I can no longer afford my older horse due to injury and job loss

Hello, I’m new!
I am not sure if this is the right spot to ask this question but here it goes…

Background on my horse.
I have had my horse for 22 years now. He is currently over 30 and has enough mild lameness that he shouldn’t be ridden.

He also has some attitude issues from being proud cut so he has never in his whole life been turned out with another horse. And I don’t think it would be safe.

I was in a car accident 8 years ago and can no longer ride anyway. I’m at risk for ‘internal decapitation’. I’m also a full time wheelchair user and my current barn isn’t accessible to me at all. So I can’t even go see him anymore.
(Previously he was a dressage horse if that matters)

I have been paying his board all these years and it’s far more money than I make off disability and it has been quite a hardship for the last 8 years. Leaving me with issues getting food and meds. But I love my boy.

My husband just lost his job and I lost all access to my meds that have kept me from being in so much pain I want to die.

So now at this point I can no longer afford to keep my horse. It’s not possible.

But I have NO idea what to do with him.

I can’t sell/lease a 30 year old unridable horse.
He can’t be given to a rescue that would need to turn him out with other horses. I think he might try to kill the other horses or at least injure them or himself.

He wouldn’t be suitable for a therapeutic riding center as he is too old and too lame for what they require.

I don’t really want to put him down. He is not ‘that’ lame. Nor do I think a vet would put down a basically heathy horse for no reason. Don’t they have a ‘do no harm’ clause?

I have loved this horse for more than 20 years but I’m in a bad way here and I can’t think of what other options are out there.

I do NOT want him to suffer or get sent to a feed lot. That would be horrific.

Im really scared and upset and I don’t know what to do. I did promise this horse that I would never sell him and would keep him until he died. He had a very hard life before me.

Is there anything that I’m missing or haven’t thought of yet as an option?

Please be gentle I’m really terrified.

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30 year old horse with some level of every day pain would absolutely be a euth candidate for my vet. Horses don’t think about tomm the pain will only get worse in time. I’m so sorry you’re going through this but a peaceful passing would be what I would opt for. I’m surprised your barn is 100% not accessible to you can someone bring him in so you can spend some time with him? When is the last time you’ve seen him? he might be a bit worse than you think which would make the decision easier.

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I would hate the thought that any vet would refuse to euthanize in this situation. It’s a no brainer for me, if circumstances change so we can’t offer a good life, then we owe our animals a good death. There is nothing in this situation that says any other option would work, sadly. Well apart from finding a good stockman or hunter with the ability and willingness to shoot him.

When we have done our best, and all options are closed, we choose the tough one.

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He is in very mild pain. Perfectly comfortable lounging around. I wouldn’t RIDE him. But he is really fine to just nibble grass and hang out.

I mean I am in horrific pain and it would be gnarly to have someone suggest that I should be euthanized!

At what level of pain would a vet agree to euthanize. Mine has never ever brought it up!!!
And how horrible would I feel euthanizing a perfectly fine retired horse?

I haven’t seen him in at least 3+ years now.

He is boarded at a woman’s home who also boards other horses. It’s absolute luxury. She is giving me board more than half off since my accident but it’s still too much. There are no other places less in my area. She pretty much takes care of him for me.

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Do they have to agree to euthanize any horse regardless of its condition? If he isn’t ridden (which he hasn’t been in 8 years) and is comfortable will they still euthanize a horse that is basically fine?

I am sure is he was ridden he would probably be in pain. But since he is not ridden and just hangs out I am sure he pain levels are very low.

Maybe I should see if I can get ahold of my vet on Monday and talk to her??? This would be so heartbreaking…

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A 30+ year old horse with at least enough pain to be unrideable would absolutely be a euth candidate for my vet.

Think of it this way. You have protected him for years. You have cared for him to the point he has lived to this ripe old age. You will continue to protect him by giving him a comfortable, painless, dignified exit and not selling him to a very uncertain future as you’ve stated yourself, there’s no kind market for a horse of that age and circumstance. At his age, some sort of event or pain is an inevitability in the next few years and as the saying goes…better a day too soon than a moment too late.

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I’m a DVM and would absolutely think that euthanasia was a reasonable option for this horse in these circumstances.

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You haven’t seen your horse in some time due to your own heartbreaking issues. First, I would have a conversation with the barn owner. Your horse’s pain-related issues, temperament, and mobility in the eyes of an objective observer who sees him daily might be different than you realize.

30 years for a full-sized horse is a long, long life.

My heart goes out to your unrelieved pain and I hope you find some relief. Given your situation, I am sure you can find a compassionate vet to help you.

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You’re a human he’s a horse you can’t compare the two. He’s thinking about today directly what’s in front of him you’re not.

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At 30 your horse is the human equivalent of 90. He’s lived a full horse life. If he’s got multiple issues physical and behavioral then it’s fine to let him go.

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I echo what others are saying, euthanasia would be a very kind and dignified thing to give him. He will have lived a full and fortunate life without suffering a traumatic death or rehoming situation. He will not know he is being presented with euthanasia, he will merely feel sedate and quietly go to sleep. That is a wonderful thing to give your horse. I think your vet would agree. I’m terribly sorry you are in the situation you are in. I hope your situation and health improve.

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Here’s the difference between people and horses.

People have a whole scope of emotional and intellectual life in the mind that exists beyond what the body is doing. A person can have significant physical disability and still have a rewarding creative, emotional, intellectual life.

Horses are totally embodied. What they know, they know through their bodies. When their bodies start to fail, they start to fade. When they can’t move much other body processes start to fail.

We go to heroic lengths to keep people alive when their bodies fail because a person is so much more than their body. But a horse is his body and it is ok to let him go when the body is failing. In the wild he would have been eaten by a cougar years ago.

I can totally see how you feel an equivalence between you and the horse, both physically limited. It’s very very hard to put down an old horse who is in decline, especially when we have any regrets or guilt or wishful thoughts things could have gone differently.

With horses, the adage “rather a day too soon than a day too late” is worth keeping in mind. A day too late is when your horse goes down in the back pasture under the trees in an ice storm and it takes a while crew of men to haul him out.

I had an old mare on pasture that I put down at 29. She was my childhood horse and I always thought I would settle down and ride her again, but life overseas travel jobs grad school in another country all got in the way. I took the advice of the good old cowboy who was looking after her, she was totally stiff behind and blind in one eye, and I agreed she wouldn’t make it through a winter. The vet who attended said “well, I’m certainly not going to try to make you change your mind.” I did step outside and not watch the actual injection.

I gave her a long retirement in small herds under the care of the kind of good horseman older cowboys who knew what was serious and what wasn’t, could do pasture trims, and thought I was an idiot city slicker absentee owner :).

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Ok, well I do see everyone’s point here.

I was hoping for another alternative that wouldn’t involve death!!!

But it really doesn’t sound like there are any.

If I had all the money in the world I would do whatever I could to keep him happy and comfortable.

I have seen others, with money, do everything in their power to keep them going and comfortable. And I wanted to be that person. I so desperately wanted to be that person.

I’ll call my vet on Monday. And I suppose I will have to contact the barn owner.

I haven’t been able to speak to her for a couple years because last time I was there she shamed me hard for being a bad horse owner. It was devastating.

Before my accident I did everything he ever needed. But after there was no money left. She shamed me for not paying for a very expensive horse dentist (like I used to) but I haven’t been able to afford a dentist in 15 years. I told her I couldn’t do it anymore.

She hates me now. So I find it hard to communicate with her other than to repeatedly thank her for watching out for my boy and giving me half off board.

Honestly I do feel like a horrible person. After 40 years in the horse industry I never thought it would end like this.

I want to thank you for your suggestions and and help. I didn’t have anyone else to ask who understood horses in the way you all do.

I’m heartbroken.

But I really appreciate the advice.
Thank you so much.

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I’m so sorry you find yourself in this situation. It can be heart-wrenching, the choices we need to make in our lives.

In your case, I think the choice is fairly clear. He is lame - pasture sound, from what you say, but still lame. He’s 30. The time is coming when he will start to lose weight, start to get more lame, more arthritic. If you haven’t seen him in 3 years, as you say, you may find that he is not the horse you remember.

It sounds like he’s had a great life with you, as you know how to manage him and his health. But now it sounds like it’s time to let him go.

I know you want to keep him going, but at 30, those days are numbered anyway. I have a 30 year old mare who is getting a little arthritis, but who has begun to lose weight, to the point that I believe I will need to put her down before winter. It’s hard, because she’s otherwise happy bopping around the pasture with her buddies, but in my heart, I know that if she can’t keep weight on now, she definitely can’t this winter.

Many of us here have had horses euthanized, and we can walk you through the process if you want. It really is a quiet and peaceful end. If your husband can attend with the vet, that might be best, given what you said about the barn owner. Then you’ll have someone there you can trust.

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All the money in the world can’t stop time from ticking.

Even if the horse didn’t have issues, which is just about impossible at 30, I would still very strongly consider euthanasia at this point. Even with all the money in the world. A dignified ending is one of the absolute best things any one could receive. If only we could all be so lucky. No one lives forever but we as horse people can give our beloved animals dignity in their final moments. A well deserved, pain free transition. please don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge everything you’ve done for this horse and everything you will still continue to do. Anyone that cares for another being for 20 plus years deserves that acknowledgment.

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One thing that has happened a couple times already is that he has gotten a little cough or some small illness that required a large vet bill each time.

I have been assuming that as he gets even older he will have more and more illnesses that I now won’t be able to afford to treat.

He has been a healthy dude his whole life but it looks like that isn’t going to last forever.

I really can’t tell you all how helpful this has been. I didn’t have anyone to ask and I’m a total stranger to you and I really appreciate this advice.

Even though I have been in this industry for 40 years I have never owned an elderly horse and been in this position!

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For your own peace of mind I would find some way to see him. If you have not seen him in 3 years, he may be worse than you remember. Or, he may not even be there at all. If there has not been much communication your BO may have assumed you no longer want him even though that’s not the case.

As they get older they can decline rapidly and one year when your horse is 24 is not the same as one year when your horse is 5. Seeing him may help you come to peace with this decision if you choose it.

In your situation, I would pick a sunny day and make the appointment. No vet would judge you for your decision. I’m sorry you are in this position and wish you and your boy the best.

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Yea for SURE!!!

Alllll of my stuff is still there as well.

She sent me a pic of him in November and he looked quite good still. I mean much thinner, no muscle from not being ridden in 8 years. But shiny and happy looking. That was 10 months ago.

I will talk to the vet and see what she says. If she’s willing. How much it will cost. Disposal (grossest word I could think of right now) and such.

Then I will try and send an email to the barn owner and let her know what’s going on.

Then go visit as much as I can between now and then. Maybe end of September? And then start having help collecting all my stuff.

And then try not to cry nonstop for the next whole year. Uggggggg. This is horrible. I’m so heartbroken.

Again, thanks for the support everyone. It’s meaningful to me. This was him in his prime. Chase.

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I’m so sorry you are going through this.

If I approached my vet from a wheelchair and advised my spouse had lost his job and I had an elderly, retired horse that I couldn’t afford to care for any longer … I’m confident my vet would agree that euthanasia was the only humane choice.

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