Unlimited access >

Euthanasia .... is it time?

I think I know the answer, but I really need some help with this decision.

A little background … My horse is approaching 20 and he’s a large draft cross. I have owned him for six years. He developed laminitis and foundered five years ago and was diagnosed as insulin resistant. He has been well managed since on a sand track around our property, and we have had good success with keeping him healthy and his numbers in check. But his feet have been a constant issue. He has very thin, flat soles and has had shoes on an off - steel nailed on, composites, glued on, etc - we’ve tried it all and never got him 100% comfortable. Late last fall into winter, he started to become noticeably sore and very quickly it progressed to a severe lameness. Local field vet was called in, X rays done, no determinations made. We stall rested him to see if that helped but it did not. In February he was taken to a university hospital and was diagnosed with a torn DDFT low in the hoof. Upon more work ups he was found to have severe arthritis in the same pastern, as well as mild arthritis in the other pastern, and the start of ringbone and of course navicular syndrome was mentioned. Stall rest was prescribed and corrective shoeing. He also was diagnosed with PPID at this time and we started him on Prascend. He did not fare well on stall rest and I ended up taking the shoes off and letting him go out in a paddock and move as he sees fit. The lameness seemed to get better but he was foot sore. So he is now in composite glue on shoes and on 1-2 equiox per day depending on how he seems. He is mostly sound at the walk and lame at the trot. In addition to IR and PPID, he has a grade 3 laryngeal paralysis for which I won’t do surgery, pretty bad skin allergies to the point where he rubs himself bloody raw at times (he is on 50 zyrtec a day per vet and OK right now) and we just found out through a thorough dental exam that he has 2 cracked teeth - which do not appear to be causing him pain or any issues eating, and are not infected, but probably should be dealt with soon.

At this time, on meds and with shoes, he does not seem happy to move about. He does not move much around his track. He isn’t engaging as much with his pony companion. But overall his disposition is pleasant - he greets me, eats well, etc. which I know is not necessarily indicative of anything positive, and he could still be in pain acting this way.

He is a unicorn - the kindest, gentlest most special boy - and I am struggling so hard with this decision. It has been hard on him, and on us as his humans - and I’m losing sight of why I continue pushing and where I’m hoping to get to. What is the goal? I guess comfortable enough to be enjoyed as a pasture pet but I’m not sure either of us is enjoying anything at this point. I am having the hardest time being logical, ethical and trying to set my emotions aside. I asked the vet, they won’t tell me it’s time.

Is it time? Please help me. Thank you.

1 Like

If this were my horse, constantly lame and a BIG horse, yes I would put him down.

I know you love him. I know you love having him in your life. But when a horse is at the point that every single step hurts no matter what you, the farriers and the veterinarians do, it is time to let him go.

IMO horses express themselves through movement. They glory in pain free movement. They can deal with minor pain but your horse sounds like his foot pain is not minor at all.

The Argentine gauchos have a horse heaven, Trapalanda, where the souls of dead horses run free. Let your horse go there.

And yes, I have had to put horses down, including the horse that I loved more than anybody in the world, my angel horse who made my whole life better every time I saw him. It was over 20 years ago and I still miss him every day.

It is hard, very hard on the owner who loves their horse.

This is the last gift we can give our beloved horses, total freedom from a life time of pain.


That is beautiful.


I’m so sorry you are facing this horrible decision. I feel your pain as I too am facing that very decision right now with my sweet boy.

From what you have written, I think it would be a great kindness for you to let him go. He is likely in pain since you mentioned he is not wanting to move around much.

Bless you both during this very difficult time. Trust your heart.


I had an older donkey that had foundered before she came to live with me. For seven years she ambled around the pasture with my horse and seemed happy enough. Eventually, though, her arthritis and bad feet became painful enough that she would not go far from the barn. My horse would not leave her, so this was a bad situation for him too. Both the vet and the farrier examined her, and there was nothing we could do except try bute. I gave it a month, and after seeing no improvement, I called the vet to come euthanize her. I asked him if he thought I was being premature . . . he said no.

If your horse is not moving around much, and nothing you do makes it better, that’s a big sign that it’s time to say good-bye. I’m very sorry you’re going through such a tough time.


It is so hard when all of their issues catch up with them. They can compensate for only so long, and then one tiny change or one new spot of arthritis is the tipping point from which they can never get comfortable.


This is how it feels. We were getting by, we were managing. And this DDFT and PPID just seems like the breaking point. Like it’s just the last straw for him.

This is never an easy decision.

If you are asking, you do know the answer.

I had to make this decision just a few years ago. Horses will break your heart and I’m so sorry you are having to consider it for your boy.


:two_hearts: :two_hearts: :two_hearts: :two_hearts:

@horsingaround777 I would not condemn your decision to give your dear friend a loving departure. It sounds like he lives with very chronic discomfort. A vet will very rarely tell you “its time” , that is an ethical issue. They will , however, advise you, if your ask that ED is an option and agree to your request when you feel ready.

Be brave for your friend and ask the question. Vets encounter these issues all the time and yours may have some wisdom to help you through your decisions


I think this is what I would return to in this decision.

He has a lot of lameness issues, all of which are causing pain despite everything you’re doing. That’s on top of the other issues he has. He may still be eating well and engaging with you, but horses usually hide their pain pretty well.

In cases like this, I think a day too soon is always better than a moment too late.


If you’re asking (yourself or others if “it’s time”) it is. Frankly, it’s probably past “the time”.


I would speak with your vet as they have seen the horse. Get a different farrier. Most farriers just aren’t that great with lameness issues. There are some that are spectacular but those are hard to find. It is worth looking for a better farrier.

What else can you do pain management wise? Does he get up and lay down okay? Most older horses live with some degree of discomfort as well as most senior people. There’s a difference between, if I do too much walking, I have to rush to the doctor in severe pain versus if I walk 5 miles, I’m slightly sore the next day.

Is he mostly sore in one front hoof or both? If he’s sore in one foot he can compensate easier, then if he’s hurting in both feet and has to pick a sore foot to stand on.


this 100% describes my big WB whom I said goodbye to almost 3 years ago. Greeted me, ate like there was no tomorrow, still the sweet guy he’d always been (meaning he didn’t turn grumpy like some in discomfort can do), etc. BUT, he’d spent the last 18-24 months or so in the barn paddock by himself (as he’s done a few times due to injuries that forced solitary) and he was always fine, and then he just kept losing weight, and I saw him starting to struggle to get up most times.

It’s time. check your weather forecast, load him up on bute, pick a day with your vet, make the plans, pick a lovely Fall day, feed him ALL his favorite foods and as much as he wants, and send him on to his next adventure

And it will SUCK. Calling the vet will suck. Waiting for that day will suck. That day will suuuuuuck.

And it will also be a relief that you will feel guilty about but please don’t because it’s a gift of mercy, not an act of unkindness.

Hugs. There’s just no way other than through this :frowning:


I have one mare who isn’t happy to run around. She is perfectly happy eating grass and ignoring the wild herd mates. Rarely she will join in. I think it’s an age thing. If the weather is nice and she feels like it, she might join in for a short romp.

1 Like

I have a lump in my throat because I am in a similar place with my guy. He still moves around at a walk ok and that’s making it hard for me to make the call. But at a trot…it’s painful to watch. He hasn’t laid down for a nap in years, but he will get up and down to roll. He loves his pasture mates and sticks with them. But he is a 21 yo TB that had a racing career, then a jumping career, has terrible feet and especially soles(non-existent), colics on equioxx(Once requiring surgery), has PPID, chronic scratches, never been fat a day in his life. etc etc I could go on but I’ve gotten subtle hints from a dear friend that maybe he shouldn’t have to go through another winter and I’m gutted. I’m sorry OP that you are facing this but you are not alone. It’s the unwritten contract we all sign when we let them into our hearts


I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been said. I just want to send you warm comforting thoughts in what is a terribly difficult time. Horses can be incredibly stoic and usually by the time they tell you they are ready, you may be too late.

When the writing is on the wall with multiple irreversible diagnoses seriously affecting quality of life, it’s better to let them go with a twinkle in their eye than waiting until they’ve given up.


I put my beloved Paint gelding down on July 20,2022 at age 28. He was a bundle of energy which made it very difficult to lose him. He had a lump on his left knee when I bought him in 2001. He was perfectly sound through March 2020. He was losing flexion and the joint was arthritic. The BO, a friend of 20 years, locked the farm down to due to Covid - she knew she didn’t have to. When I went back a month later he wasn’t interested in getting back in shape. He started developing lameness problems and I had to retire him from riding. I had him evaluated by a lameness specialist twice and used Osphos, Adequan and previcox, which kept him comfortable. I had x-rays done every few months. The farrier was on a 4 week schedule and kept his feet balanced.

We had a new vet after our vet of 20 years retired. She made a deal with me: when she said it was time, I agreed to put him down. He was really enjoying life.amd everyone thought he would make his early 30s. Then one day in July she said it was time. I thought she was jumping the gun. She wasn’t. A few days later I saw the problem. He was dragging his hoof and had dirt on his knees. He refused to walk away from the barn to hand graze. When I watched him being led I could see that his knee wasn’t controlling his hoof…

It was tough, He went downhilll in about 4-5 days. It was a shock because he was still strong and energetic. I knew I would lose him to the knee. But I had told myself I wouldn’t pursue more agressive treatment and turn him into an old man. I had him composted and planted a dogwood tree in my back yard this spring. It’s like I buried him in the backyard. I can still say “hi sweetie”: every day.

It’s true - better a few days early than a day late. He was well known in the area and I emailed a long list of friends. A couple of dozen came and helped me through the pain with huge hugs. My friends still reassure me that I did what was right for my horse.

My vet was a tremendous help. She didn’t want him to continue declining and start suffering. I knew I would ultimately lose him to the knee. I had to put his comfort and well-being ahead of mine… Your friends can help you. The vet and her tech came in the late afternoon so a few people could come after work. We put a bed of hay on the ground. She sedated him first for about 10 minutes – we could all hug him. Then she put him down on the hay, and then the final shot. It wasn’t easy but it could have been much harder. I couldn’t watch them pick up his body for compost, but friends said it was remarkably tender and respectful.

It is still very hard to be without him 14 months later There is still a huge hole in my heart. I’m 75 - he was my one and only heart horse. When your hurse starts hurting, it is time. Be stong and remember him when he was in his prime.

  1. This forum pretty much always is in favor of euthanasia when someone posts.

  2. I totally agree, better a day/week/month too early than a day too late, but twice now I’ve had the experience of making the call and literally being 15 minutes from the vet putting the horse down, changing my mind (deciding to wait just a little bit longer) and the horse ended up living – happily – for FOUR more years! (And the donkey in the same situation, two more years). That is a decent chunk of time, and not a couple of weeks.

  3. We cannot know, really, what the right decision is for you. I would urge you to go back to your vet for a conversation. Surely at least they will give you the pros and cons. Ask them, if this were your horse, what would you do? I just feel this is a better course than asking us. Presumably you trust and like your vet, they know the horse in real life etc. I would heavily weight their advice.


I know I say this for all these threads, but it can put things in perspective sometimes for some situations:

Putting your horse down doesn’t mean you don’t love your horse. Sometimes it means you love them more than yourself.


I too have a horse who won’t see another winter. He is the third horse I have had to make the decision for. It’s not easier.

Dear @horsingaround777 you do know the answer to your question. You know your horse best. But right now you’re asking others because you’re allowing your reluctance to lose him to blind you.

I posted this link on another thread yesterday, and I think you need it too.

I know how hard it is to let yourself see your horse now, instead of how he was. But if you can really look at him now, really see how he is, then you can trust yourself. You do know if it’s time. You don’t need anyone else to tell you, or agree with you.

I wrote that blog at a time when we were starting to talk about euthanasia openly. The dominant response at the time was “you should try…” as the socially acceptable thing was to do absolutely everything you could to keep the animal alive as long as possible. Now we talk more about quality of life and recognize that there is a point at which only treatments prolong suffering. This makes it easier to talk about, but no easier to decide.

I wrote that blog. I made those decisions. I keep the lessons around endings close. I reread that blog post. I trust myself to know my horse, and I make the decision.

And I cry. I feel guilty for not being able to fix him. I feel cheated out of the future we were supposed to have. I feel alone as I stand on the edge and see what precious part of my life I am about to lose. I question myself, even as I know I’m making the right decision. I desperately hope nothing catastrophic happens before that chosen end date. I hide my sorrow at impending loss and try to do things he likes.

Yes, I still feel all of that even with previous experiences. So I can say to you - Trust yourself. You do know.