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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is it ethical to put down a pasture sound, light riding only horse? I know would rather see the horse put down then passed on to someone who might not care for it properly. However I think if a horse is yours, you're responsible for it until you ensure it gets a good home or it could no longer can enjoy life. I guess what I am asking, is it ethical to put down a horse that you can no longer ride or use like you used to. Would you euthanize a horse because it has a career ending condition but still pasture sound?
 

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I would. But my situation is probably more common to fewer people.

The grass near buildings is reserved for working cattle, if possible, acutely ill animals, and schooling horses. It wouldn't be a suitable place for a pasture sound horse.

The pastures are very large and a horse is safer from large predators of they can keep up with the rest.

So, I guess it would really just depends on the horse. But I sure wouldn't condemn one to being eaten alive.
 

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I think being put down is a better fate than being passed around and/or sold down the line to someone who would be neglectful or sell to a kill buyer.

Horses are different than dogs or cats. They cost a lot to keep, sound or unsound.

If one of mine were unrideable, I would do my best to keep them comfortable and happy, but budgets and financial situations change over the years. I would never re-home a pasture sound horse, because I believe they are more likely to be neglected or end up on a truck to Mexico. I'd rather make the hard decision to prevent them from suffering than pretend they have a "Happily Ever After" with someone else to make myself feel better.
 

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I say it is more selfless to euthanise an animal than to keep it going for selfish reasons.
I agree. But what about euthanizing for selfish reasons?

I'd say the question would require more details to decide if it was ethical. For me personally.
Meaning, does the owner have the means to care for the horse and the deciding factor whether the horse lives or dies is not the comfort of the horse, but the convenience of the owner? My own ethics wouldn't allow me to put down a horse that was comfortable and happy just because I couldn't ride it. I've kept my 28 year old mare retired the last couple of years, and it costs quite a lot to pay for her board and Cushing's medication.

If the only choice was to rehome or euthanize, due to finances (and I don't mean the person wouldn't be able to afford a fancy jumper if they kept their old horse with arthritis), then I think it would be ethical to put down the horse. Unless you knew someone who you trusted that offered to keep the horse, maybe a friend who wanted a companion for their riding horse, and you knew they would take great care of your horse.

I've met a lot of people though who have a horse that ends up with a health condition or gets old, and keeping the horse and caring for it would mean they had to spend money on a horse that wasn't useful for what they wanted to do. In some cases, this person actually caused the horse's issues by poor care. In my mind, taking on a horse is a huge responsibility, and means you may end up having weeks or years where you can't ride the horse, especially if the horse grows old in your care.

It is my belief that there are many creative ways where a person could remain responsible for a horse, yet ease some of the financial or time burdens. I've had friends who kept their pasture sound horse in an affordable boarding situation while they meanwhile took lessons or leased a horse. Others have loaned their pasture sound horse out as a companion for someone with a single horse, and just paid for feed and vet care.

Horses cost a lot to keep, but people are just as likely to get rid of the family dog or cat because they'd prefer to live in a nicer rental that doesn't allow pets, or because the cat has ruined a piece of furniture or two. I feel that taking on any animal, large or small is a big commitment that requires planning, forethought and dedication. Not everything in life is under our control, and that is a different story.
 

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I don't think it's unethical. If I died I'd rather my perfectly sound horses be euthanized than sent out into the unknown. Of course if a family member or good friend wanted them that would be the best case scenario but I've sold enough horses to know that even though you do your best to make sure they are going to a good home there is nothing stopping that good home from selling them on.
 

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My short answer is: It'd be ethical to euthanize.

My long answer is: I would do everything in my power to find the right home for them before considering that option.

gottatrot said a lot of what I feel about this. I personally dislike people jumping ship as soon as their relationship with their horse becomes "give" rather than "take". I've seen career equestrians from the facility I learned to ride at discard horses rather unceremoniously due to their own poor training schedules. Blow a tendon? Drop at auction. Buy another. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. It bothers me a lot, when a horse, an animal, gives and gives to someone only to be dropped as soon as they actually need some special care. Like they said, animal ownership is a big commitment and requires planning, forethought, and dedication.

So if you've hit a point where either your animal suffers a career ending injury, or simply becomes something you're not interested in anymore, then you really do owe it to your horse to TRY to find the best home for them. Try. Effort, not just a single post on FB... but seriously, TRY. Don't just accept money from the first hot body to throw it at you, don't look for two days and give up... but if you've truly exhausted all your options... and the only ones left would be auction or euthanasia, I'd euthanise.

My mares were prime euthanasia candidates. The director of the Equine program had been holding out hoping to find them the right home. 23 and 24 years old, never broke to ride, now barren (13 and 14 foals over a lifetime, wow!)... finding them a home was going to be hard, was going to take effort, but these mares gave a LOT in the form of foals (aka money) and education to their students and thankfully the Director of the Equine Program is responsible, so as the university would push "why are we keeping them" she'd push right back "until we find the right home for them" but, I am sure that euthanasia would have been on the charts for them if someone didn't come forward. I am sure students from the last two decades would be trying to bring one of them home if they were publicly offered. I just beat them to the punch :p but hey, if this happened a year ago... I wouldn't have been able to take them. So timing was just on their side too.

Just... try. I would hope people would TRY and not discard their animals the moment they squeezed all the use out of them (and/or left them with lifelong issues from the use).

Great thread topic for discussion!
 

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I am kinda in the same boat. My gelding is older and I am not sure he is safe to ride because a few years ago he had an episode where he was stumbling and would fall. He recovered (no EPM or anything the vet could find) but you just don't know if it will happen again. For now he is a pasture puff but I would not sell him for fear he would end up on a truck to Mexico. So yes, euthanizing is ethical in my opinion.
 

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Ethical, yes. Would I do it? Probably not.

If it was one of mine that I had ridden for years and it just needs to be retired on pasture until it dies, then, no, I would not euthanize it. I have two coming up on that age now, and older mare and an older gelding. I have plenty enough land to simply put them out to pasture to spend the rest of their days having a well earned rest.

If it was one I had got in for training and resale and it turned out to be sound only for light riding, I would probably sell it at auction in a loose horse sale to keep my losses down. I think loose horses are going for $400 - $500 so it wouldn't probably even cover the vet health & nutrition workup I have done on all my turn around horses plus farrier work but it would be something.
 

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One thing I didn't see mentioned is the horse's temperament and ability to tolerate pasture living. The original example sounded sort of like a performance horse used to having a job, but no longer able to due to injury. That kind of horse might despise being a pasture puff. If that was the case, quality of life (e.g., endless boredom) as well as the changing physical circumstances, might suggest euthanizing is the right choice.


My oldest mare (25 this year) was diagnosed with Lyme two summers ago. The treatment was hard on her, she lost a ton of topline and muscle. However, I think this horse was born to be a pasture puff. She couldn't care less about having a job. Being retired and brushed and told she's beautiful suits her just fine. So, that's how she lives. I probably could do light riding with her if I had more time to try to get some more muscle on her, but she doesn't really care about it and is healthy otherwise (Lyme treatment was successful, no other health concerns expect a little age-related arthritis in her hocks, two molars that had to be removed last year, and some slight cloudiness developing in her left eye). I am fortunate that money didn't have to be a deciding factor for me- she was boarded for awhile in the early stages of retirement and has since moved home. I can't imagine ever rehoming her because I am far too attached, but if I was forced to, I'd chose to euthanize instead. Who would want an older, sort of cranky, maybe-light-riding-only mare?
 

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If I could afford to keep the horse and still afford to keep a horse to ride then I would keep it, if not I'd rather euthanize than just pass the horse on and forget about it.
If I could find a good loan home that wanted a companion horse or a pasture pet and the horse would suit, then I'd let the horse go as long as I could have some form of access 'as and when'.


We recently looked into retirement homes for one of ours as the space she takes up would be better used by another riding horse but in this area I couldn't find anything under $700 a month so she'll stay here.
 

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A hard question. If it is GUARANTEED that their next home will end up abusive etc then yes put it down. But no. Life is precious. I appreciate that riding for a few is an actual career. But if horses suddenly went extinct I don't doubt that those same jockeys and jumpers could find work elsewhere, you know what I mean. For the rest of the riding* horsey community riding is just a hobby. Even competing is a hobby in itself for most I know. There is more to a horse than riding. I appreciate they are expensive and there are way too many out there that need good homes but at the end of the day it is my belief that one should not purchase a horse without the acceptance that they might one day need to provide for it beyond it's ridden/working use. Same for any animal.

But in my years of knowing people and witnessing hundreds if not more animal be euthanized there are certain types of people. Those that treat them like family and those that treat them like objects. Culture I've noticed plays a huge role. We could talk about it all day and I'm sure there are others with better vocab and experience than me to elaborate.

But no. If the animal is healthy and was brought into this world because of us, it is our responsibility to fulfil that responsibility. They aren't humans and it's not as if at 18 we can kick em out to depend on themselves. They depend on us for the entirety of their domestic lives, we knew that when getting involved. If in the case we can't find a solution after a reasonable* attempt or more (financial, new home etc) then as a last resort I would consider it kinder to euthanize. edit: and to add on, I do think there is an issue where service animals who can no longer work have a place here. If there is no way to fill the void, so to speak, I also agree that putting them down is kinder. But again, it is after reasonable attempts at trying.

edit; and I do understand if you wanted a pet to pet, why not get a dog? They just aren't the same IMO and it's not as if when you buy you're buying blind. Like you at least know what species you're after :cool:I do appreciate though that there are more neglected, abused horses than there are kind hearts and spare money to afford. It's not an easy decision this is a best case scenario.
 

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That's a tough one. The bottom line is that if the horse belongs to you then it is your responsibility to care for it. If you can not provide the proper care and are unwilling to allow it to go to a new home then you are boxed into a corner and have one choice.

Of course I'm of the mind that you don't give up on old horses. You honor them. You give them the care and the love that they deserve in their later years. But... I'm not you and I don't get to lay my opinions on you. Only you can make this decision but if you do - don't let anyone make you question yourself.
 

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I think it's sad so many people would rather euthanize their horses then take a chance on finding a home for them, BUT I understand why too.

I recently rehomed two of my horses, to someone I know, right in my own neighborhood. It's only been 6 months but they are doing great. It would be kind of sad if I euthanized them because I thought no one would care for them like I did. But I understand the fear of them going to slaughter. That was my fear too.

Maybe I am naive, but I do think there are some good homes out there. I've bought or been given a handful of horses over the years. I hope I've been a good home. :cool:
 

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For me, I would rather just keep the horse in this situation. I've already thought about this for my three. I also think it's sad that someone might use (and that's a deliberate word choice) a horse for the horse's whole life, then when it's no longer of use to them, just get rid of it. Either euthanizing or selling on. To me, you make a commitment to the animal when you buy it, to do your best by it. And putting it down because it is no longer of use to you isn't doing your best by it. If it's in pain, if it requires a lot of medical treatment that you can't reasonably afford, that's different. But a horse that is pasture sound but just can't be ridden, I think you owe it to them to let them live.

Once I hopefully get this land we're trying to buy, I am actually hoping to adopt a horse in a situation like this. To give it a chance to live and not be put down just because it isn't "useful" to anyone any more.
 

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This is a difficult question in my head. If I had all the money needed for that, my answer would be that you keep the horse or find him a home, although I think it rare the person who would be interested in a pasture pet.

In my situation the ranch pays the feed of the horses that are used for work. Now, we also live on just what we need to survive, you know: eat, be warm and clean, and get where we need to go. The conflict doesn’t come with a colt, who will be working in a year, or in an old horse who has put in the years to justify his retirement.

The conflict happens when a younger horse becomes unusable. It doesn’t feel appropriate to ask the ranch to care for this horse who isn’t working for them and may last many years sitting in a corral. I had one who was a good horse for me, and I rode him for 7 or 8 years on the ranch. At 11 he got ringbone. I was a mess on what to do. He also hated not working, and since he was sound enough for a small child I gave him away and he has a happy ever after being a much loved kid horse. He goes to work there, making him happy, but doesn’t get asked much keeping him about the same on his feet.

Had he not been broke enough to do that, I don’t know what I’d have done. It was very stressful. Putting him down was not out of the question. Now, my littlest girl’s horse is retired as of last year. He also didn’t put a ton of time into the ranch, about seven years he worked.

He is sound and loves being a pasture ornament. He has some sort of dementia, but he does great just bossing around the other horses. I don’t think everyone is particularly pleased with retiring him, but I guess I feel like he is old and has earned his keep. I realize most of his years were for other ranches, but I guess that doesn’t take away his value. It doesn’t take away the feeling of putting someone out though. If he were not so old I would have put him down.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Hypothetically, so I don't have to identify anyone, this is the situation. The owner had this horse since birth, horse is a hunter jumper, 20 years old now. Owner cannot compete with this horse any longer, it has a minor lameness issue it still can be ridden at the walk and trot, occasional canter. Owner already has one retired horse, in order to get another horse to compete on, said horse will be euthanized. Hypothetical owner feels no one is worthy of giving this horse a forever home, as he is too much for anyone to handle. Hypothetically I am not judging the owner, however I just wanted other people's feelings on the matter.
 

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I have the luxury of being able to retire the oldies on my own place. I would likely euthanise if I couldn't as I have had to help far to many friends repossess and rehab their good old horses that were given away to "good" homes as companions or light use horses and later found to be in terrible shape. Old horses that need maintenance are expensive and require effort - too many people won't put it in cause the horse is just a "lawn ornament" and is "old" so it's normal for him to be skinny etc. (meanwhile they'll spend a ton on matchy matchy kit for the horse they show, sigh)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
To the horse, it's not a big deal, he doesn't know his life is ending next week. He gets a needle and goes to sleep & that's that, all in his own pasture. The owner now can get another horse that they can compete on. I'm not judging but it seems very.....cold.
 
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