I’ve read a lot of your articles related to my horse issues but can’t seem to
find my answer to this one.
We have an older appy gelding who was given to us. We had bought a younger NSH gelding and this horse was his best buddy, so we took him too. At the time we were told he was 17, but our vet said, no well into his 20′s. This really didn’t bother me because I’ve know many horses that were useful at older ages. I thought he would be good for my girls to learn to ride on. Unfortunately, he has some medical issues, and they are rapidly increasing.
He has laminitis issues in his hooves. He has had abscesses in two, both
front and back. He has DSLD. He has arthritis. He tends to be aggressive to
our other horses, all except his buddy the NSH.
In January we began Natural trimming with a trained trimmer. She felt that it would be cruel to continue riding him, so he as been unridden since
December. Our vet hasn’t really mentioned it, but said that eventually
there will come the time to put him down.
I’m wondering how to determine that time. My fear is that he is in pain.
Currently he is on Bute for the arthritis to help with the pain and
swelling. I had hoped that we would be in a position to have a pasture by
now as we plan to move, but that may be put off for another year. With a
pasture I would simply let him live out his days, doing what he wants. This
really isn’t an issue about his unusability, but his pain level and since it
is difficult to tell, I’m at a loss as to the right time. Any insight would
It is a difficult decision that most horse owners eventually have to face one day. The tough part is taking on the responsibility of making that decision, but ultimately the person who is the caretaker of the horse, usually the owner or owners, need to come to terms with what is best for the horse. We have to put our emotions aside and choose what is most humane for the horse. It is good you are thinking about it now while the horse is not in crisis – sometimes an emergency adds to the already difficult emotional decision.
Sometimes it is more difficult to decide what is best when others weigh in on the decision: co-owner, child, veterinarian………each person has their own view of that point where a horse no longer is comfortable. It sounds like you are the main person making this decision. If so, it will help if you step back and look at the big picture – how the horse was at his best and how he is now and if his current condition is full of more negatives than positives.
We horseowners seem to have a common dream in mind for our horses – we picture them “living out their days” on a nice pasture. Turnout is usually a good thing. But if a horse is laminitic and/or arthritic, turning him out on pasture (with grazing) might be unsuitable for the horse and contribute more to his lameness and discomfort. That same horse with a managed ration, therapeutic shoeing, a sand stall, and a suitable drug regimen might be more comfortable in confinement. Yet, would that be the right thing to do? In some cases yes, in others no.
Each person makes this decision based on different factors but to me the top
one is this. I ask myself, “Has the quality of life for this horse deteriorated to the point that he no longer can function normally in a comfortable manner?” If the answer is yes, then putting the horse down could be the most humane thing you can do for the horse. By function normally, I mean stand, eat, defecate, urinate, exercise, lay down, roll, socialize and all other things horse.
Other factors can enter in such as:
Do the treatment and management practices themselves add to the horse’s discomfort?
Does the drug treatment cause other problems?
Can the owner afford the full costs of care to keep the horse comfortable?
I hope something I’ve said has been helpful and I welcome further discussion on the topic.