Unlimited access >

Euthanasia decision dilemma

OP, not that it will change your BO’s mind, nor will it change the situation you are in -

I know several horses that were SUPER aggressive in stalls or in solo turnout spaces, but were just fine in groups. Something about the barrier made it into a “this is MINE” situation in the horse’s brain.


Agreed. I think he’s mostly territorial over the fence. However, he’s been aggressive enough in that circumstance to make the manager very hesitant about turning him out. And, I feel like if I relocate him I need to disclose that he’s shown that behavior. So he needs a crash test dummy to be turned out with, which is the crux of the issue. I also think that a lot of his rude behavior might be corrected in a herd, but it’s tough to find a situation to test that theory.

I think you have a good point. The options in Montana for board are much more limited than most people expect, with the influx over the past few years. But, that doesn’t mean I’ve exhausted every possibility. I definitely haven’t. So I think continuing to find a more ideal setup for him is worthwhile. It’s the risk to other horses that’s been the biggest barrier, but maybe there’s a situation where he could be turned out in a large field to graze by himself and brought back in, or some such thing. I definitely want to look into every possibility before I make a final decision.

Why do you think he can’t be with other horses? In a different set up I’d expect he would be fine. You’ve said up till 2 years ago he was pastured with others. Nothing You’ve written makes me think he couldn’t go back to that. You need a BO who understands herd dynamics. Or, I guess, a vet if you suspect a medical issue.


Do his medical issues limit his usefulness in any way? Or can he be ridden like any sound horse his age would normally be?

If he was mine my only hesitation in leasing would be the worry that whomever is leasing would do more with him than he is physically able? That might not be an issue but I don’t like people riding my horses so that might be why I voice my concern.

When it doesn’t belong to them personally ( animals, business, homes etc) some people in a lease happily run whatever they are leasing into the ground and move on leaving the owner with the mess.

If your horse has horses he can see I doubt he is suffering from loneliness. I never fault someone for choosing euthanasia. We all have different circumstances or reasons for going that route and since he is yours you have every right to do what is best for you and him.

I hope you find a solution you are happy with.

Start in a smaller space, and supervise. Carry a lunge whip to break anything up and get the horses moving. If it really is going south then terminate the experiment.

I haven’t read all of the responses so I’m not sure if this has been recommended or not, but have you tried regumate on him? There is a gelding at my barn that is super studdish, as in mounts the poor mares. He is on regumate and doesn’t do any of those behaviors anymore. Might be worth a shot if you haven’t tried it yet.

No, we have not tried regumate but this reminds me of something I forgot to mention in my original post. The vet inserted a hormonal implant used on cattle two years ago. I believe it was progesterone. She was very forthcoming with the fact that there isn’t much science behind it, but that it has shown to sometimes make a difference for geldings like mine. In his case, it didn’t seem to do much. I’m wondering if the idea behind regumate is the same. Thanks for the idea!

Although he shows no signs of pain when lightly ridden, I think his ringbone arthritis probably does limit the time he should spend under saddle as well as what he’s used for, so I would want to spell that out in a lease agreement and keep an eye on it for sure, if I went the leasing route.

Thank you for mentioning that if he can see other horses, he’s probably not lonely. This is something I meant to raise in my original post, because he does have “frenemies” on each side of him and they have a lot of interaction. They are literally on the other side of each fence, so they can touch noses and sometimes take a bite out of one another if the opportunity presents itself. It seems like he has a pretty close bond with one of them, the horse calls to him when he leaves his pen. I’ve debated about whether that level of socialization counts, or is significant enough to make me feel better that he’s solo, and I was curious what other’s opinions were on that.

I think you could be correct. It’s been my suspicion that if you threw him out with others, it would quickly be sorted out. Unfortunately, I don’t have any others to try that on and our barn owner has witnessed his behavior over the fence more than I have. She says there has been moments when he’s charged the fence, enough to bend a panel, so I understand her wariness.

I had a horse who would fight over a fence all the time, but once he was with others he was a marshmallow! If your horse lived with others as you say, he’s got good horsey social skills. Why would you think he suddenly can’t be with horses now, when for 18 years he could be?

It might be worth a shot. Regumate isn’t progesterone, it’s progestin. It might have a different effect on him since it’s a different hormone.

IMO that’s plenty of social interaction for a horse. He isn’t alone by any means.

The ideal is that they live in a herd on plenty of grass. But there are a lot of things short of ideal that are fine and do them no harm. Socially I would count “fence friends”.

1 Like

General questions that may or may not help pin down a cause/causes of his charging the fence. Based on your posts above, that behavior seems to be the primary roadblock to him being turned out, if he stops the barn manager may feel more comfortable about him.

If you can narrow down some specific situational causes, you might be able to make changes to reduce this behavior. [Of course you don’t have the answer every question, or any question. And of course you may prefer to keep you answers private anyway. ) ]

  • When does he charge the fence?
    ** All day long? Only in specific moments? Is there a time of day pattern (only am or pm)?
    ** Only when he sees a horse? Does he ever charge when no horse is there?
    ** Every time he sees a horse? Or just sometimes when he sees a horse? Only certain horses and not other horses?
    ** Does he charge any other animals? Dog, maybe? People?
    ** How often is food involved? Does this only happen at feeding time, or if he has a fresh pile of hay, etc.?

  • What is the effect of human activity on his fence charging, if any? Looking for a sort of trigger for charge-energy (since charging is work and requires some adrenaline).
    ** Does he charge more when several people are out messing with their horses? Does general activity tend to have him more stirred up?
    ** Does he charge more around certain people than others? Perhaps he never does it when the owner is around, but often does it when the barn manager is around, that kind of thing. This is really telling if he only charges if he can see certain humans, and doesn’t charge if he can’t see them – even if he isn’t charging in their direction specifically.

Etc. You can think of more situational conditions specific to his environment and routine.

Anyway. This kind of yes/no definition of the situations around the charging might help narrow down potential causes, or at least situations that may trigger charge-energy.

I know of a gelding who hammered the door of his stall with his front hooves — but the situation that he did it was very specific. If he can see a bucket of food, he lost it and sounded like he was tearing down the barn.

The problem is that one person in the barn was habitually leaving a food bucket sitting where he could see it, every day. She never twigged that this is the only time the gelding bangs the stall door. She thought the banging was just a random habit and yelled at him to stop, which had no effect.

I pointed out that he does not do this behavior at any other time. No bucket in sight, he’s quiet. That if she is not in the barn, he doesn’t do it, even at feeding time (of course she couldn’t know that). It’s very peaceful in the barn if she isn’t there. The rest of us milling around did not incite the gelding to hammer the stall door.

Also mentioned the concern that repeatedly pounding on sturdy wood can eventually lead to damage deep in the foot. He could even crack a bone (a friend’s horse did from habitually pawing at something hard).

Anyway. Just looking at the situation when the horse was hammering was a pretty easy solution-finder. Might help with the charging?

1 Like