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12 Year old chronically lame horse.

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  • 12 Year old chronically lame horse.

    Hi guys. I saw something similar on this forum but I have a 12 year old quarter horse who is chronically lame. I bought her three years ago (she was still on and off lame/sore) after leasing her for a year. I knew she was lame when I bought her and I did so to save her from what could have likely been an unfortunate ending because she is lame half the time. Her previous owners found a soft tissue injury in her right front that healed but she is still lame. She was lame before the injury too. Her previous owners and myself have spent thousands trying to save this sweet girl but not much has worked. She's also colicked twice this past year and has back problems. She is so young, and I can afford the horse, but have made the decision to stop throwing money at what may be a hopeless cause. Multiple vets have told me that since she has been lame so long full recovery is unlikely. Her condition has gotten worse and for the past month she has been lame at the walk. She is on previcox and has gotten her joints injected. She is still so young but I am considering euthanizing her because her quality of life is getting worse. I love her so much and I am so worried about her all the time but have done as much as I possibly can. Would it be inhumane to euthanize her? I have her best interest in mind and I would do anything I possibly could for her, but throwing more money at her is sadly no longer and option. I want to do what's best for her. Does this make me a terrible person? My vet has said it is a very real option. PLEASE share your stories and any advice. I am feeling extremely helpless and down about this. However, I will do right by my horse.
    Last edited by hbohn; Jan. 21, 2020, 12:07 AM.

  • #2
    Stop torturing yourself, and let her be free from pain. Euthanize her. It is the kindest thing to you both. She is telling you she is in pain and that her future on this world is not getting any better. Thank you for keeping her safe and giving her a chance, but, your job now is to ensure that she is released from pain, with dignity and love.


    • Original Poster

      SharonA thank you. she is my first horse and I love her to death. I will do right by her no matter what. I am heartbroken.


      • Original Poster

        If anyone has any similar stories please share.


        • #5
          I put down a 12 year old last year due to bilateral coffin joint arthritis. Tried a number of things, including injections but wasn’t able to get him as comfortable as needed. Unfortunately, the arthritis had been there long enough he had compensated with other areas of his body.

          For me, it was an easy decision and I’ve never had a moments guilt. He was uncomfortable and I knew it would only get worse. I have horses to ride and I can only afford to keep 1-2 companions. Due to that horse’s poor training by previous owner, he could be dangerous to handle by inexperienced people. He was not suitable for pasture pet life. I put him down and got another. I know I provide a good home for my animals and I knew that by putting that gelding down, I could provide a good home for another horse that needed it.


          • #6
            My second horse was a bit older than yours, but I still remember how I felt the day we came home from the vet clinic after making the decision to go to pain management.

            I retired him from competition at age 11 and ring work at 12. The last round of joint injections lasted six months making the risk higher than the reward. Somehow I knew on that drive home my horse wouldn't see his 20th birthday.

            I felt so cheated. My first horse had been 26 with some serious arthritis in his forelegs. When I made the final call for my second horse he was 18 and I wouldn't risk him in another winter.

            When the day came... the eternal worrier, he was only vaguely surprised when his legs started to give out... he stretched out and took a breath and just... let go...

            Free from pain... free from worry... he was ready...

            ​​​​​​Ten years ago now... I'm still crying as I type this... but no regrets. He was ready and it was the last thing I could do for him.

            (((hugs))) Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing to do.


            • #7
              You'll find that many of us have similar stories. In this list of threads, you will see a wide variety of situations, but if there's one topic that COTHers usually agree on, it's that it is better to euthanize a month too early rather than a day too late.


              Based on your description, I would not wait any longer. Your horse is in pain, every single step he takes. Yes, he may eat and still seem like he's got the will to live, but consider this: how awful does it need to get for an animal to finally give up the will to live? Imagine how terrible that would be. So I urge you to set aside your own pain (at letting him go) and give him a peaceful rest. When you do make the call to your vet to schedule the visit, spoil him rotten for those few days--whatever treats he wants. You'll cry your eyes out, and you'll probably second guess yourself a million times but hold steady. Weve all been there, and it's brutally hard. <hugs from all of us>

              There are also lots of threads here about the more practical matters, when you're ready to read it. What euthanasia is actually like (I found it helpful to know in advance what to expect), what to do with his body, etc. These are all part of horse ownership, and you'll find a lot of good resources on this board.
              (If you don't already know, the Advanced Search link is in the upper right corner of screen---in annoyingly small font. It's the best way to find specific topics.


              • #8
                IMO, lame at the walk is too lame to be alive. I'd put that one down for quality of life issues, even if the horse looked like she was accepting of it. IMO, animals can and will just muddle along with a lot of pain before they look like they have given up. Waiting until that point is, IMO, inhumane.

                I babied along a lame, retired horse that I had that I had bred. Different story about his age and how he got that lame, but the bottom line is that I watched him get worse and worse, used bute or Previcox in a daily basis and then euthanized him at the end of what I decided would he his last summer. He was happy, but he was also very, very lame. When I euthanize my next lame horse, I'll do it sooner.

                It's always very, very hard the first time. But it is part of the horseman's life. I was already pro-euthanasia before I was the owner and the one holding the lead rope. I had seen a horse belonging to someone else suffer because the owner couldn't bring herself to make the call and I decided then and there that I'd never do that. But I am a different person now, on the other side of having made the decision to euthanize a horse I loved and for whom I was responsible. It gets "easier" in the sense that you get more sure of your ability to evaluate quality of life and your ability to remain an ethical person having caused an animal to be killed. And I am glad that I have become a person who would euthanize sooner. In this way, I prevent more suffering.

                I wish you luck with whatever decision you make. I understand how personal it is.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat


                • #9
                  If you and your vet agree she is already in pain with a chronic condition, here are some guidelines that may help:


                  Hugs to making the hardest decision after all the many other hard decisions you already had to do trying to help her.


                  • #10
                    We tried almost everything for 4 years on my Cushings, laminitic gelding. He went from barely off to chronically lame with periods of soundness in that time. I made a quality of life decision last summer and had him euthanized. He was still the happy, sweet boy I loved but his life consisted of major restrictions and pain even with meds and special shoeing. He was only 14. I will say it’s probably the hardest decision I ever made. I miss him. But it was the right thing to do.


                    • #11
                      I think euthanasia would be a kindness to your horse. So sorry.


                      • #12
                        No, it is not inhumane to euthanize her. It might be inhumane to let her live in constant pain and/or with poor quality of life if that is the case. Sometimes the right choice is the difficult one.


                        • #13
                          I put down my 9yo mare who wound up with bilateral navicular and bilateral fusing hock joints. I don't want to know how much money was spent trying to get her sound over the course of several years. She started going intermittently lame at age 4 and never got better. She was unrideable in her last year or so and the final straw was when rads showed she was starting to fuse in her tibiotarsal joint, which is the most highly mobile of the joints of the hock. I had her euthanized a week later.

                          It was heartbreaking. It was unfair. It sucked, honestly. But I had no doubt that it was the right thing to do.

                          Remind yourself that horses live in the now. They don't have the same understanding of past or future the way humans do. For that reason, they don't have the same understanding of death that humans do. From the sounds of it, you would be doing this horse a great kindness by having given her a soft landing and then seeing that she has a peaceful end of life. Hugs to you.
                          Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.


                          • #14
                            Hugs to you - you're asking the right questions, for the good of your horse.

                            I've been in situations where I waited too long, and I've been in situations where I watched others wait too long. I don't know where you are, but most of the country still has a lot of winter left to get through. Is it fair to put her through it?

                            If she's lame at the walk, she is indeed in a great deal of pain. If the vets have told you there is nothing else you can do, if she is telling you she hurts every single day, the time has come.

                            You've done more for her than many would. You've given her every chance. Now, you have to give her a quiet, peaceful exit. It really is worse on us than it is for them - all they know is that the vet has come to sedate them. They don't know why.


                            • #15
                              I think if you and your vet agree she is in constant pain, you should do her a kindness and euthanize. It sounds like you have gone above and beyond what most would, and she is still lame. Like another poster stated, better a month too soon than a day too late.


                              • #16
                                I had my beautiful 8 year old put down last autumn, she was everything I'd ever wanted in a horse and the one I had such huge dreams for. She could not stay sound and got lamer and lamer. It was the worst situation I've ever been in and was killing me emotionally and financially. I had no support from anyone for doing it but it was still the right thing to do and my regrets are for the what could have been, not the what was. Be brave and know that you have my love and support whichever way you decide is right for you.


                                • #17
                                  I put down a lovely 12-year-old with a ton of potential...until he got hurt, and the final diagnosis was that he'd never be more than pasture sound, if I was lucky. I chose to let him go because horses don't have any concept of maybe being somewhat ok, someday. He was in pain then and would be for at least the foreseeable future...and "pasture sound" often means "can get around the pasture and doesn't limp on a good day," not "pain free in the pasture," IME. I do not regret the decision. He was hurting, he was probably always going to be in some degree of pain. He deserved better than that, so he was set free. It sounds as if your vet doesn't feel like your horse will be able to live truly pain free. There is nothing wrong with considering a humane end to the pain. Nothing at all. Think about your horse and his condition and try to leave his age out of the decision--I think it's really easy to look at that young number and think he's not ready, that he has years ahead. Think about his current and future quality of life, without the years, when you decide what is right for your situation. Hugs and well wishes for you. It's the hardest thing to make that decision, even if it is the right one.


                                  • #18
                                    Sometimes the right thing to do is also the hardest. It can be really tough to let go of a horse that you love, to feel like you failed them. Many of us have been there. I still feel sad to think of the horses I have loved that have passed on before what felt like their time. It's okay to have conflicted feelings on this. But realistically, horses are large prey animals. Being sick or lame can be very stressful for them. Horses are only physiologically able to lay down for very short periods of time each day, and as grazing animals do quite a bit of walking, so there is very little relief from a nagging lameness. A lame-at-the-walk horse who is supporting 1200 pounds standing/walking for 23 hours a day has a very different quality of life than a person or even a dog who can sit or lay for extended periods or take pain medication as needed.

                                    I wish you peace in your decision.


                                    • #19
                                      I have a (not quite 12 year old) mare that I have posted about before. She has been retired for 4 years and was, really, only in ridden work for 12 months, if that. And not in one stretch either.

                                      I know that I will put her to sleep this year - the way our summer is going, she may not be here by the end of February. Our ground is hardening up fast - it usually does at this time of the year - but Ubby looks like she is really feeling the ground even more than usual. She has wrinkles around her mouth and eyes and isnt moving as much. She loves being caught and groomed. We even did a little bit of obedience training with her today - what I did with her when I first retired her. (Yes, I have discussed this with our vets and I am contemplating when to make the call. SHe will be buried at my end of the house - where, when she was on her own, she slept every night

                                      Trouble is, we are facing at least one other of our older horses going this year as well - the 26 year old standardbred looks like he has suddenly got old and is starting to struggle. (He will get bute.) Our 16 year old mare, with an arthritic hip, is also under watch.

                                      We also have 2 elderly 16+ year cats (1 with known kidney issues) - and we do not do heroic measures with our cats as there is always another one needing a home.

                                      OP - you are not being unrealistic or nasty or anything else. Sounds like your vet is saying that the horse is in pain. Hugs and good luck.
                                      Still Working_on_it - one day I will get it!


                                      • #20
                                        Lame at the walk, back pain and unsuccessful treatment for years, PLUS the vets advice tells me it is time. I know you love her but what is best for her is ending the pain she feels 24/7.

                                        It is more enjoyable to have a horse who is healthy and ridable. I think you have earned one.