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Elderly Owner/Horse=Euthanasia Debate with BO

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  • Elderly Owner/Horse=Euthanasia Debate with BO

    I was called by the elderly owner's daughter the other day, with quite a dilemma. Here's the story-owner is going to be 87 soon, has been riding since she was 7 (God Bless her!)....Her husband died 1 1/2 years ago, but even before then she had pretty bad short term memory loss, and she is also blind in one eye from a horse accident-about 10 years ago now. So, for the last few years, her riding has been sporadic, with visits to the farm to see her horse.

    The horse is 30 years old. He looks every minute of those years-they did 100 mile trail rides over weekends, etc., in years past. He has been well loved, and well used. When I saw him, last fall, I think, he was somewhat arthritic, and almost had a Cushing's type haircoat.

    They are thinking he looks like this winter will be hard on him, maybe it's time.

    Now that owner's short term memory is so bad-she'll forget her horseback ride within minutes, and given her age-and cost of care (she's in an Alzheimer's type unit), the family is thinking adopt out (!) the horse, or euth. I was called, because I trail ride, and all his (nice quality tack) gear goes with him. The BO is livid-he's been boarded there 3 years, and no question she's attached to him. BUT, the financial aspect is starting to drain the family, with owner's care being $$$. BO does not think he should be euth'd.

    My advice was, that chances of him being adopted out are next to nil-unless you get some jerk who will take him straight to slaughter. He also has had his moments-like being a handful-he never was a beginner type mount, so no husband horse or anything like that. I have no stall to take him, and I can't board for free, if I did take him. They want me to get involved with this, kind of evaluate him, but I know BO, and I know she will not be too nice about this. But, she has a financial stake in this, too....Uggh! Hard to know what to say-or do. I did tell the family that, for the safety of owner, her health problems, and given the horses' age, I certainly would never think less of them if they euth'd. Hard decision!!

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    Well if you want to be a guardian angel you could adopt him and sell the tack to pay for the euth. Tell owners family your plan up front and let them decide whether or not to tell her the whole story or not.
    McDowell Racing Stables

    Home Away From Home

    Comment


    • #3
      Perhaps the BO is attached to him? Why not ask her if she would like to adopt?

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Forgot to add, hubby and I did tell the family he could be brought here, and buried next to my old friends-we would trailer, and provide backhoe use (free). They would need to make vet arrangements.

        BO does not want to adopt. She has one retiree of her own.

        Comment


        • #5
          Well, if the BO is so "attached" to him, then she should be first in line wanting to adopt him.

          That is exactly how we came to own the 30+ year old pony that resides here. The pony had been given away once before and was returned two years later to the original owners severely malnourished. When she arrived here, she was underweight by about 150 pounds and only had 5 teeth left. After 6 months of TLC she was looking good, so they decided to try and give her away again My husband and I couldn't bear to think of her ending up in the same condition again so we bought her for $1.

          Bottom line: if the BO isn't willing to do the same, then she should shut up and do what is best for the horse. Euthanasia is certainly a much kinder option than a meat truck. And if I were you, I'd have no problem saying so.
          JB-Infinity Farm
          www.infinitehorses.com

          Comment


          • #6
            I have thoughts, but am not sure if I have the right ones, or if I have the right words to say them.

            Firstly, makes us think of the time when we get to be 87 and losing our memory and have other people making decisions for us, and possibly lying to us, or tricking us so we don't know the truths.

            I do know that if she "finds out" that something happened to her horse it will be very upsetting for her and make her regress in all likelihood.

            It does not sound as if this is a very long term problem, especially if her memory is fading.
            Do you trust the daughter to do the right thing by her mom. She is the most important player here. Keeping someone in care is very expensive and it is understandable they would be thinking about removing themselves from the cost of the horse.

            Can you take him for minimal board and take the tack as part payment.

            Oh, dear, how sad and difficult. Been through that with a dear friend and she definitely did not forget her horse of so many years. A bit of her died when he died.
            Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

            Comment


            • #7
              You don't keep an animal alive when its time has come just to keep the owner from regressing. That is cruel. I am sure she has suffered innumerable heartaches during her long life. That said its perfect ok to bend the truth when dealing with people with problem's such as hers Just say the horse got a wonder home out of town with people who love him dearly. All that would be completely true, you just don't mention the part that the new owner loved him enough to let him go.
              McDowell Racing Stables

              Home Away From Home

              Comment


              • #8
                Understand I'm biased going into this ... we have a horse that is a result of a situation like that. Shamall is a 29 yr old Egyptian Arabian that came to my family last year. He is not "ours" ... his human is without a doubt the man who had him since he was a baby. His human is the father of one of my parents' friends. About two years ago the son approached my parents because his father has Parkinson's and was looking for somewhere for Shamall to go as he faced his declining health and inability to care for him anymore. My mother went down to meet them - but turned out to be an interview on if SHE was good enough for Shamall!! All parties agreed but it was another several months before mom finally got the call to come get Shamall.

                The pictures of the first interview are heartbreaking. Shamall and his human share a huge bond, and the sadness that comes out of the pictures just hurts. But Shamall has a home and that's what the owner knew had to happen. Just a couple months ago they were able to spend some time together at an event we all go to. You may think that horses don't have feelings or care about people, but Shamall perked up like he hasn't in a long time when he saw his man, and was very proud to show off that he can still be ridden and is beautiful. He was a very, very happy horse. Then ... after his man left ... he was very, very grumpy. Kicking out at other horses, throwing hsi bucket around his stall, etc ... not normal behaviours for him. I may anthropomorphize too much, but it seemed obvious to everyone that he was upset and confused about where his man went.

                That in mind - why has no one talked to the elderly owner about her own horse? She's been a horse person for 80+ years. I'm sure she's had to make tough decisions before. "Protecting" her by lying to her just doesn't seem right, now, does it? I'd talk to her, she may be willing to let him go if she's a horse person herself ... even though it's hard. It's not right for anyone else to make that decision for her.

                Is there an option of looking into a retirement farm at a reduced rate, or like Foxtrot mentioned - can you or someone you know take him in at a reduced board and get the tack as partial payment? I see you said you don't have a stall available - do you know anyone, even people with small backyard farms, who could take him in? You'd be surprised, there are many people like my mom in there, willing to take in a horse and provide a good home until it's time to say goodbye.

                As others have said - it sounds like a good argument can be made for euthanization in this case. But I guess I don't understand why lying to the elderly owner is the wise choice ... instead of talking to her. She may have short term memory loss - but does she completely forget she owns a horse?
                If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                ~ Maya Angelou

                Comment


                • #9
                  How very very sad for everyone. My thoughts are if the horse is suffering then he should be put down. If he is not perhaps the OP or the BO could house him at cost with the promise of the tack at the end to offset the costs.

                  I have a boarder with a 29 yr old horse she can no longer afford. Every month it is a STRUGGLE for her to pay her board on the SSI she lives on. She has had the horse since it's birth. The horse is VERY healthy for her age and could pass for half. She wants me to place the horse for her - but where? She will not give her too me, I have offered. She does not want her horse used in lessons - which is what I would do with her. The mare is an excellent ride. Her only other option is to put the mare down - which is 1 1/2 the cost of a months board - all up front which she can not afford. I posted the mare on giveaways - but realistically.... Dilemma!!!

                  I feel your pain OP I do.
                  "If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Tif_Ann View Post

                    That in mind - why has no one talked to the elderly owner about her own horse? She's been a horse person for 80+ years. I'm sure she's had to make tough decisions before. "Protecting" her by lying to her just doesn't seem right, now, does it? I'd talk to her, she may be willing to let him go if she's a horse person herself ... even though it's hard. It's not right for anyone else to make that decision for her.

                    Is there an option of looking into a retirement farm at a reduced rate, or like Foxtrot mentioned - can you or someone you know take him in at a reduced board and get the tack as partial payment? I see you said you don't have a stall available - do you know anyone, even people with small backyard farms, who could take him in? You'd be surprised, there are many people like my mom in there, willing to take in a horse and provide a good home until it's time to say goodbye.

                    As others have said - it sounds like a good argument can be made for euthanization in this case. But I guess I don't understand why lying to the elderly owner is the wise choice ... instead of talking to her. She may have short term memory loss - but does she completely forget she owns a horse?
                    Can you not see the massive difference between alzheimers and parkinsons? With alzheimers they generally lose virtually all short term memory. They could tell the owner 100 times per day that the horse was dead and they would react with shock and grief as if hearing the heartbreaking news for the first time. That is cruel. They could tell the person 100 times per day that she herself made the decision to euth or rehome the horse and it would still come as a surprise each time. At least if they had a kind story to share 100 times per day it would lessen the blow. That said there are obviously two separate questions here with one being whether the horse needs to be euthed now or not. That is the first decision to be made and then take it from there.
                    McDowell Racing Stables

                    Home Away From Home

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Laurie - I think you are responding to my post. I'm not anti-euthanasia and did not infer that I was. OP did not say it was time to let him go. She also did not say how far along the owner was re the owner's failing memory. Either way, it is the daughter's decision and the OP was asked for input and not a very nice situation to be in.
                      Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I agree with Tif Ann, on the "As others have said - it sounds like a good argument can be made for euthanization in this case. But I guess I don't understand why lying to the elderly owner is the wise choice ... instead of talking to her. She may have short term memory loss - but does she completely forget she owns a horse?".

                        The owner, unless she has already been adjudicated not mentally competent with a family member having POA, definitely should be consulted on what to do. It would be a great kindness to have kind of a farewell party, if owner agrees euth'ing horse is best, in which both the elderly owner and elderly horse are the guests of honor, pictures taken, etc, for elderly owner to look at later, if she forgets what happened to 'dear old dobbin'.
                        Jeanie
                        The BO does not get a 'vote' unless BO is going to adopt the horse and care for it. This is strictly a decision for horse owner and family, and the Vet who knows the horse best. It is marvelous that spurgirl is helping.
                        Last edited by sdlbredfan; Nov. 1, 2009, 06:51 PM. Reason: add a p.s.
                        Jeanie
                        RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Yes - I absolutely understand the difference between Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. And if she's fading as you say ... there is no easy way around it. No matter WHAT the decision - euthanize or rehome - the family is giong to be facing stress and pain with the owner. No matter what - something is gonig to have to be told to the owner about her horse. Upsetting that he's gone, yes ... but also just as upsetting for someone to have to tell her she just can't go see him. How she's going to react in the future is speculative anyway. I assume she's been told about her husband's death and deals with that? Who's to say she won't be able to accept letting the horse go and feel some empowerment in being a part of it? That's why I say NOW she should be consulted, if she still has the mental capacity. Even if she FORGETS the memory, what right does the family have to ROB her of the choice and the memory?

                          BUT ... all that aside ... your original question was about the fight with the barn owner. Unless she's willing to forego board and adopt the horse until the day comes he has to be euthanized for health reasons, and still allow the elderly owner to visit on good days, etc ... her opinion really doesn't matter. She doesn't have a legal standing if they are current on board. If nothing else, I commend the family in seeing that the BO has a bias in this situation and seeking out outside opinions in the care of the horse.
                          If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.
                          ~ Maya Angelou

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Not to be disrespectful, but it may be a moot point. I doubt is would even be possible to find an adoptive home for a 30 year old horse that isn't in the best of health. People can't give away young sound horses right now.
                            "The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I just wish I had a big enough place and enough dollars to take in those old folks. Not only would they retire peacefully, the old peoples would know there friends are being loved. I AM GOING TO WIN THE LOTTERY. Then, the oldies on the giveaways, well, it wont be an issue.

                              What a massively difficult decision all the way around.
                              Our horses are not seen as the old and disabled they may have become, but rather as the mighty steeds they once believed themselves to be.

                              Sunkissed Acres Rescue and Retirement

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I think the woman and her children need to make the decision and the Op and BO support that. The problem sounds financial, as well as wanting what is best for horse and owner. My aunt is traveling the same road with altheimers, and very soon the outcome with the horse will be moot. If the owner is beyond visiting the horse, all she needs to hear is that the horse is doing well, if and when she asks. Life becomes very simple, and the kind thing for all is reduce difficulty for all concerned. Good luck, but sounds like you have offered to give what help you could- a very generous offer.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I say, do right by the horse, and put it down. Why force a 30 yo to adjust to new surroundings/herd dynamics/etc after serving so well and so faithfully? My aunt, who recently passed away, had Alzheimer's. No one ever lied to her or led her on- I don't think that would be right- though admittedly it gets old answering the same question a few hundred times. In the case of my aunt, it was 'where is the car,' and my cousin (principal caretaker) would matter of factly tell her, again, that she (the cousin) had sold it and put the money in her (the aunt's) account.

                                  With my own geriatrics, I prefer to put them down a year too soon than a day to late, if those are my only choices. This woman spent a lifetime with horses, she will, mental condition notwithstanding, be able to process that her beloved horse was put down due to infirmities of age.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                    Can you not see the massive difference between alzheimers and parkinsons? With alzheimers they generally lose virtually all short term memory. They could tell the owner 100 times per day that the horse was dead and they would react with shock and grief as if hearing the heartbreaking news for the first time. That is cruel. They could tell the person 100 times per day that she herself made the decision to euth or rehome the horse and it would still come as a surprise each time. At least if they had a kind story to share 100 times per day it would lessen the blow. That said there are obviously two separate questions here with one being whether the horse needs to be euthed now or not. That is the first decision to be made and then take it from there.
                                    That stage of forgetfulness is fairly fleeting, in a month or two she will probably start asking when her mother is coming to take her home. Whatever decision is made for the horse the owner doesn't need to be told the truth if it distressing to hear that it has been put down - he could be retired to a nice pasture, or she could be told he was sick and suffering with colic (something a lifelong horseman would understand) and it was a kindness at his old age. White lies aren't all bad. That story would still have to be repeated 100 times a day, but a much less distressing answer could be given to save her some pain. Most sad about this story is it being about the BO's financial interests getting in the way of an already difficult situation - some people have no shame about being mercenary.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      First: I agree the owner, if she's already gone into a specialty-care ward, is likely out of the picture. Depending on how advanced the illness is she may not even know she ever owned this horse. The more advanced it gets, the less the patient is aware of anything. It's a really nasty way to go.

                                      Second: I don't know if euthanasia is the right or wrong decision, but unless the BO is willing to put her money where her mouth is, her opinion really isn't relevant. If she's really "attached" to him, then she should take him on. If she's not willing to do that and she's not totally oblivious to the market for thirty-year-old horses who aren't a push-button ride, then she needs to quietly back off. The family has enough to deal with without being guilt-tripped about the horse.
                                      Author Page
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                                      Steampunk Sweethearts

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                                      • Original Poster

                                        #20
                                        Thanks for your thoughts....

                                        Just to let everyone know, no one has lied to the owner about anything. Her memory loss is pretty acute, someone has had POA over her affairs since her husband passed, 1 1/2 years ago. She repeats things every few minutes, and has done that for the last three years or so.

                                        She rode her horse around the paddock last week. One of the daughters came in from out of town to visit that very day, owner said, "I haven't seen Dobbin in weeks". She has forgotten her husband of 60+ years, he faded from her memory shortly after he passed. They met at age 12, and married as teenagers.

                                        I would take the horse as a favor to the family, with them paying only for essentials, but I do not have a stall-I have my old retired mare, a gelding, and recently I adopted an 11 YO well trained, sound horse that was in danger. My turnouts have no shelter, and I won't leave any horse out alone in inclement weather. From seeing the horse last year, and the hearing comments of those who have recently, I agree it may be time. It is just not my decision to make. I just wish the BO would be supportive, as she has ridden with this owner for around 20 years! I almost want to call, but don't want to get yelled at too, like the daughter did.

                                        I appreciate everyone posting with suggestions and comments, needed to bounce thoughts off someone(s). Thanks for the replies.

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