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How to humanely shoot a horse

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  • How to humanely shoot a horse

    This is actually just a simple question. No I am not planning to shoot a horse. I'm editing a book on hobby farming and just came across the paragraph below. The bit about the forehead strikes me as incorrect. Does anyone know where is the right place to shoot a horse? I think it's behind the eye through the side of the head, but I wanted to be sure before changing it.

    Here's the paragraph in question:

    "Many farmers keep guns for the purpose of preventing misery in their animals. Perhaps it’s a Sunday and you’ve found that one of your horses has a compound fracture of his leg and he is suffering. You’re unable to get in touch with the vet, so what do you do? The humane thing to do would be to put a .22-caliber bullet right in the horse’s forehead. "

  • #2
    in the book "how to be your own vetrenarian sometimes" it says to draw an imaginary X from right ear to left eye and left ear to right eye and shoot in the middle.

    sorry for the spelling errors

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    • #3
      I believe with most animals there's something about drawing an X (mentally) from ear to opposite eye and aiming at the center of the X. On a horse, that would be center/high forehead. Same place you'd put a bolt gun/humane killer. We have a butchery book at home that has diagrams on where in the head to shoot on different animals.
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      • #4
        http://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vetext...TH-HORSES.HTML
        "In the beginning, the universe was created. This made a lot of people angry and has widely been considered as a bad move." -Douglas Adams

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        • #5
          Boy, I don't know. That is what I was taught but not what I've experienced.

          Ten years ago, I was in a remote part of Colorado and we had to euthanize a horse. I think we drew an imaginary 'X' between the ears and the eyes, so right in the middle of the forehead. It didn't work. We had to shoot the horse 3 times and he finally died after an hour.

          It was truly horrible. We felt so helpless and I have prayed for that horse to forgive me for years.

          The idea is to hit the primitive part of the brain but it's hard to get at. I don't know if we didn't have the angle right or what.

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          • #6
            the suggested placement is the X between ears/eyes. It's a tough shot regardless and you really need to ensure your aim is dead on.

            I do know someone who shoots behind the ear - however I'll add the caveat, she is extremely experienced with this - and even she won't suggest that as the site to others.
            Originally posted by ExJumper
            Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              OK, thanks all. So it sounds like "in the forehead" is generally accurate enough for this usage. It's not a "how to shoot a horse" discussion, it's a more general discussion on whether or not a farmer should have a gun. I just wanted to be sure it wasn't straight-up wrong.

              Thanks!

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              • #8
                Originally posted by JCS View Post
                OK, thanks all. So it sounds like "in the forehead" is generally accurate enough for this usage. It's not a "how to shoot a horse" discussion, it's a more general discussion on whether or not a farmer should have a gun. I just wanted to be sure it wasn't straight-up wrong.

                Thanks!
                Sorry, you NEED to be more specific than "forehead" when you put this in a book. Forehead is anything above the eyes, and that is no help. Could make a bad situation MUCH worse! Even doing it correctly, another poster had problems. Writing in "make an X between ears and eyes, center crossing location is where to shoot" is what is needed. Western Horseman had an article about putting horses down, photos with the X drawn in on horse forehead. It was to help trail riders, campers, packers, who may have a situation develop out in the back country as mentioned. Accidents happen in rough country, you want to be humane in putting a suffering horse down quickly. This X method was recommended by several experienced packers, people who have had to do the job. I was glad to read the article, have the information in my head if ever we needed it.

                My aunt (14 at the time) was hit by a truck while riding, horse had two broken legs. Policeman arrived and she told him to shoot the horse, which he did about 8 times, head and neck, STILL not dead. It was HORRIBLE! My grandfather arrived on the scene about then, took the gun and killed the horse with one shot to the X point of forehead. Then he cursed out the policeman for using horse as a target, traumatizing my aunt still laying there with her broken leg. Had quite the crowd by then.

                If you are writing information, needs to be specific in some places. Not generalized fluff-stuff or your book is pretty worthless. Sure hope no one NEEDS the EXACT information from your proposed book or they will be cursing YOU sometime in the future if you don't put helpful stuff in it! Leave out the whole gun thing if you can't be specific!!

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                • #9
                  Has anyone heard of the between the ears, right on top of the head?

                  Did I read this somewhere?
                  My big man - April 27, 1986 - September 04, 2008-
                  You're with me every moment, my big red horse.

                  Be kinder than necessary, for everyone is fighting a battle of some kind.

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                  • #10
                    From the UCDavis link

                    "The proper location of gunshot penetration is important in the destruction of the brain and minimizing suffering. The optimal site for penetration of the skull is one-half inch above the intersection of a diagonal line from the base of the ear to the in side corner of the opposite eye. The firearm should be aimed directly down the neck, perpendicular to the front of the skull, and held at least 2-6 inches away from the point of impact. When performed skillfully, gunshot induces instantaneous unconscio usness, is inexpensive, and does not require close contact with the horse.

                    A .22-caliber long rifle is recommended, but a 9mm or .38-caliber handgun will be sufficient for most horses. The use of hollow-point or soft nose bullets will increase brain destruction and reduce the chance of ricochet. If a shotgun is the only avai lable firearm, the use of a rifled slug is preferred.

                    This method should only be attempted by individuals trained in the use of firearms and who understand the potential for ricochet. Care must be taken to minimize the danger to the operator, observers, and other animals. Personnel must comply with all la ws and regulations governing the posession and discharge of firearms; local ordinances may prohibit the discharge of firearms in certain areas."

                    So it's not easy to do correctly, but it is the conditionally acceptable way to euthanize a horse with a gun. Shooting from the side of the head is likely to end with a live horse with a bullet through one of his extensive sinuses.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      UCD article describes the correct position as 1/2 inch above the x.

                      We put down our friend's horse that had colic. The vet examined the horse and did some tests, and told us that euthanasia was the likely best choice, the horse was BADLY off and was a poor candidate for colic surgery.

                      Euthanizing the horse at the vet clinic would have cost another $400 or more.

                      We hauled her home (20 minutes away) to euthanize her. At this point, she was full of painkillers so she was not suffering by being euthanized somewhere else.

                      When you shoot a horse on the 'x-spot', the horse will lunge forward.

                      We used a tractor to put a 900 pound, 3x4x8 foot bale of hay by itself. We led the horse up to the bale. I held the lead rope, DH stood on top of the hay bale and shot the horse. She couldn't move the big hay bale, so didn't hurt anyone going down. She died right away and we buried her body (legally) on our property.

                      I can't really imagine using a .22 rifle to do this (as suggested by the UCD website), we always use a larger caliber rifle to euthanize cattle (and the horse).

                      I have absolutely heard of shooting the horse from the side of the head, if the horse lunges forward it does not hurt you because you are not standing directly in front.

                      I've seen several beef butchered, the correct placement of the shot is also at the center of the x, ears to eyes lines.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        My husband recently had to shoot one of our horses - he is an experienced hunter and marksman but there was no time to consult the internet for proper placement - he shot in the forhead and she died instantaneously.

                        If you are using the wrong kind of gun (I know nothing about guns) or if the shot is from a distance, perhaps this is the problem with those listed above? My husband shot her almost point blank and said it was the most peaceful euth he's ever seen. Thank goodness.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Humane killer (specialized small-caliber pistol) and hand-held captive bolt seem to still be taught as veterinary euthanasia tools in the UK, at least more commonly than they're used here. (The latter being preferred as it's increasingly hard to get the former or the ammunition for them, though the former's considered better with horses.)

                          (And it was REALLY hard to google that without getting tons of hits on irrelevant anti-slaughter sites.)

                          The concern on caliber seems to be if you get much bigger than a .38 not only might it go through, the riccochet's going to be nastier. A few documents also suggest using expanding ammunition, and what seems to be a 'well-duh' warning that if you use a shotgun, use a slug, not shot.
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                          • #14
                            In addition to X marks the spot, you also have to have the right angle. My husband (retired cop) has had to do it a couple of times. He generally follows up with a second shot behind the poll. He says that is to sever the spinal column to reduce the automatic twitching responses, but I don't think it actually reduces them.
                            ::Sometimes you have to burn a few bridges to keep the crazies from following you::

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                            • #15
                              So, not to derail....but am I correct in thinking a .22 pistol (rim fire, if that matters) is not a good choice? It recently worked wonderful on the pea brain possum in my barn...
                              Things Take Time

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                              • #16
                                I had heard use 'just' a .22 at that X on the forehead. . .

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  If you use a .22, use special rimfire or expanding ammunition.
                                  The UCD site says:
                                  A .22-caliber long rifle is recommended, but a 9mm or .38-caliber handgun will be sufficient for most horses. The use of hollow-point or soft nose bullets will increase brain destruction and reduce the chance of ricochet.
                                  But doesn't say anything about a .22 pistol. If that was all you had, it would probably work, but there is the possibility of needing more than one shot. Be absolutely sure that the gun is angled down the neck Ick.

                                  I think the difference between euthanasia by bullet on a cow vs a horse is that a cow has a thicker, denser skull. That would be why DH has a .45 caliber rifle in case an older bull breaks a leg or some such. I have NEVER seen someone euthanize anything bovine with anything less than a .38 (usually they use a .45), so I was surprised to see UCD recommend a .22 for a horse.

                                  OK, found some relevant info regarding caliber, from
                                  http://www.vdpam.iastate.edu/HumaneEuthanasia/gun.htm

                                  A .22 caliber long rifle bullet fired from either a pistol or rifle is sufficient for young animals. Hollow or soft point .22 caliber bullets increase brain tissue destruction, but may not penetrate the skull in adult animals. Euthanasia of bulls and some adult cows, horses, or Cervidae (elk) by gunshot requires larger calibers such as a 9mm or .357 because of thickness of the skull. Proper placement of the bullet is essential and best achieved by holding the firearm within a few inches of the intended target. The firearm should not be held or placed against the head.
                                  So yes, if it is a horse a .22 pistol will usually suffice. Not so much with a 10-year-old bull elk.

                                  BTW, danceronice, if you type 'captive bolt gun euthanasia - slaughter' into the search engine, you won't get all the anti-slaughter sites. The key is "minus slaughter".

                                  It is good to have a plan, it is devastating to have to carry it out. (Big, manly DH needs a lot of hugs when he has to euthanize something, even a calf with a broken leg or an old, cranky cow with same.)

                                  But think of how awful you would feel if you had no emergency euthanasia plan and find your horse in an extreme state. I would rather be able to shoot the horse within 15 minutes than have to wait an hour or more for a vet.
                                  Last edited by Fillabeana; Nov. 10, 2010, 07:50 PM. Reason: found more information

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                                  • #18
                                    I have used our little .22 long rifle and horses immediately just crumbled dead on the spot, like someone was holding them up by strings and turned them loose, they didn't lunge forward.
                                    We use that gun for all, including cattle and they too just drop.

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Fillabeana View Post

                                      We hauled her home (20 minutes away) to euthanize her. At this point, she was full of painkillers so she was not suffering by being euthanized somewhere else.

                                      When you shoot a horse on the 'x-spot', the horse will lunge forward.

                                      We used a tractor to put a 900 pound, 3x4x8 foot bale of hay by itself. We led the horse up to the bale. I held the lead rope, DH stood on top of the hay bale and shot the horse. She couldn't move the big hay bale, so didn't hurt anyone going down. She died right away and we buried her body (legally) on our property.
                                      Lunge forward? Say what? I've put down pretty much everything with four legs and I can tell you right now; with a proper brain shot (preferably also going through the brain stem) knees buckle and the animal falls straight down, won't even twitch.
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                                      Nearly all of what I post will be controversial to someone. Believe nothing you read on a chat room, research for yourself and LEARN.
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                                      • #20
                                        For those wondering about caliber of the firearm;

                                        The smaller caliber, the less room for error. You must know WHERE to aim and hit EXACTLY where you're aiming at.

                                        The larger the caliber, the better the chance the animal goes down cleanly but also a larger chance of full penetration/ricochet.

                                        So if you know what you're doing a .22 will be fine. If you don't know what you're doing, you shouldn't be trying to euth by gunshot anyway.
                                        Disclaimer;
                                        Nearly all of what I post will be controversial to someone. Believe nothing you read on a chat room, research for yourself and LEARN.
                                        Not in the 42% or the 96%

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