What have you planed for your horse end of life? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 09:25 AM Thread Starter
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Question What have you planed for your horse end of life?

Hi everyone! I am new to this forum, I am from Quebec, Canada and have my 2 horses at home. I have a website concerning horses and their care and am currently researching the topic of end of horses lives for an article I am writing. I would very much appreciate your imput on what is being done in your areas regarding that question. I would like to know what are the regulations surrounding euthanasia or killing of horses (I think the US banned slaughterhouses for horses) and what you have planned for your own horse(s). Also, do you have a plan for the last years of their life (shelter, staying home til the end, a friend's place...) I know it is not a happy subject but it concerns all of us and I am eager to find out what your views are on the subject. Also, is there sanctuaries for mature horses in the US? Or some kind of pension plan to be able to provide for those last years? THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR INPUT!
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post #2 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 09:44 AM
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A little info but not all of it.

For the most part euthanasia is done by a certified vet but in emergency cases and lack of access, I would imagine a horse could be put down using other methods. City/state and county ordinances are going to have different rules for disposal. If someone owns a large amount of property and has the means, they are allowed to bury on property but each area has its rules as to depth, distance away from habitation etc. There are companies that transport and dispose through cremation, offering up return of remains if asked. Not sure many take equine remains as there ends up being something like 50 pounds worth of ashes. The company our barn uses does the cremation and has a large grassed field where they spread the ashes.

As for my plans, there are many retirement farms all across the US that will take in any number of horses for usually a monthly fee. These can range from under $200/month to as high as what I would see as a standard board rate of $600+. Most of us would love to say we could send our aged and unusable hoses to a retirement farm somewhere but it just isn't always feasible. For me, I would do what I could but keep quality of life in the back of my mind. If the horse is in a condition where, even if recovered enough to live isn't going to have a life free of abnormal pain, arthritis aches and pains may be normal but constant pain as a result of recovering (Or not recovering completely) from bone break surgery, may lead me to decide on euthanasia vice retirement. Another option that is open is retiring the horse, again under those same quality of life conditions, to a friend or other acquaintance who might be in need of a companion animal.

I doubt thee is a pension plan per se other than long term planning/saving by the owner.
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post #3 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 09:58 AM
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Equine slaughter has not been banned in the US. That's a common misconception. The sale of horse meat for human consumption is banned in the US, nothing more. If I wanted to have a horse slaughtered and processed for personal consumption it's perfectly legal for me to do so, I just can't sell the meat.

There are some private sanctuaries funded by the owners, but many of them are at capacity and not taking any more horses. There are however, retirement farms where horses live out their remaining years and their owners pay for their care. Very much a boarding type of situation, except the majority of horses there are older and/or crippled.

Since horses are considered chattel (property) in the US, I may do with mine as I please. There are no laws against me putting one down even if it's young and healthy, sending it to auction, or having it processed for meat. There are exceptions to slaughter for personal consumption as some states have forbidden equine slaughter, but it's not a Federal ruling.

I have my own property and already have one buried there. I don't plan to bury any more as I have real concerns for the water table if I should put another large carcass into the ground, especially if it's been euthed chemically. My current plan is to have them shot when their time comes, then picked up for rendering. If I could find a big cat sanctuary/zoo that would take the horse for meat, I'd consider that option as well. Even a foxhunting group who might like the horse for the hounds, although I'm not sure they'd take a horse that hasn't hunted with them.

I love my horses dearly and take care of them to the best of my abilities, but once they're dead it doesn't make a lick of difference what happens to the body. The horse doesn't care, and I can't see all that protein going to waste and rotting if someone can use it.
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post #4 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 11:17 AM
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For myself, I think when a horse is in regular pain, from which it has no chance of recovery, it should be humanely euthanized. I don't think it's fair to put an lame, arthritic or other wise uncomfortable horse in a 'retirement' situation. All the horse knows is the present, if they are comfortable and doing the job they love. They don't sit there thinking every day about the time, down the road, when they can enjoy doing nothing out in the pasture. They wake up every morning feeling sore. I wont condemn my horse to a life of discomfort/pain. When I find out they are permanently unsound, I will make the hard, but I feel, kind, decision to let them go.

I'm currently watching a boarders gelding in his mid 20's. he's worked hard for and been mistreated by people along the way. He has no top line and very little muscle tone. He developed an issue with tripping and falling, particularly while being ridden, likely caused by arthritis, and potentially cancer. He has two large lumps under his skin(think soft ball sized) that are visibly growing and spreading as the months go by, that the vet cant operate on. He had a hard time keeping weight on last winter, and has become anti social with the other horses in the herd.

letting go may be hard, but it is often the nicest thing you can do.
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post #5 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 12:28 PM
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I avoided this by simply turning my horses around after training to someone else. After putting two horses down (we had a knacker who would shoot them and take them for dog food and rendering) I figured a better way was to just be in the horse business. Sort of.

Never kept a horse after age 11 or 12 after that. Sold them to someone else. By that age they were usually really well trained and very salable and I was ready for the new challenge of a youngster.

Of course there is always the chance of injury or illness making a horse a case for being put down. In that case you best know how and have a place to dispose of the carcass. Such disposal is regulated by law in many States.

BTW I cannot imagine having a vet put a horse down unless that is the only way.

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post #6 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 12:33 PM
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I never sell on (well never so far and don't intend to, but you never know when you may have to) and keep my horses for their whole lives including retirement. My old arab I had from a foal until 23 when she cracked her hip and my TB I had for 20 years until she also had to be pts. I have seen both injection and being shot and really there is nothing between them for me. The shot is noisy and distressing but they die just the same. Mine both went to the knacker man, and I have no interest in what happens too the body as for me it is just an empty shell.
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post #7 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 12:43 PM
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Already have 4 horses buried here on the farm and that's what will happen with the rest when their time comes. All 4 were euthanized by a vet and it was a very quick, painless & stress free experience for the horses.
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post #8 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 12:48 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you so much for your responses! I realize it is a very touchy subject... Anyways, it is here. People generally don't like the idea of having to make that difficult decision, just look at the debates regarding the same subject with humans!!! I don't know if it's a debate for Americans but here some people would like to have the right to chose euthanasia for themselves (in case of debilitating diseases for instance). Regarding horses, I believe people see it almost the same way as for people: we love them just as if they were a person in the family (I do anyways). I have to admit, I like the idea of being able to end the sufferings of a horse (if they are suffering of course) like in the old days (bullet between the eyes) thus providing a second purpose for its body (as meat for a zoo, for instance). To my mind, it's much better than being transported in a van to a slaughter house with all the inhumane handling and all the stress associated. As for euthanasia, I thinks it's a much longer process and while the horse doesn't suffer, one has to consider the environmental impact of that choice (CO2 for cremation or chemicals for burial).

Nevertheless, I believe no one here in Quebec would dare approve of the bullet option, I think it would be seen as barbaric, people prefer to sell their old horses just to free themselves from the responsibility of being the "bad guy", even if for most of these horses, it means ending up at the slaughter house with all the trauma related...Very sad indeed!!!
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post #9 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 12:53 PM
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I currently co-run a sanctuary, in our state horse slaughter for human comsumption isn't legal, but pet food is. Places like that are just disgusting.
At our sanctuary we typically dont take in horses that can be rehomed, we match make horses to owners in those cases. We take in the horses that are broken beyond repair, who still have a life to enjoy but arent useable anymore. We provide them daily love and care and through positive reinforcement training the kids who volunteer at the rescue teach them tricks that are within their capabilities to keep them stimulated and active. When they are done living, when they no longer want to bear the pain of their circumstances they are euthanized and mostly buried on our property - though some are buried on the properties of a volunteer who loved them and wanted them there. We've just recently lost our beloved old blind appaloosa. He had recurring abscesses which made some days unbearable but weeks of feeling good, made for a hard decision for us. But he let us know one day, he just had enough and we did what he wanted. An old lamenitic shetland we have now we see is thinking about leaving us now, we'll do what she wants.

My own personal horses will die in my arms, they've earned that. My belgian worked his whole life pulling carriages, from 2-18 y/o all accross penn., NY, and MA where I worked with him. When he started loosing weight and the arthritid was obvious they sold him to me. A few months of good food,l and joint supplements and he's doing great. He loves going on our lazy sunday trail rides and plods along well. But I know someday, sooner than I'd like his day will come. But when it does I'll be there with him. If I can't bury him on my property (depending where I live at the time) I know a number of farms who will let me bury him there.
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post #10 of 16 Old 09-20-2013, 01:41 PM
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My old horses will always have a place with me. In my mind they spent years helping and working for me that it would be somewhat mean to send them off to someone else to take care of just because I didn't want them around (this is just for me personally, I have no problem with people who do though). When and if the time comes that my horses are in pain with no chance of a better life I will probably call the vet out to Euthanize them. I'm not against other methods but in my mind and experience (of interning and studying with vets) it's the most peaceful route if done correctly. I board my horses and so far there have been two horses buried out there out of the four that have died. The other two were hauled off to the renders, and her old stallion was cremated. She told us that when our horses die we are more then welcome to bury them on her property because this is their home. We've been lucky so far that all of our animals have gone without being euthed and in no pain (knock on wood) so my hope is is that the same happens to our horses, however far fetched that may seem. I do believe that if we couldn't for some strange reason bury them on her farm I would take them and bury them at my grandparents. I'm not sure about laws and such as where I'm at has very confusing ones and even then most farmers and people who have been doing this disposal method their entire lives just stick with it.
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