he's been exposed to more, and participated more with the horses then he did then. Last year when it was time for the 14 year old dog, he insisted it be my decisision, but he was very, very supportive. Don't let your husband influence your decision if you can help it.


                                  • #77
                                    If the mare's BFFs are leaving at the end of the month.... and her quality of life will drop after that... and you are of the mind that this is a "when" not "if" thing, let that be your deadline.

                                    DH needs to man up a little bit. He wants the impossible "outs" that aren't there, or to not have to be part of the decision. As he has this set up, you just.can't.win.

                                    So he has to be "third in line" in terms of the factors you consider. The first is the deadline, the second is your long-term plans for this horse and his comfort with working within those constraints comes last. Of course his helpful participation should be welcomed. Is there, in fact, "more information" that he needs and you agree that you need? I think it would be a great idea to offer him the chance to meet with you and vet and to hear from the DVM. If he doesn't want to take that opportunity, I think he should lose his voting rights on this issue. If you know he can't support you in your hard decision, don't go to that "dry well" looking for water.
                                    The armchair saddler
                                    Politically Pro-Cat


                                    • #78
                                      You might explain some of the financial impacts to your husband if that helps. Giving the horse away might mean it hurts someone and you get sued. Keeping horse and drugging it will continue to cost you money every month (more if you board). If he isn't open to the emotional or ethical parts of the argument, perhaps the $$ will open his eyes a bit.

                                      And think about what you are looking for from your husband, as he may not understand if you aren't clear. My SO is very supportive no matter what I decide, but in this case, he needed to understand what I wanted from him a bit more explicitly. I had vets and trainer telling me to euthanize and I just wanted SO to say he was ok with my decision, but it took me telling him THAT to get the answer from him. Until then, he was pretty quiet about the whole thing, I think because he wasn't sure what way to push me or what to say. I would have made the decision without his support if I needed to, but it was much easier to deal with having him with me.


                                      • #79
                                        CHT, you are doing the right thing. Let her go the easy way. Don't let your husband persuade you to give her away as she will end up in a really bad place eventually.
                                        I wish all horse owners would be as responsible and put their old, sick or dangerous horses down instead of passing them on to somebody else. Maybe then not so many would end up in feedlots and slaughterhouses where they suffer a much more cruel fate.


                                        • #80
                                          I do not think anyone should feel any guilt about PTS a animal that is in pain or dangerous to herself or others (humans and otherwise).

                                          On the other hand, I am completely broke and in a financial hole because I have a OTTB that turns 20 tomorrow and has been retired since he was 9 due to soundness and safety issues (only under saddle- totally fine on the ground.). I also have a 35 year old pony that is still going. I don't think I could live with myself putting either of them down, even though it is probably the best thing for me to do financially. So I know how you feel- but really, if the horse is dangerous, putting her to sleep is the kindest option, before she hurts herself or anyone else.