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Euthanasia .... is it time?

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. As someone who recently said goodbye to my heart horse, I’ll try to add some perspective.

Based on what you’ve shared, it sounds like it is his time. My gelding was 30, had arthritis for many years that was previously managed well with Equioxx. After 5+ years of Equioxx he started to have recurring colic episodes, mild but increasing in severity and frequency. My vet suspected ulcers, but also could have been strangulating lipomas - no way to know for sure.

My boy couldn’t tolerate the amount of meds needed to keep him comfortable, and the thought of losing him to a painful colic haunted me. I decided to give him the peaceful and dignified end he deserved, rather than an emergency or painful departure. He was still eating, getting around fairly well, but the spark from his eyes and personality was just gone.

One thing my vet told me was that none of her clients have ever felt it was too soon afterwards. It always feels that way beforehand though. My horse had a wonderful last week. We spoiled him, some old friends came to say goodbye, and we celebrated his life, laughed and cried together.

When the day finally came, I was a wreck, but when he went as peacefully as any horse I’ve ever seen, I knew it was the right call. He was ready, even if I wasn’t. I won’t lie, I still miss him every day and probably always will. But I have peace with my decision, knowing it was the right thing to do for him.

Wishing you luck with this tough decision and peace with whatever you decide.


I just want to thank every single one of you for taking the time to respond to me - and for some of you to reopen your wounds to help me find our way. I know it is difficult to do, and I so appreciate each of you. I had scheduled him to be PTS back in April of this year, when I saw he could not tolerate the stall rest. He was puffing up and swelling everywhere. But then I was convinced that maybe I could press on and fix him just enough to give him some quality of pasture soundness. But I just don’t think we are getting there. To me, daily pain meds and four shoes is not pasture sound. But some people are saying he doesn’t “look ready” and I should fight on. Which is confusing me and I keep questioning myself. Those closest to me and who matter most support the decision I am leaning towards. I told myself and him I would give us 6 months, and we’re getting close to that date and I want him to have a GOOD life, not just exist. Thank you again to you all. :heart: :heart: :heart:. I am going to call the vet and plan for a date in the next few weeks and spend this time enjoying him and loving him and on the day I will give him all the grass, carrots, applies and mints he has not been able to enjoy now for 5 years.

A few comments …

Yes … this is something we are struggling with - his pony companion does not leave his side and so now they are both just standing around, not moving, and I know that’s not good for either of them. He was away at a rehab for a month and I brought in another horse to keep my companion pony company. I could not believe how much the loved running around the track together and moving and exploring. It is a stark contrast to what I am observing now.

This is truly beautiful - thank you for this image, it does give me solace.

And this is the thing, like my contract with him should not be that he “can” have a life but that he SHOULD have a GOOD life.

Believe it or not, I did directly ask - and she said that she could not answer that question. She recommended maybe giving him a couple more months through the fall to see if the heat is exhausting him with the PPID and his size, but then I question what will happen when winter comes. Will I be back at this same decision knowing winter will be hard on him?

Currently he is being seen by a barefoot trimmer who is well regarded, gives lectures, teaches, etc. so very knowledgeable. I have been happy with what she has done for him. But it’s just not appearing to be enough. He does lay down outside, I think … I never see him do it though. If he sleeps it is at night. I do see him roll. He can get up and down, and seems to be OK doing it. But if he happens to be confined to his stall (which is rarely) he does not lay down any longer but he used to.

This is the thing I keep going back to - just because we can, should we continue to try? To what end and what is the line I won’t cross? I just feel like I may be there. Thank you for the blog post. It is very helpful.


I believe there are vets who are afraid to say that it is time. I don’t know if they fear an owner coming back saying they were pressured or what? It might just be self preservation for vets today. It is such a hard thing for us to do, it must be our decision alone to make.

I have certainly known equine vets who would never offer an opinion on euthanasia except in indisputable cases (broken leg, horrible colic with no surgical option) I suspect that they dont want the owner to shift the burden of the decision, especially if the owner later second-guesses the decision. Instead they will starkly explain the outlook for the horse with various options.


Let the pony spend as much time as he wants after his companion passes. This is one of the first things our retired vet learned from a client back in 1971 when he started in practice. It is the first chapter in his book on euthanasia. I’ve seen it a few times over the years. Leave them alone, and the companion will wander away when he is ready.


Yes, yes, yes–allow the pony to spend time with his deceased companion. When my donkey was euthanized, I let my horse see her before she was buried. When he left to to graze, the backhoe took her to her grave and buried her. After the backhoe took her, my horse stood on the spot where the donkey had died, looked over in the direction where the backhoe had taken her, and trumpeted the saddest whinney I have ever heard. It was his final salute to his lost friend.

If possible, get a new companion for your donkey before you euthanize your horse. Before my donkey was euthanized I adopted a horse as a pasture pet to be my horse’s new companion. I gave them 2-3 weeks to become acquainted before euthanizing the donkey. I’m convinced it made losing his donkey companion easier, because at least he wasn’t suddenly alone.


Sadly all horses will die. They can die after many months of agony if we allow it. Or we can let them go sooner and spare them the pain.

Too many people get caught up in their feelings instead of what’s best for the horse. That’s the line you cannot cross - knowing the difference between the two.

You’re doing the right thing and it’s crushingly hard, so hugs to you: let him go in peace and you’ll always be able to sleep at night knowing you did the right thing.


That was the great lesson my second horse taught me. I was asking myself “Can I get him through another winter?” and one day it hit me. I was asking the wrong question.

The better question was “Should I try to get him through another winter?”

This let me think more clearly about his health issues and how winter would affect him. I could more easily recognize and assess the risks. And I could more easily see where he was, right now, and realize “It won’t ever get any better than this.”

Your vet shouldn’t have said that, but they were probably thinking about the specific issue and forgetting all the other management you’re doing to keep your horse pasture comfortable. It’s easy to do just one more, little thing, and before you know it there’s a precariously balanced, highly detailed, multi-piece management system in place. We forget that all those well managed issues are still there and affect the horse’s ability to handle one more. Sometimes a simple, easily treated issue can bring the whole thing down.

Your horse’s issue isn’t easily treated, or minor. You’ve taken the time to think about the entire picture, including the time of year. (((hugs)))