Making the Decision
I guess I've already made the decision, but I don't know, I guess I need re-assurance that I'm doing the right thing.
I have a horse, she's an American Saddlebred, who is 21 years old and who I have had since she was 12. She's in great shape for her age, and although we've had some weight issues with her, the vet has said she's sound and just needs to work on keeping the weight on and building muscle. She was also a great show horse (I did hunter/jumper) at one time. However, she's always been a bit crazy, and I think the time has come to have her euthanized. It's a very hard decision for me to make because I'm very attached to her, and I don't really want to do it, but I think it's the right thing. It's just hard.
Here's the story (and I really hope this makes sense, I'm kind of upset so I might be rambling):
She's always been a bit dangerous, and throughout the years I've had several trainers tell me I should put her down, but I've ignored them because she's my horse and I know her best. Before I got her, she was clearly abused which has always created issues with tacking up and being "in her space", so she get's really mean when you're around her stall and pins her ears and acts like she's going to nip/bite. Over the years we've found that this behavior is more or less not correctable, but it is controllable (if that makes sense). She knows she's doing something wrong because after she nips at you, she throws her head up with the expectation that you will smack her nose - it's like she knows she will get in trouble but she does it anyway. And I've tried everything to stop the behavior and so have other people (my dad who also used to ride her, and trainers) and it's just not happening, so I've learned to live with it and how to deal with it safely by taking her out of/not putting her in situations where she feels trapped, always expecting the bad behavior and so keeping my guard up around her, and that sort of thing.
And she's also really high-strung and while riding she often spooks or gets crazy (for lack of a better description) which has been mostly fine for me since I'm a fairly advanced rider, but she's definitely not safe for other people to ride, and due to her unpredictability, she's caught me off guard a few times and tossed me which has resulted in many trips to the ER.
However, lately, she's been getting increasingly unpredictable and even aggressive. I don't know that I ever would have classified her as purposefully aggressive in the past, her behavior was more out of fear and self preservation than it was aggression, however, over the last couple of months, I've observed a shift. She's been acting pushy and aggressive towards people and other animals if they get close to her, and also gotten even more unpredictable when you are handing her, and going crazy in a moment's notice.
So, yesterday, I went into her run to put her halter on so I could turn her out in the arena and out of nowhere she came at me and bit (not nipped) my chest so hard and fast that she ripped a chunk out of one shirt I was wearing, put a hole in the other one, and still managed to break (and remove) some of the skin underneath of it. I didn't discipline her at all, because as soon as she did it she took off running the other direction, and I just got the heck out of there because I was bleeding everywhere and could already see this big black bruise forming on my chest, plus no one was around to help me out. (yes, she's had a rabies vaccine, and I've had a tetanus vaccine, no worries)
Then afterwards after I got cleaned up and came back to the barn to work with my other horse, and she was pacing in her stall and spooking every time I walked by her I THINK because she was now worried about her own safety, although I had no intention of disciplining her 2 hours later, or even interacting with her for the rest of the day.
But this shift, and now this bite makes me think she's crossed some sort of line between being a horse only advanced trainers and riders should handle to one which is clearly aggressive. If I had not been wearing so many layers, I would be missing a large chunk out of my chest, and even worse she could have gotten my face or my neck or taken a finger off, all of which would have been very, very bad. And she wasn't cornered, there was nothing out of the ordinary about the situation, it was an attack.
And what worries me even more is that haltering her to turn her out is something that other people do (the owners and people who work at the barn) every day, multiple times per day. I can't imagine what would happen if she went after one of them which we feel is only a matter of time - especially since she got me and I know her and know what to expect from her. So I feel my options are to put her out to pasture as a companion horse or to put her down. And really, the first one is not an option, I cannot pass an aggressive horse on to someone else who is a danger to them, their horses, and also to herself.
It's just hard. But at this point what else can I do? :(.
Wow. I think you did pretty well explaining the situation. I think your instincts are right in having her euthanized. I would hate for you to get hurt or someone else which would make you feel terrible! You've done the best you can with her and gave her what sounds like some good years despite the challenges she has presented. I know it is a hard decision believe me! I just had to make the decision with my mare a few months ago. Even though she might not have a terminal physcial illness at this point, mentally she sounds to be tormented.
Just based on your description, I agree that it would likely be best to put her down. Not only is she a danger to everyone around her and herself, but she's clearly not happy. A miserable horse who cannot safely interact with other animals or people has already lost quality of life, no different than being in constant pain every day.
I know it can be very difficult to make the decision to let them go, but sometimes it's for the best. You gave her a good home for 10 years, which is more than most other folks would have done.
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