Originally Posted by boots
I dealt with the "what to do" question with my kids first mare. After my thinking and planning, she led the process.
When she became too old to keep up with the day to day work, she became the favorite for short rides by us (check water, open or close a gate, get the mail) and took unskilled guests around the pretty pasture in front of the house. When her conformation changed and saddles didn't fit right, but she still felt well, she became the horse that we led little ones on with a bareback pad. When really all she wanted to do was stand a bit, eat a bit, and drink enough, that's what she did. For about 8 months.
Finally, most of her teeth were gone. She was 32. Winter was coming. And there was no way I was going to a) keep her stalled (away from others and risk the health problems associated with that), or b) let a predator take her down and... well, they start eating herbivores like horses, deer and all while still alive!
So I put her to sleep, non-chemically, because of the toxic results on the environment. She was not going to be able to maintain health that winter and condemning her to that would have been unkind.
It's always been that way with my family. Horses need to work. I even sold one of the best horses I've ever had because I was no longer able to use her to anywhere near her potential (I wasn't working cattle or hunting from her back anymore) so she went to someone who could appreciate all her talent.
They work at something and when the time comes that their quality of life and ability to do things isn't there anymore they've been put down by someone in the family.
My cousin Russell will teach them to pull a plow and wagon when they aren't up to the riding needs and when the plow is too much they can turn the cane press. When they can't do that then they basically can't walk well and their quality of life is gone and they'll be starting to suffer. Then it's time.
While I'd have a tough time eating one of mine, I'm thinking about looking into dressing out one that's not mine. When you think about the amount of meat that's being left to the worms or buzzards. It bothers me to think about mine rotting and becoming a lower life form more than it bothers me to think of them becoming a higher life form. Just haven't mastered being able to take a knife to one of my horses (or dogs), but I could do one that I didn't know. I might need to visit Russell and see who's getting old (besides Russell