When to let a horse go? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 01:37 PM Thread Starter
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When to let a horse go?

Its a sticky subject. My last horse had to be put down as she was rapidly going down hill and the vet had nothing left to do to save her. It was obvious and she went from fine to really bad in a matter of days.

So the question on my mind is what happens when its not that obvious? I don't want to get into specifics but there is a situation that I know of and its bothering me. Of course its not my place to ever tell the horse's owner what to do. She loves her horse very much and has tried all she can to save him. I don't want to go into specifics but let me try to paint the picture.

The horse is a very spirited horse with lots of spunk. He is 25 or so. He has a leg injury he cannot recover from. He is on three legs right now and confined to a stall and small paddock but he really can't walk. He seems agitated and for a day or so stopped eating. However he has started eating again. He can only have hay. He seems to manage the pain (he is getting some bute.)

Several vets have weighed in and the consensus seems to be let him go on like this until his other front leg goes or he stops eating, etc.

However I know another vet who said he is in pain and not happy and no reason to prolong his life.

I feel so badly for everyone involved.

I guess what I am asking is how do you make the decision when to put a horse down?

I know in my mind quality of life is key. People can be disabled and still enjoy life via books, internet, movies, chats, telephone, writing, artwork, etc. Horses really cannot do these things. Horses also cannot be sedated enough to really get rid of the pain the way a person can.

I am really have mixed emotions on this. I know there is nothing I can do but be supportive and pray for his owner and help her deal with her broken heart once he goes but I really think someone needs to start telling her is getting close to time.

So having said all that, what are your thoughts on when to put a horse down?

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post #2 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 02:06 PM
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I wholeheartedly agree that the quality of life is a key issue in making such a difficult decision. In regard to the case you outlined, lovemyponies, the (secondary) key factor is, does the horse just stand in a stall, or does he have (and enjoy) "people time," or have something to take his mind off of any pain he feels. I'm assuming that he does, as you said that he is well loved, just elderly and chronically injured.

I lost my first horse this spring. I was at college, but I had been home the weekend before, and we rode, had fun, just normal. By the following Thursday, he was gone. My family was ready to make the call, and the vet was on her way (her third visit in 2 days. Doc was awesome), but he passed before she could get there. But, as you said, there is a difference between a sudden, extreme downhill slide from apparently perfect health (the vet said, without an autopsy, that my horse probably had a tumor in his esophagus that simply reached the size that it affected him, that was why he was sick. His coughing likely started it bleeding, and on and on...) and a chronic injury that takes a lot away from a horse.

It's a hard call to make. My heart goes out to the horse you described and his owner, but, without having seen him, if he needs the bute to be comfortable standing in a stall, and is going off of his feed, the time may be near.

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown

Last edited by Scoutrider; 07-08-2009 at 02:09 PM.
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post #3 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 02:11 PM Thread Starter
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thanks for your response. Yes I think his time is near. I guess I hope that he doesn't have to get much worse before he is "let go." He gets some attention time every day but still the better part of his day is spent in a stall and by himself and he is always looking out at his former pasture mates with longing. I am sure it will all work out. I know there are too many people who love him involved to let it get too bad.

I just know that its a difficult part of owning a horse and thought I would ask ... and I appreciate your response very much.
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post #4 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 02:11 PM
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Its QUALITY of life not quantity. I know we are sometimes selfish and want to keep them with us, but when they are in pain and the quality of their life has suffered its time to let go.
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post #5 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 02:15 PM
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Well my thoughts are probably the owners thoughts that you are speaking of.. I am in a situation now RIGHT now where I do not want to let my horse go.. AT ALL... He has melinoma and it is very sevre however he acts fine, eats etc. (check my thread in this category under My horse Fin<3)

Most people tell me its time due to the "unknown" at anytime his melinomas could get the best of him... BUT while he still bugs me for treats and is full of him self looking for his next meal I dont think so.. But its the selfishness of my heart that wants to keep him around. Its hard. VERY hard. He is my team mate and I feel like I am letting him down. But in the back of my mind when I get through all the selfish thoughts I know he is better off- that sometimes life is unfair and we need to play the cards we are dealt..

Saturday is the day I let my buddy go. My Dad has set this all up- and if he wasnt pushing it on us (since he pays the bills) I would probably keep him a bit longer...

NO matter how you view this you can NEVER understand someone elses shoes!!! Selfish or not. It's always different for everyone.... Hearts make us do things we think we never would do until we are in a certain situation.

"Alis Volat Propriis"

"Good things come to those who wait..."
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post #6 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 02:32 PM Thread Starter
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Fogged In, I am so sorry I went to your thread and read about your horse. I hope you find someone to take him! I had a horse who had melanoma, it was not advanced and we talked to our vet and he said she would be okay to go to be bred. We found a breeding farm (Woodlands in Va) that took her and she lived for a while there having a couple of foals. I did not get to see her decline but I know they took good care of her and put her down when they felt it was necessary but they owned a huge 200 plus acre farm and she was allowed to run free and have a good final years.

This was many years ago and I don't know how bad it got, or what the actual stages of melanoma a horse goes through.

I am very sorry that your Dad has to make that decision to put him down but do remember it won't hurt him at all and he will be fine.

I cannot comment on your Dad's decision as I surely don't have all the details, etc.

As for the horse in question the owner has spent a ton of money on him and gotten him operations, therapy, etc. But he is not going to improve and to me he is in pain. He does eat but not in a cheerful way... just sort of exists.

Its all so difficult. I wish you and your horse the best and if he must go remember he will be pain free and happy resting peacefully for eternity. You might want to keep a remembrance of him such as his tail hair or mane hair.

I am so sorry.

Thanks for replying.
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post #7 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 02:37 PM
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Ohhh I am sorry Fogged In, and Im sorry for the other horse owner(any horse owner)I could not fatham being in that spot where I had to make those heartbreaking choices.I feel for everyone involved.I do agree the horse should have quality life and painfree. For me I love my horse so much I couldnt bear he be uncomfortable.Not easy I know.

The grass may be greener on the other side,
but it still has to be mowed.
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post #8 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 04:30 PM
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IMO that is a decision that can only be made between the owner and vet. The owner must first come to terms with it and realize it is the right decision. If the vet is not encouraging her to do it...it will probably be impossible for her to feel that putting the horse down is the right thing to do. I have had to have animals euthanized(sp?) before, but I had to have the reassurance of two vets actually before I could feel sure that it was the right thing to do. I had a lot of moral questions about it...as I'm sure the owner of the horse we are discussing does. I kept asking myself questions like how do we truly judge quality of life and is the animal in so much pain that he'd rather die than live...those are tough questions to have to answer for something that cannot speak for itself. My suggestion is just try and be a friend to the owner of this horse and be supportive...even if you think she is not making the right decision. I'm sure this is a very difficult time for her.
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post #9 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 05:06 PM Thread Starter
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sandy, thanks you are so right its really difficult and something the owner has to decide with the advice of the vet.
I guess my question I am putting out there is what do individual posters on this forum feel are the criteria for making the judgement call?
For example what level of quality of life?

I hate to think of any horse in pain, but I understand each case is different. Thanks for your input
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post #10 of 15 Old 07-08-2009, 08:13 PM
Green Broke
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So very difficult sometimes to think with our heads and not our hearts. I have found myself having to make that difficult decision for a loved pet and based it on the quality of his life and the pain he must have been in. Even though he went almost willingly and with relief, I still felt like such a Judas. I still think of my Merlin often, he was such a special guy.

If the option in this case is waiting for one of the front legs to go , then I think I would want him to go as peacefully as possible. I would not want to add to his pain to ease myself from having to make the decision. If there was any hope of a recovery, well, I probably would do all I could to help that happen, or at least give it a chance to happen. But that doesn't sound like the case here.

We have such emotional connections to our pets, that it can cloud our judgement sometimes for what is best for them. My heart goes out to anyone in that position. I hope my friends will help me if I have to face that type of situation by giving me moral support. Whether they agree or disagree with that decision, just knowing they would be there for me would mean everything to me.
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