I think it will ease your mind on the decision of euthanasia later on if it is needed. I hope he rebounds back to his normal happy self, but if not you shouldn’t feel euthanasia before the winter sets in is a wrong or bad choice.
Re-reading this thread has already been helpful. At this point, I wish I had followed this advice better, but he was doing so well this summer/fall that it was difficult to predict how the winter would go. It is becoming more clear to me that he is now just “enduring” (as someone said earlier in the thread about their horse) during the winter months here.
I can feel your pain at a difficult situation. My gelding is 25 and cruising along in good health and I’ve had him for almost 19 years. How things will end was something I’ve had in the back of my mind. But it has crept forward. I’m seeing signs of aging. He has always been the alpha gelding but over the summer we had quite a few new horses come in and he wasn’t quite comfortable. Several people told me the #2 was keeping an eye on him and helping out. He seems to be back to his usual self now that things have settled down.
Decisions have to be made. Better to make them now than when he is in crisis. I’ve been at this barn since before I bought him. I’ve said goodbye to horses over the years, including several wonderful school horses who did regular and therapy lessons and some owned by fellow boarders. I get teary-eyed when someone posts here about losing their horse.
The best piece I have ever read was posted by trainer Julie Goodnight after one of her horses dropped dead in the arena. She makes her way through the process realistically and with an appropriate level of detail. She has included:
- [B]Freedom[/B] from hunger and thirst.
- [B]Freedom[/B] from discomfort.
- [B]Freedom[/B] from pain, injury and disease.
- [B]Freedom[/B] from distress and fear.
- [B]Freedom[/B] to express natural behavior.
It’s always hard to know when the time is right.
What is your plan for disposal? Some methods won’t be hindered by frozen ground, and depending on just how frozen it is, it might not be a problem for large equipment for burial, either. Just know there are options. My last two have been hauled off to a facility that does composting.
Is he blanketed? Blanketing could help a bit with his weight, since he won’t have to use up so many calories to stay warm. I used to be a skeptic of senior feeds, thinking it was just a more expensive feed, but after switching a senior and seeing the huge difference it made, I am now a believer! That was Triple Crown Senior in that case. I currently have a 25 year old still doing well on what the other horses get, but I will not hesitate to switch her if she seems to need it.
“He is now eating 4.25 pounds of SafeChoice Original twice a day – 8.5 pounds per day – and is dropping weight. When possible, the feed is top dressed with a small amount of oil. He and his companions are thrown as much grass hay as they will clean up, which works out to somewhere around 12 pounds per horse per day.”
A healthy horse needs 1-2% of his body weight in forage per day. Hard keeper? 2% or more. That’s 20# of hay for a healthy 1000# horse.
Grass hay is about 800 calories per pound, so he’s getting say 9600 calories from hay, vs a needed 16,000. I can’t count grazing so this is very approximate obviously. But I hear you that additional hay can’t be done.
The SafeChoice adds calories but it’s only 1431 calories per pound. At 8.5#/day that’s 12,163 calories. (Some feeds are closer to 2,000 calories per pound.)
21,763 calories seems like a lot! Until you factor in age, a body’s diminishing ability to absorb nutrients, and any other stressors that can use calories fast or prevent them being accessed (bad teeth, competition from others, cold weather, wet weather, parasites, pain etc). I had a horse once who needed 40,000 calories just to hold down dirt! So, end of the day your horse just needs more calories going in. Fix the stressors and increase the calories. It’s not exactly that simple (calories from carbs vs fats, protein etc all play a role) but it’s a good place to start.
So, I wouldn’t judge you AT ALL if you decided to put him down - quality of life is more important than length by a long shot. But in case it’s helpful, changing to the highest calorie senior feed you can find (some are designed for senior horses who get too fat, and some are designed for senior horses who are skinny old geezers, but all should be easy to digest), make sure he gets a cup or so of canola oil per feed (adds about 2000 calories per cup) and see if you can increase his weight.
Best of luck. I know it’s terribly hard
SeekingAdvice, I could have written your post. I’m in the same dilemma. We’ll keep on keeping on through the winter as really no choice at this point, but I also wish now that I’d had the courage of my convictions and done it last fall.
Thank you to everyone who posted for your advice and support. I made an appointment with the vet to say goodbye to my old friend. This decision has given me peace and I know it is the right thing for him. I am removing the information about his situation from my posts. I hope you all understand.
@atr I’m so sorry to hear you are also in this situation and am sending good thoughts your way for you and your horse. It is hard