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Dilemma about older horse...input please

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  • Dilemma about older horse...input please

    Posting under an alter due to the sensitive nature of the topic...

    I have a dilemma I'm looking for input on. I'm moving across the country for work and am trying to figure out what to due with my horses. I have 3 horses in retirement at my farm which I am selling due to the move. I live here by myself on the farm and take sole care of them as I have for years.
    One of my geldings is older, about 35yrs old, and I'm worried about what to do with him when I move. The other two I'm thinking of placing in a retirement boarding farm where I know they'll get great care and attention. The oldest gelding doesn't settle in well AT ALL...he's very high strung, not an easy keeper...if there is a board wrong in the field in the morning he notices and makes a fuss. I love him dearly, and it makes me dizzy with worry to think about moving him to another local barn, let alone a cross country trek.
    Part of me thinks that putting him down while we're all still here would be the kindest thing for him...he would be comfortable, at his 'happy place'. It's just that I know that he could live on for another couple of months, maybe even years if I wasn't moving and it breaks my heart to think I'm cutting him short. He has had a few episodes in the last couple of years where I thought he might not make it. He doesn't do well AT ALL with the heat, humidity and bugs. He can barely lift his legs up for the farrier with very little flexion in the knee left. He has been losing his topline big time with all the food he could want. He runs around like a 5yr old somedays and looks ancient others. I just don't know what is the right thing in this situation-what is best for the horse? What's a girl to do? The last time I moved him(about 10yrs) it took 3 weeks of solid running around, sweaty and full of panic before he started to settle down...and that was with his previous pasture buddies and everything. I think he would have a heart attack if I moved him, I really think it would kill him...but if I don't move him I have to make the decision...what if it's too soon? How do you know? What would you do in this situation?

    Sorry that this post rambles on a bit, but I just have so many thoughts racing around my head it's hard to get them typed out.

  • #2
    I'll be in your same situation five years from now and have already decided that I'll put my old Teddy down if he's still kicking by the time we move. We'll be moving to Kentucky in 2014 and he'll be 35 at that time, and there's no way I'd put him through a move at that age.

    Just remember, they really don't know about death, or time. As long as he has a peaceful end, you will have done the right thing. I hope this helps you to find peace with your decision.
    I would like to think I will die an heroic death...

    But it's more likely I'll trip over my dog and choke on a spoonful of frosting.


    • #3
      I believe quality of life is way more important to animals than quantity of life. I would chose to make his final days good ones rather than risk upsetting him to the point that he dies a horrible death. Sorry you felt the need for an alter on this, its a legitimate question that I can't imagine anyone would fault you for asking.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • #4
        I retired a friends horse on my farm... he is now 32 years old.

        He is in good physical condition, sound as a 32 year old horse can be.. he has Cushings but is low maintenance other than that I have to soak alfalfa cubes for him and all his food is gruel.

        I love him very much. Each morning and evening he comes out and wanders around the farm, grazing winter grass. I watch him and he keeps an eye on me, too.

        However.. he's a bit senile. I cannot change his pasture without him becoming very confused and upset. I cannot change his pasture mates. He will not go into a building without panicking. He spooks now (he was bombproof in his teen years) and does irrational things.

        I do not think it would be reasonable to ever move him. He has a hard enough time being moved around the farm he lives on, and has for years. If for some reason I could no longer keep him I would recommend his owner euthanize him. It's not that no one else could care for him.. it's that it would really, IMO, blow his mind and cause him needless stress and worry. I'd like the rest of his life to be carefree.

        Not sure if this helps, but it's a lot of the same and that is what I think we would do. Hugs to you, for having to deal with this at all.. these grand old horses give us different worries.
        "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


        • #5
          How would you feel if he got so upset in the trailer during the move or so upset at the new place, that he died a panicked and upset death and perhaps injured himself in the process, rather than peacefully and contented at his "home"?

          I think you know in your heart what the right decision is. It just admitting to yourself and accepting that as fact, that is the hard part for you to do ...

          He will have lived a quality life and will pass on quietly and at peace. And thats the best thing we can all do for them as their caregivers ...

          True Colours Farm on Facebook


          • #6
            I moved my old guy (BuddyRoo) from TX to MI when he was 32. Just a year before he had been moved from IA to TX. I was worried about the first trip...even more for the second. He was in good health except for some serious arthritis. He had his "girls" and I was able to find boarding where the three could be together by themselves.

            But he didn't travel well. Even on the air ride trailer in a box stall, it was awfully hard on him.

            He was on Adequan and bute but the trip just took a lot out of him. The hauler had vets lined up along the way because he got rather dehydrated and just wasn't doing well.

            I was lucky. I got to have him for another 2 years. He's been gone 3 this month.

            I was thankful for the extra time with him...but in all honesty, knowing now what I did not know then, I think I would've put him down where he was nice and happy and not put him through that.

            If your guy doesn't handle change well even on your own property, I'd have to wonder how well he'd handle a big move...without his pasture mates. I think that if I were in your shoes, I would put him down in his home environment with his pasture mates.

            I'm sorry. I know that sounds terrible. But I think it's what I would do. Of course, it's not what I DID...but I kind of think it would've been best.
            A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

            Might be a reason, never an excuse...


            • #7
              I'd put him down. Safe, dignified, with friends at his side, no worries, no question. I am all for a dignified death over the possibility of fear, illness, confusion. Make a date ahead of time so you can be ready. To me, it is by far the more humane way. Good luck.
              Proud and achy member of the Eventing Grannies clique.


              • #8
                What a gracious gift it would be to give him his final reward instead of the drama that change would bring. What a kind person you are for putting his best interests first.


                • #9
                  I went through this with a friend of mine a little over a year ago. She had 2 horses, one was an older horse that was somewhat crippled that she got as a rescue to be a companion for her riding horse.
                  when they moved them from CA to FL, the older horse colicked badly among other things and just did not tolerate the trip at all. While they were in FL his lameness worsened, he had days he could barely walk, and overall seemed to be deteriorating. He was another one that didn't deal well with change under the best of circumstances.
                  She ended up having to move back to TX from FL in the middle of summer, and after much agonizing decided to put the older horse down rather than risk an awful colic on the side of the road or something else horrible when they reached their destination.
                  It was a very hard decision, I actually held the leadrope and supervised the burial, but I am very glad that I was able to be there for both her and her horse.
                  Sometimes the best decision isn't always the easiest one.
                  "Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin


                  • #10
                    Honestly...if doing the right thing were easy, everyone would be doing it.

                    Best wishes to you.
                    A good horseman doesn't have to tell anyone...the horse already knows.

                    Might be a reason, never an excuse...


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BuddyRoo View Post
                      Honestly...if doing the right thing were easy, everyone would be doing it.

                      Best wishes to you.
                      Very true!


                      • #12
                        sent you a PM


                        • #13
                          I agree that gently euthanizing him in his "place" rather than risking a traumatic death alone enroute or in a strange place at your new destination is the best. So sorry you have to make this decision. It's not easy, but never is . . .


                          • #14
                            Give him the gift of a good life, ended in peace, rather than risking a slightly longer one ended in turmoil. That IS the right thing to do.
                            "One person's cowboy is another person's blooming idiot" -- katarine

                            Spay and neuter. Please.


                            • #15
                              I agree that quality of life is more important to horses than quantity of life. With that said, it can be so much easier to talk about euthanasia than it is to follow through with it when you see your happy old friend galloping around the pasture.

                              Another suggestion-- if he's healthy enough to handle one more trip, could you find a permanent retirement farm and board him there? The big obstacle in that is finding a suitable retirement farm that you can trust. But if you do your homework, you'll find there are several top notch places around the country where your horse could happily live out his days with excellent quality of life.

                              Lots of good wishes for you!
                              Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                              • #16

                                This is so hard and I had this problem last fall. I had an 33 year old mare and she had declined starting Jan. 2008. I did put the deed off until Oct. 2008 but I'm glad I did it when I did it.

                                One piece of advice is decide in a logical sense in your mind what the good day to put your horse down would be...For example, 3 weeks before you move or whatever but pick an actual day, say March 28th. I did this, picked the day, set the man up to pick her body up, call the vet and made the appointment. Doing all this helps you actual start the grief stage and it does help.

                                Good luck and it really is for the best.
                                Sorry! But that barn smell is my aromatherapy!
                                One of our horsey bumper stickers! www.horsehollowpress.com
                                Add Very Funny Horse Bumper Stickers on facebook


                                • #17
                                  Without hesitation, I would put the dear old fellow down rather than put him through the trauma of a move. It is hard to do what is best for the horse, when we know that we will end up in pain from the loss. But, what is best for the horse should be our goal every time. <hugs>
                                  Mary Lou


                                  Member OMGiH I loff my mares clique


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Coreene View Post
                                    What a gracious gift it would be to give him his final reward instead of the drama that change would bring. What a kind person you are for putting his best interests first.

                                    Very well said Coreene.

                                    OP, I am sorry you have to make this decision. Letting go is infinitely more difficult for us than it is for the horses but we must always remember to put their best interests before our own desires. Personally, I would choose to give him the dignified ending he deserves. Better a day too soon.......
                                    Ridge Farm Inc.-full care retirement


                                    • #19
                                      Many of the best options for my career happen to be across the country - the furthest you can get. My old man at 21 yrs can't trot, let alone walk well on a good day. Other than his recent bout of colic and cronic lameness he is fat and happy.

                                      As of now I have decided to stay close to home because of him (well, he is the main reason besides boyfriend and the terrible economy) I am paying for him and will continue, but if I had to move I probably would put him down as he would never survive the trip standing up. My family probably would offer to take care of him, but I don't think I could bear hearing about him fall into even worse shape as he got older. The two years we were apart was very hard on me as I have had him for 15 years and he IS my best friend.