I'm so sorry for your loss. What happened? He was beautiful. The first song was the perfect choice.
He developed severe arthritis in his back right hock and stifle. He was only 14 years old. (Which is where some people on this board accused me of ruining my own horse and running him into the ground, which is just not true.)
I have been in college for the past 8 years (just graduated from optometry school in May), and especially was gone a lot the last 4 years while in grad school. I'm sure if I would have been around more or seen him more, I would have noticed something was wrong sooner. Looking back now I see the signs, but I didn't realize it then. My parents kept him for me throughout my school years.
He started to get really bad last year in Oct/Nov, or at least my mom would tell me over the phone. I had already been begging to have him taken to the vet for the last year, but my dad doesn't take an animal to the vet until it's dying .... especially our "hobby" horses. I couldn't do a whole lot about it being 4 states away and relying financially on my parents.
He finally got taken in about a year ago, in Nov 2011. Two local vets looked at him and diagnosed him with locking stifle. They said to do hill exercises, which was impossible because I wasn't home. He continued to get worse over the winter. At one point during Christmas break last year, he couldn't even trot with me on his back (just hopped on for a bareback ride).
When I graduated from school in May, I took him to a lameness specialist. It didn't take more than 10 minutes for him to tell me that he had fluid in his stifle and hocks and I could do injections, but they would strictly be to keep him comfortable. He said I could ride him at a walk once in a while, but it was best not to ride him at all.
So my good barrel horse was officially retired, when I was just ready to travel all over the place with him when I was done with school. Super bummer.
I kept him on daily bute this whole summer, but I could tell it was bothering him. Most of the time, he wouldn't even trot or gallop on his own accord in the pasture. Just walk, or rather limp.
Yea, I could have kept him around for a few more years. Yea, I could have had my parents take him.
But I couldn't justify dishing out money (that I don't have lying around) to keep him when I know he's not comfortable anyway, and I know someday I am going to have to put him down. So I decided to get it over with.