Friday, July 03, 2009


I have a huge decision to make and I'm having trouble with it. Coda - he's 30 years old and very lame. Would it be right to take him through another winter? Or would it be kinder to have him put down this fall? At some points in winter he doesn't leave his stall other than to get water. I can blanket him, that's not a problem, but we have weather down well below zero, snow, ice, and severe winds. He'll keep weight on with a lot of special feeding. Unfortunately his girlfriend can't eat that much, so they can't live together, which takes away one of his joys.

John thinks he's a pretty happy horse. He's happy to see people, he's happy to eat his good grub. He's in love with his Soxy mare. He's got some things to live for.

But in the winter, when it might get down to 15 below and people are not coming out other than to give him his good grub, and his Soxy mare is in the adjacent pen, is there much to live for?

Would it be better to end his life on a good note, after a summer of grass and companionship? Or to have him possibly go downhill in the winter, when he's been miserable for a while? And once it freezes we won't be able to bury him, and may not even be able to get his body up the driveway to take it for disposal.

I'm really leaning toward having him put down this fall. But thinking of actually doing it is so hard, and I feel like maybe I'm rushing into this.

I'm under a little pressure to make a decision, because we need to be buying alfalfa now if he's going to stay with us. But I could probably find some later, it would just be more expensive. Maybe I should just sleep on it for a month or 3...

What would you do? Or what are your thoughts on euthanasia and how you know it's time?

8 comments:

Kate said...

Only you can make this decision. If he were mine, and he was eating, holding reasonable weight and not suffering from the cold - keeping warm enough, and his demeanor was happy, I'd keep him going. For me, I look at whether the horse is unhappy or in pain - then it's time. But again, it's your decision and I'm certain whatever decision you make will be well-considered.

Kara said...

A really hard decision. I'd say that you need to really think about his quality of life. If he's lame now, it's probably only worse in the winter. But maybe his interest in life is enough to overcome that. A very hard decision. It's too bad you can't ask him.

I went through the same thing with Ms. Turkey, except I felt more an obligation toward her rather than an attachment, which makes it a little easier, I think. We did end up putting Ms. Turkey down a few weeks ago, when the weather got really hot. It's so much harder for her when it's hot, and she was so crippled anyway. I do think it was the kindest thing for her.

Andrea said...

He is definitely in pain - the lameness. His feet are deformed and very painful.

Another thing I forgot to mention, because it's not a problem in the summer when he's on grass, is his painful gut in the winter. He has diarrhea that is very obviously painful. I've done everything to help him with that, and sometimes the supplements do help, but not always.

Thanks for the thoughts... I actually did think about asking him. Not that he speaks my language, but by getting the question out there, maybe it would help me see the things that will give me the answer.

showbrat said...

We had to make the decision last year to put down a very special horse. It came down to if we keep him alive to make ourselves happy or lay him to rest to put him out of his pain. We chose to lay him to rest while he still had his dignity and was not suffering as much as he would be in the future.

It is a hard decision to make. Once you realize it is what needs to be done it gets easier to deal with but is still heartbreaking. He seems like he has certainly had a great life with you and only you will know when he is ready to rest.

Linda said...

I have some good horse friends who grew up on ranches and work with cattle and horses--and they are ALWAYS practical. They helped me make some tough decisions. They always said when a horse can't be a horse anymore, put them down humanely. No one can make the actual decision for you, but for me, I err on the side of quality of life issues.

I'm going to have to make the decision for my 13 year old Golden Retriever. I had her shaved the other day, and she looked so sad. There are days when she's happy, and days when she's sad and in pain, but when the bad days out number the good, I'll hold her in the vet's office while she's put to sleep.

I have a little sister who LOVES, LOVES her animals,and she's a very good-hearted person. We had an old cat who she didn't want to see put down because she really LOVED him. He fell asleep under the wheel of her car one day and she accidentally ran over him pulling out of the carport. That was NOT the way she wanted him to die, but when you wait too long to put them down, sometimes they end up in very bad situations because their senses are compromised.

Lady Of Chaos said...

We went through this with Kissy's old gelding. He's was 40+ years old and loved people, he'd always amble over to see us no matter what he was doing... However, he was in a lot of pain, his feet were basically breaking down, his body was just worn out from so many years.

We decided it wouldn't be fair to put him through another winter, despite how loving and happy he appeared. We were giving him his last summer of love and fun and were going to put him down in the fall. Unfortunately, he colicked and had to be put down alot sooner than we planned.

Sometimes you have to do what's best. Only you can decide if it's time and you'll make the right decision. It's a tough one and my heart breaks for you to even have to be considering it.

arlene said...

I'm a big believer in the right to die when the pain and suffering gets too much. But because animals can't let us know my rule of thumb is to wait till they can't or don't want to get up anymore, are in great pain or they quit eating.

I'd just give the old chap bute or something to make him feel comfortable and play it by ear.

I let my old cows go naturally as long as they are not in pain. I've sat with many an old cow in her final moments as she gazes off into the distance thinking about her happy life and all her friends (still around her).

My dog Paddington (Old English sheep dog cross) was almost 16 and I had to hold her back end up with a soft belt when she went outside to whiz or poop. We kept it up for weeks then one day she struggled over to me looked at me and cried in pain. I gave her a slice of cheese and she refused it and that told me she didn't want to live anymore. I asked Brad to take her to the vets. I couldn't go. Before he took her I said to her "GO...FIND...JESSICA" and her head shot up and she look towards the door excited. Jessica was her old friend who died before her.

Pony Girl said...

Tough, tough decision. I agree with everyone else (good comments here) and think you have to look at quality of life. But you also have to do what is in your heart. You will know when you have come to terms with it and it is time. If you are questioning it, it probably isn't right. It's just the beginning of summer so don't feel rushed, take a month or so.
He's a beautiful horse, and has had a long life. Thirty years!