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How to know when it's "time"

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  • How to know when it's "time"

    I have a 32 year old gelding who is showing all the signs of his very old age. He had always been an extremely easy keeper and we always joked about how he managed to get fat off of water! But last fall I noticed his weight slipping on his usual grass hay. So I switched him to an alfalfa mix which still didn't quite do it. By November I had him on beet pulp mixed with senior feed twice a day along with his hay. The vet said when the weather warms he should be fine again on grass. But he is not. He's really dropping weight again so I am beet pulping with senior feed again. But he really isn't touching his hay anymore at all. He had his back teeth, I had them floated. But he quids his hay and just has no real appetite. My question is...is it time? When do you know? I can't let him drop weight. In addition, he is a bit grumpy with the herd. He just seems tired but yet.. still whinnies at me when I come out

  • #2
    I have a golden oldie boarder. He gets TC Senior mush mixed with very well soaked alfalfa cubes. When it's really cold, he gets about 8 lbs of Senior per day and 5 to 10 lbs of cubes. He only quids hay as well. I can cut his feed down dramatically when the grass comes in.

    If he's losing weight on grass....I just don't know.

    Comment


    • #3
      Such a tough decision no matter what animal is involved and my heart goes out to you. I can't offer any real advice, but I know most people will agree it's always better to say goodbye a day too early than a minute too late.

      Sending you hugs as you sort through this.
      Proud owner of a Slaughter-Bound TB from a feedlot, and her surprise baby...!
      http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e350/Jen4USC/fave.jpg
      http://i42.photobucket.com/albums/e3...SC/running.jpg

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      • #4
        I have always believed that they will tell you when it is time - when they don't enjoy their food, their herd, their normal routine then that is a sign. Not eating may also indicate that something else is going on too so a chat with your vet may help with your decision.

        If you think he is still enjoying his life then make some adjustments in food and hay to spark his appetite - you can even have the vet give him an injection of B complex to try to stimulate his appetite.

        32 is a grand age for a horse to reach so don't second guess your feelings. I unfortunately, am in the same boat - we have good days and some bad days and I am always looking for the "sign" but so far he is still trucking along so I will support him for as long as he wants me to.

        Sending good thoughts to guide you - this is the one part of being a horse person we all dread but it can be the most import thing we do for our horses.

        Comment


        • #5
          He may need to be kept by himself, so he can come and go with the least energy to spend, not have to live in the middle of a herd.

          A friend just euthanized their 42 year old, but he did spend the past six years alone, with yard privileges and bossing the rest over the fences.
          If you don't have another very old horse that is at the same speed to live with, he is better off alone and that may just help him gain weight and thrive.
          Then, if he has trouble holding weight, if he has trouble getting up and down, he may just be enduring.
          Horses don't know what time is, what living some more or less days is.
          When their quality of life is not good and you can't make it good, it is time.
          Better early than after they hit a crisis and have to be in pain until they pass away.

          I have heard our vets say that today, more and more people are having horses with too poor a quality of life, are not making the hard decisions in the best interest of the horses, wait until the horse is suffering seriously to do what needs to be done.

          When that time is, consider your horse, that you know best and get a second opinion from a good vet, just to be sure you have all your basis covered about what can be done and if doing that is the right thing.

          Comment


          • #6
            If you are asking yourself if it's time then it IS time.

            Horses only know today. They're not like humans, wanting to get to their grandson's next birthday party or walk their daughter down the aisle. If things are not going well for him now, that's all he knows.

            The last thing you want is for the horse to get critical and for it to be an emergency. And IMO, by the time an animal "tells" you it's ready, it is in a very grim place indeed, because they know they are going to die and have given up. Being animals, especially prey animals, they do not enter that place easily and life has be to be pretty terrible before they give up like that.

            Pick a nice sunny spring day, feed him a whole bucket of his favorite treats or grain, love all over him and tell him how magnificent he's been and have the vet do the deed. Better a month to early than a day too late, and better on your timeline than when he's critical.

            I'm sorry

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Simkie View Post
              And IMO, by the time an animal "tells" you it's ready, it is in a very grim place indeed, because they know they are going to die and have given up.(
              I was not telling the OP to wait until the horse was down and dying - if you know your horse, then you will know when they are not enjoying their former daily routines, food, friends, whatever. If they seem to be out of place in their world, then it is time.

              For mine, first he stopped going to his favorite grazing spot, stopped finishing his grain, and then the other horses started to pick on him - he seemed disoriented too so we changed his stall and turnout routine and he has bounced back nicely. Still enjoys his naps in the sun, finishes his food and hay and seems peaceful and content. If he hadn't then it would have been his time.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                If you are asking yourself if it's time then it IS time.

                Horses only know today. They're not like humans, wanting to get to their grandson's next birthday party or walk their daughter down the aisle. If things are not going well for him now, that's all he knows.

                The last thing you want is for the horse to get critical and for it to be an emergency. And IMO, by the time an animal "tells" you it's ready, it is in a very grim place indeed, because they know they are going to die and have given up. Being animals, especially prey animals, they do not enter that place easily and life has be to be pretty terrible before they give up like that.

                Pick a nice sunny spring day, feed him a whole bucket of his favorite treats or grain, love all over him and tell him how magnificent he's been and have the vet do the deed. Better a month to early than a day too late, and better on your timeline than when he's critical.

                I'm sorry
                ^This exactly. I'm so sorry for you, and for your impending loss. It sounds like your guy has had a wonderful life and you've done what you reasonably could to ensure he enjoyed his golden years. Time to let him go quietly and happily to the other side where he will be fat, happy and pain free. You will not regret the decision to ensure he doesn't ever suffer. I really think he is already telling you it's time - good for you for listening! You've done right by him absolutely, don't let him down now when he needs your firm action the most. Jingles to you both.
                If you love me let me go....

                Comment


                • #9
                  If he has no appetite, that's the biggest message. I had an old mare that always looked her worst at end of winter/beginning of spring before the grass was well established. But even when her weight was down, the appetite was robust, the 'life is good' look was in her eyes, and she continued to boss the boys around. My OTTB gelding on the other hand- who ironically was a hard keeper til he was about 14 but not after that, just got 'blah' on me one fine day toward end of summer. I'm also of the month, or even year too soon than day too late. Any way you do it is heart wrenching but I do my best to do right by the horse.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                    If you are asking yourself if it's time then it IS time.

                    Horses only know today. They're not like humans, wanting to get to their grandson's next birthday party or walk their daughter down the aisle. If things are not going well for him now, that's all he knows.

                    The last thing you want is for the horse to get critical and for it to be an emergency. And IMO, by the time an animal "tells" you it's ready, it is in a very grim place indeed, because they know they are going to die and have given up. Being animals, especially prey animals, they do not enter that place easily and life has be to be pretty terrible before they give up like that.

                    Pick a nice sunny spring day, feed him a whole bucket of his favorite treats or grain, love all over him and tell him how magnificent he's been and have the vet do the deed. Better a month to early than a day too late, and better on your timeline than when he's critical.

                    I'm sorry
                    This .

                    I'm sorry you have to go thru this - I put down my 31-yr old TB last September. Hardest decision you'll ever have to make. In my guys case - he became extremely neurological in a matter of eight days. Completely fine one morning but by nighttime something clearly was wrong. Took him to the hospital and told my vets that my goal was quality of life and not quantity - I wasn't going to put him thru anything. EPM was most likely the cause due to his symptoms. I took him home and gave him a great last week knowing it was just a matter of days. He was still bright-eyed, eating, acting completely normal except that his body wasn't working quite right. With winter coming I couldn't risk him falling down and laying there waiting for someone to notice. So I made the decision on a beautiful sunny mild September afternoon. It wasn't easy as he was still munching on his hay in the trailer when i brought him to the hospital to have him put down. It was very peaceful and he passed quietly. I had him cremated - not cheap but worth it to me. Better a day too early than a second too late .

                    Euthanasia takes away their pain and makes it ours...
                    "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My first horse taught me about "when it's time" and I used those lessons when it was time for my second horse. I wrote about those lessons on the BBs that I contributed to, and finally added them to the blog I started in the last weeks of my second horse's life. This entry is the one that comes up when you click on the blog link, but you may find some of the others helpful as well. You aren't alone, and it's a hard place to be in. ((((hugs))))

                      Link to blog Journey to the End:
                      http://endgame-journeys-end.blogspot.ca/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jenm View Post
                        Such a tough decision no matter what animal is involved and my heart goes out to you. I can't offer any real advice, but I know most people will agree it's always better to say goodbye a day too early than a minute too late.

                        Sending you hugs as you sort through this.
                        I agree word for word. I have a horror of any animal of mine living their last moments in pain, anxiety, or discomfort, and always err on the early side
                        VP Horse & Carriage Association of NYC

                        https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-F...ref=ts&fref=ts

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                          If you are asking yourself if it's time then it IS time.

                          Horses only know today. They're not like humans, wanting to get to their grandson's next birthday party or walk their daughter down the aisle. If things are not going well for him now, that's all he knows.

                          The last thing you want is for the horse to get critical and for it to be an emergency. And IMO, by the time an animal "tells" you it's ready, it is in a very grim place indeed, because they know they are going to die and have given up. Being animals, especially prey animals, they do not enter that place easily and life has be to be pretty terrible before they give up like that.

                          Pick a nice sunny spring day, feed him a whole bucket of his favorite treats or grain, love all over him and tell him how magnificent he's been and have the vet do the deed. Better a month to early than a day too late, and better on your timeline than when he's critical.

                          I'm sorry
                          Perfect.
                          VP Horse & Carriage Association of NYC

                          https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-F...ref=ts&fref=ts

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My only regret was that I spent 2 years doing EVERYTHING money could buy and my efforts could do to help extend my old guy's life. He had Cushings and was eating 10 times what he did previously and looking poorly. Sure he had his good days...but I suffered immensely...more than I understood. And in retrospect, he would have been OK to leave earlier. That magnificent horse was a shadow of his former self, grouchy and probably ouchy. Horses are VERY stoic...they rarely complain.

                            When you start asking the question, you really know the answer...I kept him around for the selfish reason that I didn't want to let him go. [tears running down my face even now MANY years later!] It didn't seem to me that he was THAT bad, that another supplement, change of diet, medication, chiro whatever couldn't help make him comfortable. I made the decision and changed my mind because he 'seemed' OK.

                            So, better a day too soon than a moment too late.

                            I spent a week giving him lavish attention and honoring him then buted him up for the walk to his final resting place. He outwalked me... was I doing the right thing....YES. Many tears...and many years later...still tears but I only wished I had seen the reality sooner.

                            I'm sorry ... it is the hardest and most generous thing we can do for our animals...to give them a good send-off before they have ot really suffer. I am only sorry that we can't do that for our 2 legged loved ones!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Is he still enjoying his senior feed and beet pulp? Hay and grass may not be a feasible feed for him anymore. He might be tired because he isn't taking in enough calories. There are fiber alternatives, soaking feed, weight gain supplements, etc.

                              Just an alternative view. No decision is wrong as long as it is humane.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by michaleenflynn View Post
                                I agree word for word. I have a horror of any animal of mine living their last moments in pain, anxiety, or discomfort, and always err on the early side
                                I learned to be proactive the hard way, hard for one of our old ranch horses many years ago.
                                He had ringbone from an old pasture accident and was retired at 14, by 16 was not getting around too well, so he was put on daily bute for two more years.
                                Then even bute was not working, he would not go out too pasture with the others, but stand in the pens, hurting.
                                I asked the vet to look at him and see if it was time.
                                He looked so good, he was a very bright horse that loved people and attention, so he was up for the vet visit and was still fat, that the vet said to maybe wait a bit longer yet.

                                Three months later, he was obviously just not happy and lost some weight and I told the vet I didn't want to have him stand there any longer, he was just not having a good quality of life.
                                The vet agreed and the dummy, after he euthanized him, said "you were right, we should have done it last time I was out".
                                I kind of wish he had not told me, that made me feel terrible.

                                After that, I know that, when it is time, it is time, waiting is not going to do anything but let the horse's quality of life go down and that is not fair to any horse.

                                "Better too soon than a minute too late" is very, very true.

                                Comment

                                • Original Poster

                                  #17
                                  All of your replies have really helped me to understand that I am not so alone. It gives me a sense of peace when thinking of the inevitable. It will not be easy but as I approach his end I can look back and know that he has had a great life. He has always been loved and well cared for. He has been to many places and taught countless beginners to ride. What a special boy he has been. I don't think I will drag it out much longer. I can't say *when* for sure but to force him to endure another northwest winter would be cruel. As I type this he stands away from his herd in a corner of the pasture with his head down. Very unlike him as he is the herd leader and has always placed himself with his herd at all times. Yes I think I will keep him separated until the day comes. Simke your post was spot on. Thank you...

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    We are putting my 'old' mare down on Friday. She's had some hard winters and we suspected cancer for a couple years but could not confirm it.
                                    Her 'free leaser' (teaches children how to brush and care for horses, she used to give walking rides)Emailed me last weekend and said Markie was starting to be in more discomfort. She has had chronic lameness in her one leg for about 11 years that made her pasture sound/walking sound for most of these last few years and she would still trot and canter with the group if she wanted to. She said her leg was bugging her more, she was standing spread out and off her front legs as much as she could (I immediately thought founder when I heard her explain it that way) and was seeming depressed more often(some days better than others). They had her on bute to help with the pain.
                                    The vet came and confirmed founder, as well as joint degeneration and arthritis in her chronic leg, and there was now visible cancer signs. With hearing that I told her 'free leaser' to arrange for her euthanasia. I went out to see her yesterday and she was happy, walking fine (even spooked and cantered off), good weight. If she was like this everyday she could at least live till the end of summer and be happy, but I often see her at her best because she knows me so well (13 years) and because she knows when I come she gets crammed full of treats. I don't see her during her normal day life and so I can't judge my opinion simply on when I am there. And she has been on bute for the pain.
                                    Maybe it's too early for her, maybe she could make it to the winter, but she never does well in the winter so with her ailments getting worse we would have to euthanize by winter anyways, and if she is in founder stance and favoring that leg most days and needs bute, plus her cancer she's had for a few years, it's better early than late.
                                    Picture of Markie and I from yesterday
                                    http://pic50.picturetrail.com/VOL481.../406442841.jpg

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                      If you are asking yourself if it's time then it IS time.
                                      That was going to be my response before I even opened the thread to read your whole post.

                                      I think sometimes we worry that other people will think we did not try hard enough (or maybe we wonder that about ourselves). There is no prize for oldest horse, or for giving the greatest senior care to prolong life by a few months. The horses don't know any better, and they can't tell us that they are in pain or feel sick.

                                      32 is a grand old age for a horse. If you are asking, it's time to make a plan. It doesn't have to be tomorrow, but it's time to set the plan in motion so that you are ready.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Simkie, not to hijack this thread, but I o needed to read this today. I said goodbye to my heart horse on Friday and I'm still hoping I made the right decision.

                                        To the OP, even though I am heartbroken. I am so lad I spent the last two weeks spoiling my girl rotten. I said everything I needed to say and for that I'm so thankful. If I had waited until the situation was dire, it would have been different.

                                        Originally posted by Simkie View Post
                                        If you are asking yourself if it's time then it IS time.

                                        Horses only know today. They're not like humans, wanting to get to their grandson's next birthday party or walk their daughter down the aisle. If things are not going well for him now, that's all he knows.

                                        The last thing you want is for the horse to get critical and for it to be an emergency. And IMO, by the time an animal "tells" you it's ready, it is in a very grim place indeed, because they know they are going to die and have given up. Being animals, especially prey animals, they do not enter that place easily and life has be to be pretty terrible before they give up like that.

                                        Pick a nice sunny spring day, feed him a whole bucket of his favorite treats or grain, love all over him and tell him how magnificent he's been and have the vet do the deed. Better a month to early than a day too late, and better on your timeline than when he's critical.

                                        I'm sorry

                                        Comment

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