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Making the hard decision when horse is mostly healthy

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    Are you able to teach her to stand on a small step? I have a friend who has a horse with stringhalt. Since he has difficulty holding that leg up, they've taught him to put it on a low step. hanging over the edge enough that they can trim it. He's over 18hh, so not a horse that anyone could "hold up".

    Now, if you're seeing neuro issues in other parts of her life that give you concern, then yes, euthanasia is the kind and safe answer.


      I bought a 19hh Belgian that was at New Holland. He was, I am sure, use to being put in stocks and having whatever leg was worked on tied up. He came with one size eight shoe on. He was very scared and dangerous to try to do his feet. We ended up having him stand on a 2 x 4 of wood and trimmed what we could. Luckily he had decent feet and tolerated us trimming him like that.

      I agree with GoodTimes; if the neuro issues are apparent in other concerning ways, the hardest decision is the best decision.
      As is our confidence, so is our capacity. ~W. Hazlitt


        Right - my story. Earlier this year - around February - I put my 12 year old mare down. She was mainly healthy. She was not riding sound and hadnt been for a number of years - even when "in work" she was inconsistently in work. Ubby was a big mare - a tad under 17hh but very well built. Think big old English hunter type. When she was 2.5 years, she had a paddock accident and opened her right hind up exposing both the hock and fetlock joint capsules. She recovered from that - we gave her another year to "heal" and broke her in at 4 years. My lovely horse breaker worked her for 4 months to make sure she would stand up to work. He said that she was at his normal "now broken in" state at the end of 2 weeks so was using her 5 days a week out leading group rides, moving stock, leading clinics, just really putting some miles on her clock. Nice solid walk, trot, canter. But over time, we had the niggling issues - being sore when the ground was hard, "a bit off" but cant tell you why/where, claims by one vet that she had foundered but with absolutely nothing supporting that on xrays, a very honest vet saying "yes, something is wrong but I cant tell you what - I think we need the lameness expert to see her". The lameness vet came to see her after 4 days on bute (4 packets per day - at her direction) and saw me lungeing the mare. 'Cause we all know that horses magically come right when the vet is coming, dont they?? . Lameness vet said "how did this horse stand to be ridden? She has a damaged back from teh fall that opened that leg up. What an awesome mare!" So Ubby was quietly retired from riding, had a foal, learned "dog obedience" to keep her mentally stimulated. The decline was gradual until December 2019 when she was having trouble standing for the farrier. We watched her trudge around the paddock for a couple of weeks and I made the call to euthanise her. Yes, we could have kept going with props etc but it wasnt ethical - in my opinion. She has a tree growing over her in our paddock.
        Still Working_on_it - one day I will get it!


          Original Poster

          Thank you all again. Your responses have been so helpful to know that if/when I make the call, I am doing the right thing. I had a discussion with a family friend who happens to also be an equine vet. Whilst she hasn't actually seen the horse recently, she does know her, and has agreed with my assessment of trying the meds and if they don't make enough of a difference, euthanasia is likely the best option for her health.

          She is the sweetest thing, she was basically wild when I got her (I was 14, so not a suitable first horse!) but over time we came to an understanding, and now she will do pretty much anything for me. She also gathered quite the fan club at our local dressage days, partially because she's awfully cute, but mainly because she happily followed me around the grounds like a dog, would hang out under the gear check tent with me while I was volunteering and begged everyone she saw for treats. She was my first (and only) horse, so when she goes I will be horseless, and I think it will probably stay that way for some time.


            Op I'm so sorry. I just euthanized a 4 year old with wobblers, he also was having issues with the farrier. It is heartbreaking but I was worried that he might hurt someone or himself. Or that suddenly things would get much worse. I know I made the right decision and had every vet I spoke to agree.



              I'm so sorry, I know how you feel. The horse in my sig had wobblers and I had to euthanize at age 7, after owning him for two years.

              It's easier (but not easy) to put down an animal who is suffering, but wobblers isn't painful. He was a happy, healthy guy who loved his trail rides. But neurological disorders are a ticking time bomb for horses; at some point they're going to fall and badly injure himself (he fell down a couple of times when I was riding).

              Best of luck to you, it's not an easy decision.
              In memory of Apache, who loved to play.


                I get it. I'm the Trimmer too and have a 20 y/o OTTB I took in last October, post EPM. He's a bugger to keep weight on and his right hind is VERY wonky. I watched that right hind collapse under him yesterday, just walking straight.

                While he's ok now being trimmed (I trim quickly using a grinder in one hand and holding the hoof low in the other hand), I know there will come a day. I've done everything the vet recommended: he's out 24/7/365, on high-dose Vitamin E and MSM etc. While he's a happy goofball, he'll never be right again. But.... I'd rather give him a last good day than have left him where he was. Oy.

                (( Hugs ))
                <>< Sorrow Looks Back. Worry Looks Around. Faith Looks Up! -- Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult. You may be given a cactus, but you don't have to sit on it.


                  I put my gelding down a couple weeks ago. He was, by all appearances healthy and only 17 years old. He was the best horse I ever owned: home bred and with so much potential.

                  But he has been retired since 6 or 7 with a broken neck.

                  he could act spontaneously dangerous.

                  He hasn't been able to have any contact with other horses for about 4 years as he was too dangerous around them. Four years of solitary living (in a grass paddock).

                  I had been dragging out the decision. A broken molar helped me make the decision: I wasn't prepared to get it fixed.

                  I felt guilty making the decision, but very much at peace after. Drawing out making the choice to put him down was probably a mistake. It weighed on me. Don't discount the emotional toll of having the decision of "when" weighing on you. It is good you have people to talk to about it.
                  Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                    Is her only problem not standing for trims?
                    Technically, you could make/buy a stand & teach her to rely on it to hold the rest of the leg up by resting on her knees.


                      Original Poster

                      Originally posted by secuono View Post
                      Is her only problem not standing for trims?
                      Technically, you could make/buy a stand & teach her to rely on it to hold the rest of the leg up by resting on her knees.
                      I have a height adjustable stand. Trust me when I say I have tried, she won't rely on it for balance (she is very much a "strong independent pony" type mare). After a few rounds of "pick up foot, quickly get whatever I can off, she has to put it back down" she starts refusing to pick up her feet. She's only 14hh but little 105lb me can't force her. I have never ever come across another horse so impeccably mannered with their feet, so her refusal is a very, very clear signal.

                      The "when" is definitely taking a toll. I'm no longer riding her, the risk isn't worth it. She fell with me on her one 10 years ago (a slip in the wet) and I was lucky to come away with only a broken elbow. I'm so grateful our last ride, only a week before the symptoms showed, was a bit of a fun, hooning up the trails type ride, her favourite and mine.


                        It really seems like you have done everything possible to give this mare the best quality of life. Based on what you have written, letting her go would be a kind option. I would be afraid that if she her foot caught, she would collapse really injuring herself or you if you happened to be there. I am sorry you are going through this!


                          Originally posted by CHT View Post
                          I felt guilty making the decision, but very much at peace after. Drawing out making the choice to put him down was probably a mistake. It weighed on me. Don't discount the emotional toll of having the decision of "when" weighing on you. It is good you have people to talk to about it.
                          To add to CHT's insight, I felt a huge relief after my last horse was euthanized. I was there and my big spook of a horse was mildly surprised when his legs stopped holding him up. The vet pushed him the rest of the way down, first a sit on his haunches then over on his side. He was almost gone even before the second syringe went in. He was ready and afterwards it was a relief to not have to worry about him any more. Which is not saying I didn't miss him terribly and bawl my eyes out (I did) or that I didn't feel a bit guilty for feeling relieved (I did).

                          When there's no hope for better there's also no need to wait until the horse has more bad days than good ones, or something traumatic happens. Let them go while they're still happy.


                            Original Poster

                            A little update: she’s been on the previcox for two weeks now. Yesterday I was able to trim all four feet with minimal fuss, for the first time since July! Her movement has improved too. She’s bright and happy, and I’m so relieved that at least for now the meds seem to be making it manageable.


                              Now that is good news!