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Another sad end of life input request: Older horse with compounding issues?

For the second time in less that a year I am looking at an end of life decision for a horse. If anyone can share viewpoints on this, I would appreciate an outside view. Sorry, I’m verbose.

My old pony is a 27ish QH cross that has been in my life for almost 18 years. Up until 2010 he was my iron pony- never injured, always sound, kept on air and sweet as could be. In 2010 he put his leg through a fence, and it took almost a year to heal up. Since then, he has started to slide, as one would expect with an aging pony.

For the last 3 years, the amount of feed has gone up til he is eating more than a fellow boarders 17h warmblood. His teeth are fine, his blood work is clear, vet did a full workup- he just won’t hold weight. (5lb senior feed/day for a 12.2h pony to keep weight… and his ribs are starting to show again).

Two years ago he started exhibiting intermittent petit mal seizure-like symptoms. No down on the ground flailing, but I don’t really consider him riding sound for anyone but me because I’m OK taking that risk, but worry about others.

Last year I had to put his buddy down (they were together for 16 years), and move him to a new facility. He has never made a new friend there, and since the move he has become increasingly horse aggressive. This makes total sense since he is the smallest (12.2h) and oldest horse on the property:no:

Last year he had such bad fly allergies that he rubbed a hole in his face, destroying the tear duct and taking over 2 months to heal back up. An unemployed boarder volunteered to help out with extra cleanings, otherwise it would have dragged on for much longer because I simply couldn’t get out often enough to medicate an eye injury.

Yesterday he got kicked in the face. He is going to the vet tomorrow, but it looks pretty bad. He is eating and such, and let me clean it with a minimum of fuss, but… definitely bones broken, meds needed (more than the bute I’m dosing him with). I don’t think his jaw was impacted, but a horse with potential neuro issues already did NOT need a solid blow to the head.

Now I’m scared. I’ve been dreading the return of fly season anyway, because I didn’t know if he’d rub a hole in his eye again. He seems to be seeking out aggressive interactions with horses at the barn, so I worry what other injuries he’ll come up with, and the barn owner is nice, but not able to provide extra health care services.

I can’t be out more than 2x a week. I can’t care for a major health issue. I can’t afford a place that can.

I’m an adult, I know where this is going, and I realize that the end may be near. But he seems to be healthy most of the time… Just chronically broken. And chronically angry (though he adores people). And he has been healing more and more slowly.

All of this is leading me to consider euthanasia. It has been at the back of my mind anyway, but he just received a rather severe injury and I don’t know if dragging him through the potentially unpleasant healing process (which will take longer than expected due to his slower healing) is a kind idea either. So I’m going from a ‘well, I might need to consider this at some point in the next while’ to a much more immediate concern.

Is euthanasia an actual reasonable decision here, or do I just sound like someone who has gotten frustrated and needs to cool off?

Just in case anyone asks- no, I’m not going to consider any option that has him passing out of my hands. I’ve seen way to many horses slip through the cracks that way, and I can’t let that happen to him.

If you stuck with me- thank you and I appreciate any insight you can provide.

I think it is reasonable to consider euthanasia for a pony with multiple compounding health issues on top of a recent injury. The change in his personality indicates to me that he is being more uncomfortable and unhappy in his current circumstances.


I have seen too many people drag things on because they could.

Good luck.

I put physical- and psychological suffering in animals on par with one another. One of the beautiful things about the way euthanasia is culturally acceptable for animals is that we are free to relieve them of suffering… sometimes they get a better deal than do people.

I’m not sure I got all the details right and their order. But in general, if this horse were hurt before he was moved to a new barn where he had no friends and felt so insecure all of the time that he had to go on the offensive, I’d say that was enough.

I say this as someone who has made the euthanasia decision and been there for all of the care for the horse (who was gently deteriorating in various ways, no matter what). And I was there for the euthanasia. I will say that the whole experience has made me willing to euthanize sooner. My threshold for “good enough quality of life” is higher than it is for plenty of horsemen. Having engineered and been there for the euthanasia, I can tell you that the day of my gelding’s death was not his worst day in terms of what he perceived.

Good luck with your decision, whatever it is. So long as you keep showing up to evaluate your horse’s estimation of his own quality of life, and make that criterion your primary one, you’ll do all right at picking that “he’s had enough” threshold.

Also, I euthanized my gelding before winter (when he would have suffered more). There’s nothing wrong with preventing suffering that you can see coming and which your horse, of course, is not showing you that he’s experiencing today. Even though it seems “early” to us, I just don’t see the merit of waiting until a horse asks to die or looks tired or intractably scared or whatever.

His most recent injury happened yesterday, so at the new barn. He seems to seek out aggressive interactions with pretty much any other pasture mate, and single turnout is not an option. He didn’t get hurt at the old place, but he lost his long-term buddy and got moved on the same day, and has never really settled into the new place.

Thanks for your input- I keep the idea of quality of life in mind a lot, but its still hard…

It is better to euthanasia too soon than a second too late.

With his seizures he can be dangerous to even handle if he falls on someone if they become worse. It is much kinder to let him rest in peace.

It will be your final gift to him.



It is better to euthanasia too soon than a second too late.

With his seizures he can be dangerous to even handle if he falls on someone if they become worse. It is much kinder to let him rest in peace.

It will be your final gift to him.


My old guy died on the 6th. From where I sit now I would have euth’d him as soon as I recognized what had happened to him. He likely had a pasture accident and sprained or fractured a neck vertebra. At almost 30 the prognosis was poor anyway. But he was a huge stoic, suposedly many ASB and TWH are that way, and still had enough interest that DH wasn’t on board with the idea of “just killing him”. We raised up all his feed and water buckets, cut grass for him, made him a small run out, but he was afraid to lie down, couldn’t lower his head to graze, his quality of life wasn’t there, and we had alternate warm and cold days and on the cold days you could see it really bothered him, even with lots of Bute. He was still interested in his feed up until the night he passed over on his own. The vet was coming the next day, and likely we would have made some call one way or another anyway.
I really feel that I let him down, and writing this I feel horrible. Please consider giving your boy the gift of peace. He is a herd animal with no herd there, he is in pain, the likelihood that some person that can wait on him hand and foot is going to show up isn’t likely, let him go.

I think aggression can be the result of pain. My older mare (28) that I put down on Jan 1 (what a way to start the new year) had become more aggressive in the past couple of years. She had a bum knee and was having problems with her front feet. It was tough to let go since I’d had her from the moment she was born and she kind of represented a certain phase of my life. But in the end, I felt if I didn’t let her go, it would just be for me, not for her. I still miss her terribly as she was one of those little horses with a huge personality and brain. We used to call her the Albert Einstein of the horse world.

Not premature at all. It sounds as though you’ve given him a wonderful life; give him a dignified passing as well.

Thanks all. Its really hard to consider, but when people totally unrelated to the pony understand my viewpoint, it helps me at least understand that I’m being reasonable, even if it hurts. It was like pulling teeth to get any vets around me to come look at an aged horse with potential facial fractures, so I guess that tells me that the prognosis isn’t that great anyways…

Read, or reread, LordHelpus’ thread here on Horse Care about her struggle with her old horse Bear and his broken jaw not too long ago. It might give you some clarity and help you know you are not alone.

It’s such a hard decision, and I really do feel for you as I was almost in your shoes just a few weeks ago. It sounds like you have his best interests at heart, and you will know when the time is right. <<<hugs>>>

For what it’s worth, all of the older horses I’ve known that fractured jaws/teeth ended up suffering through a few weeks of treatment before being euthanized. None were able to recover. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all for you to be considering euthanasia even if this was his only problem.

You have my sympathies, especially having two horses going downhill so close together.

I had an old horse who had several issues going on. Last summer he reached a point where I was worrying about a bad ending, and I could see him losing some interest in his daily routine - kind of mentally detaching himself.
It was a very rough few days for me while making arrangements, but honestly once it was over, I felt a weight of worry lifted off my shoulders.

Sympathies from here, it is a tough thing.

He will thank you for this last gift. Help an old friend… A great kindness to stop the papm/

It sounds like his body is already struggling to heal and maintain. With an acute head injury I think a peaceful passing is a very ethical and compassionate decision.