Letting Go - When?
I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I've had to make the call to put down an injured horse, and its not fun, but necessary. My BO had to put down her beloved gelding that was dying of cancer, and she waited until she was sure there was no hope of recovery, then made the decision.
a boarder had an arab gelding in his mid 20's. he was very arthritic, and never once in 6 months did I see him move like a normal horse(or even close to it). he loved being ridden and would work through any pain if a rider asked him to, but you could tell even light riding, at a walk, was very difficult. he also had a hard time keeping weight on. To me, he had worked so hard for humans, and was now in constant pain with no hope of improvement, it was time to let him go. His owner did not agree, and sold him to someone to use for their kids.
I have seen both extremes, from people would let an old horse live out his days "naturally", ending up an arthritic skeleton, to those who put a horse down at the first signs of a degenerative disease.
what are your thoughts on this?
Better a day too early than a moment too late.
I'm one of those to put down eariler then most. I've seen too many horses in pain, miserable, just because their owners can't let go. If I had a chronicaly lame horse, or one diagnosed with a degenerative disease (of course I would get several opinions and exhausting all options before making the decision) I would put the horse down. I don't see the point in letting a horse live out its days in pain.
I have had to make this call myself now 3 times.
1st time - the mare had cancer and one it was decided that there was nothing more we could do we made the call
2nd time - another older horse that we rescued that had severe arthritis. he was happy as could be plodding around in the pasture but was never able to be ridden (fine by me). Once we noticed him not venturing out in the pasture as much and having a harder time getting up we made the call
Last time - another 20 year old horse that we rescued. He did something to his hind leg and despite our best efforts it was not healing well at all and you could see that he was in pain so we also let him go.
The worst part is we still have my daughters first horse. This mare is now 35 (almost 36) years old. She is and always has been as healthy as can be, but you can tell that she is slowing down. I dread the day that I have to make this call, we rescued this mare 10 years ago, but I know that I will make it when she is still feeling good rather than to let her suffer. She has given all 3 of my kids the world and she deserves my ultimate respect for it.
I am pondering this with Kola.
He was mildly arthritic, but last year, the safe place he had for just him, 2 acres, and big stall, had horse put in the pasture part. 10 days. I worried about him not getting to exercise, so owner and I discussed opening up big square pen for Kola to be able to get into.
Other horse arrived Thur night. Sun get call, the renter who fed Kola, went out 1 pm and Kola was trapped in hay area because 5 other horses had broken in his stall and beat him so badly the only area on him not scraped, bleeding, or cut was literally his ears.
5 days at vet. And the damage done to his leg now has bowed leg out to side.
I just hate making this decision, and at this point am contemplating whether to haul to vet and let them dispose of remains, or have someone come dig out grave, and putting him down out at barn.
Had he not gotten pinned by other horses? He would still be fine.
The thing is, you can't just wait for the horse to die naturally anymore. In the wild, natural selection controlled how long a horse lived. If a horse was arthritic and started getting slow, it would of been taken care of.
I've had a friend who had a horse that was probably 250+ pounds underweight, who was possibly over 40 yrs old. This horse was starving. When I went over to see it, I am quite sure it had rain rot and cushings. I told at it's teeth, and I am pretty sure all the chewing teeth were missing. This horse should of been put down YEARS ago.
People need to realize, horses can't just die naturally anymore. Humans took away that ability as soon as all the natural predators were removed. I would love for my horse to die a quiet, comfortable death on his own, but the probability of that happening is slim. I won't be the person to leave him suffering.
I agree with better too soon then too late.
The horse that really got me thinking about this was a boarders older gelding. She was told he was 10 when she bought him, but a vet check says 18-25. He looks old. Not much muscle tone, even with regular riding. This winter has been hard on him. Last summer he was a fire ball under saddle, but he seems to be having a much harder time this year, tiring sooner. He is also getting grumpier, and I wonder if discomfort isn't the main cause.
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"Corporal" and "Ro Go Bar" (Both 1982-2009, RIP) passed on the same year. Corporal had a stroke in June and died several hours later. I had even ridden him a month before.
Ro Go Bar wouldn't let go. He had been a pasture pet for almost a year, after a lifetime of reliable service, and had been my idiot-proof babysitter. He suffered from arthritis, hoof issues, a leg wound that was having trouble healing, but when, after yearly floating, my easy-keeper was starting to lose weight, I knew that I wasn't going to watch my good friend starve to death. So, we put him down in October in dignity. Both my husband and I wept.
I've been keeping a sharp eye on Mack. He's 27 this year, and I'll let him go as soon as I know he's too tired/in pain to continue.
He's on medication and supplements for his CHF and arthritis, but I know those aren't going to work forever. So far he's maintaining his weight, but I'd like to give him one more summer of good grazing and then let him go before it gets cold again. I'll reevaluate him in the fall unless he has a catastrophic failure of some sort.
I honestly think it's harder to watch them deteriorate and try to figure out when to let them go, than it is for them to have an immediate problem that dictates it's time.
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