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 03:09 PM.