Euthanized my horse today

Today I had my oldest horse euthanized. She was almost 21. Originally, she was my daughter’s horse, but she quickly became mine after college and the reality of horse ownership set in.

She’s always been a very high strung mare. No amount of riding or training had fundamentally changed that over the 18 years we owned her.

Four months ago, I retired her from riding because I didn’t want to hurt myself, and I wanted to focus on my other horses. Since then, she has lost some weight, and her anxiety only got worse. My older mare had a long history of spooking, spinning, and other such unnerving behaviours. We tried everything with her, nothing worked for very long.

Her teeth were floated once a year, fecal samples were analyzed three or four times a year, and anything else that was a concern was always addressed by equine vets where no expense was spared.

She did fracture her shoulder six years ago from a collision with another horse that I witnessed, and the vet indicated a high probability of arthritis developing later in life. She never showed symptoms of lameness or pain, although she developed Sweeney from resulting nerve damage.

Unfortunately, I had to move my horses more than I would have liked in the last nine years (4 times) because of property sales, bad fits, and barn owners getting seriously injured. She would get incredibly stressed from the moves. Not my other horses though. I’ve had three other horses to compare her to, and she is absolutely very high strung compared to them, even with same environment and handling…

I’ve been raised to believe that issues are always the rider, never the horse, and to suck it up. Looking back, I think that honestly, this horse just had mental health/brain chemistry issues. I’ve known her for her whole life, My daughter backed her when she was 3 and a half after 4 months of ground work. So I’m pretty convinced her issues are not related to trauma she may have suffered…

This mare was healthy in a physical sense, but her anxiety was becoming much harder to manage. I’m not sure if she had dementia per se, but she seemed to have had some type of neurological issue (as far as I can tell). She started to pick fights with one of my horses who she was turned out with. I started to worry about serious injury to either one of them. I say that because when she would get anxious, she could lose it to the point where it seemed that “no one was home” up there, just crickets.

So last week, I separated them, and today, she was euthanized. It went well. No undue trauma from what I could tell. She is buried on the property, and finally resting in peace.

I am feeling incredibly guilty. I’m wondering if others have experience with euthanizing an older horse because of mental health issues.

I came across one blog piece that brought up important points that really resonated with my recent experience. Specially, I was worried about rehoming her. I didn’t want to pass the buck, possibly harming her, other people, or animals. I also worried about how she would handle the stress of another move. I’m not impressed with the few “retirement” facilities I’ve seen. Lastly, I was worried about leaving the decision for too long, and serious injury being the result…

I’m feeling incredibly guilty. Euthanasia is never easy. I’m wondering about other peoples experiences with older horses, with what I can only describe, as having mental health issues that have gotten more serious with age.

Thank you in advance. To clarify, I don’t regret my decision, but being convinced that it was the right thing to do doesn’t make it any easier. Any insights would be greatly appreciated.


I’m so sorry for your loss. You chose the most responsible option, even though it wasn’t easy to do and did right by your mare. She couldn’t have been happy with anxiety like she had. There is no shame in letting her go. Big hugs to you :heart:


It’s about quality of life. You did the best you could for her.


I’m so sorry. Please don’t feel guilty—when they are feeling bad from something that can’t be fixed it’s the ultimate kindness to them.

It’s a platitude, but horses don’t think that tomorrow might be better. They only know that things are bad today.


Try to untie that bowknot of guilt in your chest. You and your family did right by this mare for years and years. And you did right by her with this decision.


I am so sorry for your loss.


No, knowing you did the pragmatic, correct decision for quality of life does NOT make euthanizing any animal easier. No matter the species, there are behavioral issues that deeply affect QOL and physical health. I have made a similar decision in the past and I still know it was the right thing to do. Unfortunately the feeling of guilt has lessened only a little with time. I can’t say anything that will make it ‘better’ but I do believe that if and when I lose ‘that sense of guilt’ it means I no longer care…and if that is the case I must recognize that I can no longer manage the responsibilities of stewardship. I’m sorry for the loss and need to make such a decision; but, I also respect your fortitude and commitment to do what was right.


You did what you could for her. No guilt.
There is a great Facebook group Losing Lulu for people who have done behavioural euthanasia. Lots of dogs but also horses and other animals. This is not your fault. I’m glad she’s at peace now.


It’s a kindness to not let them suffer. I’ve made the same decisions. hugs and know she is at peace.


You did right, OP.

You should look into EDM. She sounds like she could have been a candidate for it. A lot like my horse that had it, especially the “nobody’s home” aspect and worsening with time. There is no cure and it will reassure you that you made a good decision.


Big hugs for you, I am so sorry for your loss and your guilty feelings. You did everything you could for her for a very long time and you never put her in harms way. I wish all horse owners were like you. As far as euthanizing for mental health or dementia, both of those things are just as much of a quality of life issue as any physical problem. I put my heart dog down because of mental health/dementia issues at age 17 and I’ve always regretted I didn’t do it sooner. She was in amazingly good physical health, but very anxious and unhappy for the last year. You absolutely did the right thing.


You did the mare, and everyone who cared for her, a kindness. Please read and re-read all these responses, because they are telling you the truth. You did the right thing. Sending you thoughts of peace.


You totally did right by your horse. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. You have her the gift of quality of life vs quantity.

Give yourself time to grieve and big hugs.


I firmly believe that animals have souls, and you did the right thing in releasing the soul of your horse out of a body that was causing problems for her.

Huggs to you, I know it’s hard.


Thank you for doing right by your horse. And yes, some are “just like that.” It wasn’t you.


Please be kind to yourself.

Allow yourself to grieve.


You have experienced a loss. You had her for nearly 2 decades and she was a major part of your family. You did right by her. Its better a week to soon than a day too late.

I too have felt guilty about putting down a companion that suffered dementia. Its hard because their bodies are good, they are physically healthly. The mental decline is difficult since we can’t “see it” which helps us justify our reasonings to PTS.

We are here to support you.


Very sorry for your loss.

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I had to put my mare down after she started developing neuro symptoms. I never knew exactly what was causing them, but the worst part was that she would have these episodes usually as a reaction to something I was doing with or around her at the time. She then became fearful of me because she associated me with whatever was happening to her, even though I wasn’t actively doing anything. Talk about guilt! The episodes were happening more frequently, so I knew whatever was wrong was progressing rapidly. The day before she was set to be released, she stood with her head hanging in the corner of the stall after eating her breakfast. She just looked so miserable. I knew then I had absolutely made the right decision to let her go. Didn’t make it any easier to say goodbye though.

ETA - it was my Reba, the gorgeous girl in my avatar.


A “Sweeney” has been used for many decades to describe a number of degenerative shoulder issues, all caused by trauma, painful and chronic. I had one years back, sold her with disclosure as a brood mare. Buyer got 3 nice colts from her but put her down after all attempts to deal with increasing pain failed about 5 years after I sold her. Think she was 9. Still got around well enough but in far more pain then was visible.

It’s was inevitable and not your fault, nothing you could have done to prevent it, correct it or manage it. You did the the RIGHT thing releasing her.


Please do not feel guilty. Humans,dogs and horses can all be born with mental health issues. Ask your vet. You did all you could, so let it go and enjoy your other horses.

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