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Making the hard decision when horse is mostly healthy

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    Making the hard decision when horse is mostly healthy

    I posted a couple months ago in the horse care section about my mare displaying wobbler symptoms. We’re now as sure as we can be that it is neurological (not EPM, I’m in Australia and we don’t have that here). The vet is confident it’s mild, and wants her to go on Previcox.

    The horse is by and large the picture of health. Happy, her usual self, still rolling and getting up fine, trotting and cantering around the paddock. The problem is trimming her feet. She cannot balance with one hoof up for more than a few seconds at a time, which isn’t long enough to rasp or nip anything. Today she nearly fell on me three times before I gave up.

    At what point does fundamental care become dangerous enough that you euth an otherwise healthy animal?

    I’m really struggling with what the right decision is here, and unfortunately have no horsey friends to bounce off. My family and boyfriend try to help, but they (boyfriend especially) are not horse people so don’t really fully understand what’s going on.

    Do you know any cattle people that may have a stock hold type thing you could borrow for trims or haul her to it? If she is young and you could afford it, you can buy them online actually. talk to your vet they may be able to help you find one! Basically it is 4 sided and rectangular to hold horses in place like at a vets office, or cattle people use them to palpate for pregnancy and trim cattle hooves without being kicked.


      I'm sorry you are this situation. A young animal would be difficult to euthanize. I have never seen wobbler syndrome, so I don't know when I would make the decision to euthanize. Is it possible to retire her on pasture? Hoof care is important, but I think the palpation stocks Carman-liz mentioned might work (not a regular cattle chute). She could learn to brace herself against the bars of the chute.


        She is not healthy if she can not hold her feet up for more than a few seconds. If you can not find a safe and easy way to trim, I would have no issues sending her over the rainbow bridge.
        Jacobson's Saddlery, LLC
        Society of Master Saddlers Qualified Fitter


          This was the crunch point for one of mine I lost about a year ago, his issues were Cushings and ligament damage in his back legs rather than Wobblers, but same outcome in that he had major issues balancing on any variation of three legs and eventually couldn't do it long enough to get any sort of trim at all. He was also less balanced just out at pasture than he had been and was having to put more effort in to getting up when he was laid down. It was a hard decision that I dragged out for several months and be warned if you are in a boarding situation I had a huge amount of flak from both other boarders and the barn owners about how he just needed his feet trimming and was fine. It wasn't the wrong decision for me. If you decide this is the right decision for you, at any point in time, then you are doing the right thing. It's highly unlikely someone without an existing emotional investment in this horse will step in and take over the risk, the heartbreak and the expense (which you know, obviously!), so if you've had enough that is reason enough. Hugs.


            my cushings horse started to have neurological issues. he fell with me on the trail, and he was not able to hold himself up for the farrier. I made the appt and the vet told me i did the right thing, as he would only get worse. My biggest fear was him falling and no one finding him until hours later. I didn't want to have him suffer that way. Good Luck to you.


              I would have a frank discussion with the vet about the difficulty and danger of trimming this horse's hooves. If s/he doesnt have a good plan to get her managed safely, then s/he should agree that the mare's time is limited and euthanasia is in the fairly near future.


                Talk to your vet, who might have some suggestions and certainly will fully understand your problem.

                The BHS has an information booklet and resources on the organisation website to help and support making a decision about euthanasia.
                Last edited by Willesdon; Sep. 19, 2020, 09:04 AM. Reason: Fat fingers
                "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                  I euthanized an otherwise healthy (and beautiful) 5 year old gelding due to a neurological condition. He had permanently damaged (narrowing that would not have been resolved with surgery) between his first two vertebrae. We suspect he was injured at or around birth. As he grew the problem became more noticeable. I actually backed him, trained him through training level and showed him; but, he went down with me on him on 3 separate occasions. Retiring him to pasture ornament status was not an option. If turned out with others he was a danger to them as well as himself. He would play hard and lose his balance. Before he was diagnosed he did injure one of my other geldings by rearing and falling on him. I also was concerned of what he would suffer if turned out alone and went down in our heat/sun and not discovered for hours. This guy was out of my foundation mare and I was very attached; but, in the end I had two things that made my decision - limited resources to sustain a horse of this type for an unlimited period of time and the danger he posed to himself and others. All the seemingly "good" times would not have undone his suffering or serious catastrophe to another horse or human and it wasn't an 'if' it would happen because lets face it you can do all the right things, take all the appropriate precautions and shit still happens. I was raised on a farm and taught that there are times when you have to make tough decisions for the good of all your herd. I decided to cull him and instead of letting him fall into an uncertain future (I had someone beg me to give him to her but I knew based on her history she would use him as a lesson horse) I put him down. I still miss him to this day but I also know I made the right decision. He had a peaceful end and a happy life right up to his final day. I would not do anything differently.
                  Ranch of Last Resort


                    I have had three experiences with this:
                    Wobblers- Euthanized within 10 days of diagnosis, he went from being the most trustworthy colt to down right dangerous in literally a day. There was no choice, he would killed himself or us.

                    An EPM- Thanks to Rood and Riddle still with me, unrideable and healthy, happy and pasture sound. He does have nerve issues in his back. It took 4 years and my SAINT of a farrier to get a barefoot trim all the way around.

                    A Fetlock Arthrodesis - OTTB with a very early ankle repair that should not ever been done. Never took a sound step. When he came to me lame I instantly fell for his personality and he turned out to be the world's greatest companion horse. It took a minimum of 5 people to stabilize him enough to trim the good front foot. I waited too long, his current companion was 36 and fading, we were hoping to "let them go" together, but it ended badly, the ankle shattered and he was left in horrible pain, injured from the fall. I still chastise myself for not just euthanizing on the perfect sunny afternoon with his mouth full of alfalfa and peppermints.

                    IMHO, we know inside ourselves when the hope is gone and it is time to euthanize, it then becomes "are we strong enough to do it".

                    Sending thoughts your way.



                      * you must keep all involved safe ~ horses & people ~

                      please be careful ~
                      Zu Zu Bailey " IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE ! "


                        Euthanasia is your final gift to her. You can not euthanise too early. You can euthanise too late
                        It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.


                          Euthanasia is the right answer. She's a danger to herself and others. If a vet refuses to put her down because she's 5 then find a better vet. The age of a horse has no relevance on being a candidate for euthanasia.


                            Original Poster

                            Thanks everyone.

                            The horse in question is 20, I’ve had her since 2009 (not sure where in my post people got the impression she was 5!). She is already retired on pasture on my dads property.

                            I’ve thought of the crush idea, but the only one I’m aware of is at the vet hospital, and whilst that’s only 10 minutes away, I have neither a trailer nor a vehicle to tow with.

                            I trim her myself, and I can’t in good conscience ask anyone else to help knowing how difficult it now is. This is a horse who has always, always had absolutely impeccable manners with her feet. When she was shod, every farrier I ever used commented they forgot they were working with a love animal because she was so good.


                              Putting yourself in danger is not the sucks to have to make the call, hugs.


                                If you can't trim the feet then you can't keep the horse comfortable. It is time to euthanize. I am so sorry.


                                  Original Poster

                                  Thank you everyone, I really appreciate it. I am thinking I will give her a couple weeks on the Previcox, just in case. Her feet are in good enough shape that she won't be uncomfortable, and currently there seems minimal risk of her falling in the paddock. After that, I will have to make the call. I think really, I've known since it started but I had to give her some time to see.


                                    OP, I'm so sorry. My heart horse with EPM can only have three trimmed because of an old stifle injury in his right hind, so that hoof hasn't been trimmed in years, but you'd never know it. He's still stable and sound for getting his feet done, but if he has an "off day, we brace him against a wall and my farrier (also a saint) can get him done.

                                    My DD's OTTB had a pastern arthrodesis done that gave her another five years with him. We knew we were spinning the roulette wheel of when we would come out and find him broken in the field and suffering, so we let him go prior to winter on a beautiful fall day before that could happen.

                                    I know it's hard to make that decision and I don't think any of us envy you. You'll know what to do in your heart and you'll make the right decision from love. You are already the kind of owner that puts your horse first and I wish there were more of you in the world.

                                    Sending you strength, wisdom and a peaceful heart.
                                    Be blessed )O(
                                    "Some people will never like you because your spirit irritates their demons"


                                      I had replied on your original post - it's been almost a year since I had to put my horse down from a sudden onset of sidewinder, a neurological disorder, in his case most likely due to spinal degeneration. Having seen another senior horse down in a field and unable to get up years before, I knew I wouldn't risk a similar fate for my guy. - even though I had seen him successfully roll and get up, I also knew his overall coordination was bad. Once they have lost that much coordination, they are in danger of really horrible pasture accidents It helped me to think that he didn't have to go through some terrible pain, that he was "healthy" and happy til the very end.

                                      I'm sorry - good luck.


                                        It's really hard to put down an otherwise healthy animal. I had to put down a 10 y/o once; she had navicular that nobody could get a handle on and was not safe to ride. I was not in the position of having a pasture pet, it was the kindest thing to do for all of us. It hurts. It hurts to this day.
                                        ((( hugs )))