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Teenagers and Saying Goodbye to the Older Horse - Updated

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  • Teenagers and Saying Goodbye to the Older Horse - Updated

    Sorry this is long but I have zero experience with this and need some help.

    We have an older horse which I considered putting down this past fall - thought the winter might be too much for him and have always agreed with the theory of a day too soon is better than a day too late. DD has never had a horse pts before, was upset and said she didn't want to know when it was going to happen.

    Before I could schedule the appointment, DD suffered the loss of 4 different people, ranging from a great uncle she was very fond of to a close friend, all unexpected and in a very short period of time - she was completely devastated. Took a lot to get her pulled back together for school, SAT exams and college applications and I just thought losing this horse might really tip her over the edge so we added some extra support to help him through the winter and for the most part he did well.

    Now we are in Spring and DD is finally back to her happy self, looking forward to hs graduation and accepted into her first choice college. And now I am wondering how this horse will fare the heat of summer.

    DD had told me she doesn't want to know when he goes but I can't imagine her coming home one day and having him be gone without her getting to say goodbye. I know she is technically an adult now, but she is very attached to this horse and I don't want her to regret this decision. To me, it would be better to be able to let her know when the appt. is so she can say her goodbyes and then not be there when it happens.

    Unfortunately, this is a part of horse ownership we all face at one time or another but just not sure how to proceed when the time comes so any words of wisdom would be appreciate
    Last edited by KnKShowmom; Oct. 28, 2013, 06:40 PM.

  • #2
    This blog might help you and your daughter. http://endgame-journeys-end.blogspot.ca/


    • Original Poster

      Thanks, I will show that to her. I am fine with the decision when the time comes and I have a team in place to help with other horses, etc. but don't have a plan for helping DD through it. She is just still so fragile after last fall, it was really almost more than any 17 year old should have to go through.

      She knows this is coming - even thanked him for making to her 18th birthday and she hopes it won't come before graduation but ultimately when the horse tells me its time I will listen.

      But personally, if I came home and found one of my animals had been pts without being able to say goodbye I would be devastated. She did go to the vet to say goodbye to her cat when the time came, but that was years ago and I am not sure she even remembers it.


      • #4
        Can you give her a last goodbye day without explicitly saying it is the last day? Say gently that horse is having a hard time and will be let go soon. Go to the barn with her and groom and give tons of treats and take lots of pictures etc.?

        Not to be harsh, but especially if she is going away to college she may not always have a chance to say goodbye. I would not make her feel like that's a necessity if she doesn't already.


        • #5
          I think you need to discuss the whole thing with her again.
          She knows its going to happen, and she has said she doesn't want to know when, I think that is fair enough.
          You would be devastated to come home and find your animal PTS but if she is anything like me she might well have come to terms with it and have mentally said goodbye already. I have done that with a couple I've lost. I've known it was coming, and said my goodbyes before it was final. We all deal differently so I think it would be good to just go over it all again with her to make sure she wants to deal with it that way or change her mind.

          My heart goes out to her, losing a horse sucks.


          • #6
            Best would be to have another talk with her, about the practicalities and realities of horse ownership, and see if you can get some traction on getting her to accept it.

            Another strategy is to try to keep him going till she leaves for school, and then have it done and just tell her it became necessary. The risk with this is (a) he won't last till fall; and (b) if she's still fragile, it could undermine the success of her first college semester.

            Some of my work is in the area of helping first year college students make a successful transition. Things like this can get magnified way out of proportion if a student is fragile to start with, so I'm not thrilled with the strategy I suggested of waiting till she's at school in the fall. But if you have to do it that way, well ...

            Best of luck. I know it's a difficult one.
            "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

            Spay and neuter. Please.


            • #7
              My DD first love pony, had to be pts on the day she was getting ready to go back to college, (found down in his stall and couldn't get up, had lost his sight previously, possibly suffered seizure over night maybe stroke, was 30+ was time to let go) she handled it like a champ. Held his head in her lap, cried, remembered, said Thank you and Goodbye.

              Let her know that it needs to be done and why. Then when it is going to be done, let her make the decision as to weather or not to be there, or if she wants to go the day before and spoil him one last time. I found the actual act is not as bad as our imagination makes it out to be. Still very emotional, give her time to grieve but also have something that will take her mind off of it, my DD had to get back to school and I think that was the best thing for her to get over it. Keep your DD involved in all the graduation activities with friends and she will probably come through just fine. Good Luck, it's not easy, ((HUGS))
              "They spend 11 months stuggling to live, and 25 years trying to die" my farrier

              "They are dangerous on both ends and crafty in the middle"


              • Original Poster

                Thank you all for your thoughts - I have dealt with horses almost my whole life and being a parent can be so much more of a challenge, especially when you have a truly kind hearted daughter as I am proud to have.

                We have our horses at home so she takes care of him every day and will be living at home her first year of college. We have had to make some adjustments to his care to compensate for some new issues - I have made it pretty clear that if he doesn't pick back up then I won't try anything else. The vet will be out next week for routine work so I am hoping her feedback on his condition will be a bit helpful.

                DD is smart and a very good horseperson - this is just new territory for her and I just don't want to send her too far in reverse after the year she has had.


                • #9
                  She might regret not having the chance to say her goodbyes. I will never ever forget that my dad took our dog to be PTS and he didn't tell me. My mom, my sister and he all got to say good bye and I wasn't given that option. I came home from work, found everyone crying and the dog missing. This was well over 10 years ago and to this day I still feel badly that I did not get to say good bye to that dog.
                  Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

                  Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.


                  • #10
                    My daughter is a senior in high school as well and I worry about how she will handle it when we lose our beloved senior, hopefully no time soon. Our pain will definitely be compounded by seeing our child in so much pain too. It's going to suck, no two ways around that. Grief is the price we pay for love.
                    McDowell Racing Stables

                    Home Away From Home


                    • #11
                      I'm so sorry for the losses your family has experienced.

                      My 14 year old daughter has experienced several losses, human and companion animal...it's not easy no matter what. I think the unexpected ones have been the hardest. She was away at Girl Scout Camp when her pony kicked through a fence and broke her leg. It seemed to have a devastating affect on her (especially when a couple years later I accidentally mentioned that dad had shot the pony, forgetting I'd never shared that with her - and it opened it all up again). Another pony was an ancient little thing and it was just time - my daughter went outside with her and gave her a pile of oats, carrots and cookies and laid with her in her stall, reading her a story before she was pts. It went smoother and she remembers that pony without that sadness.
                      After her granpa died, she told me she wished she knew when it was going to happen, then it wouldn't have been so hard - I think she analyzed her experiences with the ponies to come to that conclusion. She really struggled last summer when we put our 14 year old dog down, but she acted like she didn't want to talk about it, so we didn't say too much. Big mistake . When I told her how hard it was for her dad and I, and how dad cried, she cried hysterically all over again - I think what was missing for her, was mourning WITH us. She felt she'd done it alone because we were trying to remain strong for her sake.

                      I believe in closure. I think your daughter has to say goodbye to her old friend before he goes.

                      ((((hugs)))) to you all ~
                      we are currently living with a pony with cancer, a 33 year old mare, and 3, 12 year old large breed dogs. I suspect the next couple of years will be tough on us too. I just hope I know the right thing to do, each time.


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Cashela View Post
                        She might regret not having the chance to say her goodbyes. I will never ever forget that my dad took our dog to be PTS and he didn't tell me. My mom, my sister and he all got to say good bye and I wasn't given that option. I came home from work, found everyone crying and the dog missing. This was well over 10 years ago and to this day I still feel badly that I did not get to say good bye to that dog.
                        This is exactly how I am afraid she will feel


                        • Original Poster

                          hundredacres - I totally agree that closure is so important, especially since she wasn't able to say goodbye to any of her human family and friends this fall - there was always that thought of "I wish I had......" that we get in that situation.

                          We too have 2 10 year old labs who are starting to show their age plus 3 horses in their 20's so this won't be the first time she has to deal with it so all I want to do is the best thing, the easiest way possible for all involved.


                          • #14
                            Hopefully she will come around and want to be apart of saying goodbye when the time comes. It would be unfortunate for her to miss that and then regret it later on.

                            My mom had my dog PTS when I was in HS. Just a few days before summer break, during finals. I told her not to do it then, to wait until after finals were done. She of course had the dog PTS while I was at school and I never got to say goodbye to her. It breaks my heart, still.
                            Originally posted by katarine
                            I don't want your prayers, tiny cow.
                            Originally posted by Pat9
                            When it's time for a horse to go to a new person, that person will appear. It's pony magic.


                            • #15
                              Your DD sounds like a strong young lady, and a smart one too. She'll be able to handle more than you know.
                              You're smart too, you know that emotional disruption will take a toll on tests, finals, SATs, graduation joy, etc. It's nice that your oldster has hung in there this long, but you have to judge - what will be more traumatic, having him pts before graduation, or having her go out to feed right before graduation and finding him down in his stall or struggling in the pasture and dealing with the inevitable rush to have him pts that ensues? I certainly can't judge his condition from here, nor your DDs reaction to that. If you think he can make it to graduation that would be really nice, but you have to do what's best for the horse in the end.

                              Have you had any portraits done with the two of them? That would be a wonderful way to close the book. Photo books from MPix or Snapfish are not expensive and are a wonderful keepsake. If DD is too emotional to be in the pictures, or you don't want to have a pro do it, just a collection of old photos plus one last 'glamor shot' would be a nice way to remember him.

                              {{Hugs}} It's tough. It's also wonderful that you are trying to make it easier on your DD but don't forget the real issue is the well-being of an old guy who deserves the best too.


                              • #16
                                Honestly- I don't really like the "Just do it and don't tell me." attitude... it's as rude as walking off on a sink full of dishes without rolling up your sleeves to help. If you simply can't bear to get your hands wet, at least pick up a towel and dry. Assuming that just because she doesn't WANT to even *know*(let alone HELP)... that she CAN'T- is probably a bit of a trick that she's been using on you for quite a large part of her life. I think that she is at an age where she can start putting her nose to the grindstone and dealing with some of the less fun chores involved with being a big girl- and that includes treating her mother and her old horse as beings who deserve a little more from her.


                                • #17
                                  This is just my opinion, but, I have found that it is often much better to have open conversations about expected death (ie, people in a hospice situation). In most cultures of the world (not modern-day U.S.), death is accepted as part of the natural cycle. It's sad, but "healthy," versus thrashing against the inevitable. IMO, I would have a gentle, supportive conversation with your daughter telling her that you're thinking ahead about Pony X, and you have xya concerns about him making it thorugh the summer. Tell her you want to know what she would like to see his last few months to be like. See if she says, "I want to think of him out eating grass," or whatever. Then you can try to make it happen as close to her thoughts as is possible, and maybe she will have some sense of peace about it. If she says she doesn't want to talk about it, ask her to write him a letter. If she can make peace with his death, hopefully it wouldn't be as hard on her and she can move on. If she says she can't bear it, I still think that pushing the issue under the rug would cause more problems and hidden conflict than to gently say, "Sweetheart, you're not a child anymore. Pony X deserves to have you think about his next few months and what they should look like. Come, let's sit down together and talk over how to make his last months, however many there are, the best they can be." Again, JMO.


                                  • Original Poster

                                    Well, so far he is doing ok on his new regimine - I am watching carefully for the cue that he is ready, but its not there yet.

                                    Plainandtall - I think you misunderstood - I do not want my daughter on the end of the lead rope when the injection is administered - I just want her to realize that it is ok to know its going to happen and say her goodbyes - closure is important. Anyone who knows my DD will tell you rude is something she is not - she and I have been in the horse business together for the last 7 years and she is as tough as they come but having 4 people die in 4 weeks can shake anyones foundation a bit, especially when you are only 17 yrs old.

                                    I always do what is right for my horses but I always do what is right for my daughter too - not always easy when those two things may conflict, which is why I am asking for some thoughts from those who have been there.


                                    • #19
                                      I'm not a big goodbye person. I usually say my goodbye before any dramatic Goodbye Event comes around. We've lost a few and usually I spend my time with them when the decision is being made and then I distance myself emotionally. I totally get where your daughter is coming from and I think she's old enough to know what she's doing for herself. I wouldn't drum up emotional chaos if she has it handled already.
                                      “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey


                                      • #20
                                        I think your daughter is stronger than you realize. Have a heart to heart with her & ask her her wishes. I think it will help her to have a voice in the decision. You are a conscientious, caring parent & you will help her through it. Life sucks - the kindest thing we can do is to prevent suffering. I wish you peace & strength. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for our animals is to say goodbye.