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KS Spin-off - what DO you do with the young, unsound horse?

ETA hypothetical question here - I have a KS horse but he’s stuck with me trying to “fix” him.

Another poster brought this up in one of the KS threads and I thought it deserved its own discussion, especially in today’s economy. What do you(g) do with a young, unrideable but seemingly pasture sound horse? Especially if the economy and modern environment has taken you from a two horse household down to one?

Keeping horses at home or in the neighbor’s yard is becoming less and less viable for most of the population - and if Poofy’s story is anything to go by, you often cannot trust just ANY retirement farm. Additionally, rarely can you ethically rehome these horses - they look very sound in turnout and might tolerate some light riding (until they don’t). Do you sell the going horse and give up riding for however long the lame one is around? Do you attempt to rehome the lame horse as a companion on a free lease (how many of these homes exist?)? Do you throw ridiculous amounts of money at surgeries and therapies to try to get the horse useable for a low level job, only to be stuck with a horse no one would buy or lease anyway due to its history?

Alternatively, do you consider euthing a “sound” pasture pet in order to keep them from a worse fate and pursue your goals? While I think people might understand euthing a “permanently lame” horse, I know in my area you’d be ASKING to be flamed on social or blacklisted if you immediately went shopping for a new horse, or showing with your second horse. Especially if the horse wasn’t actively lame. I think most of COTH wouldn’t judge someone (and even support them), but the larger population of horse people certainly would.

So, what DOES one do, hypothetically? We talk about people being priced out of competition and horses in general, but what about the one horse ammy? The one who has done everything to try to make it work with the horse they have? Are there options out there for these horses - mares sometimes can find recip homes, but what about the geldings?


Sadly, this is what I always tell first time horse buyers: Have an exit strategy!

There is no good answer if you can’t keep a pasture sound horse at home.


In my world, you suck it up and pay to care for a horse that can’t be ridden. But failing that, you either free lease the horse to make sure he continues to be well cared for, or you euthanize him. Sending a chronically lame horse out into the world by itself is cruel.


Interestingly, I just had a similar discussion with vet on Friday.

From a different angle though. There is a very fine line between “pasture sound and light riding” and “the horse isn’t actually pasture sound”. The line shifts with a lot of factors. It’s not a hard line. It’s just hard to see sometimes.

Otoh, while I’m not about to blast anyone, I do think the system of the one horse amateur is … questionable. Every single horse will need retirement one day. So what’s the plan? The retirees always get shuffled off to make room for a new riding horse? I might get flamed for that but I think it’s a fair take.


It’s a fair question - but I think it’s the lame young horse that is the hard part. 6-7-8 years old, and not technically rideable? That’s a loooooong retirement, and these spinal issues like KS have some explosive behaviors often associated with them (vs the creaky old campaigner).


A lot of us learned this the hard way very early on. My first horse, who I was supporting myself as a teenager, became chronically lame with navicular syndrome a couple of years after I bought him. But no one had educated me to the hard facts of horse ownership. My parents had no idea, and there was no place for me to keep him at home. This was a life-long trauma for me.


Right, but what IS the exit strategy?

Only lease so you don’t have to worry about these things? (How many people can afford such leases, if their budget was say, $10k saved up out of what is now the “board” budget?) How many leases are out there, for the local Pony Club/C show person? Or the trail ride and hackabout person?


I agree with your statement.

However, I think the trend is for horses to not be retired out to the “care lease” homes until their ailments are far more advanced (compared to say a decade ago), the number of people willing and able to take on a “companion only” horse has shrunk, and of those available homes the people are more interested in owning the horse (bc who wants to argue with the absentee “owner” over when is it “time”).


Preface that I am an adult ammy who can only afford one horse. I had a young (was 11? when lameness cropped up, a few years later when fully retired but honestly was never super comfortable even in those years in between), unrideable but without question pasture sound horse. I tried all I could afford to keep the horse in work comfortably. We (the vet, trainer, multiple farriers, body workers, consults with two major vet hospitals, etc.) did not succeed in keeping him riding sound.

I tried to find a home with a friend or friend of a friend unsuccessfully, as I just wasn’t comfortable going to someone I didn’t directly know. Horses brain did not handle the “ride a couple times a year at a walking trail ride” types so I could not find a free lease type home that way. Horse is retired at a retirement barn and I check on said horse regularly. It was not fair to the horse, in my opinion, to be euthed simply because I could not afford two horses and still wanted to ride.

I will have him until he is no longer comfortable and needs to be put down. I budget HARD and have had to catch ride/take on free/low cost (sometimes changing barns) half leases for many years now. It is not enjoyable, but the horse gets to live out its life and I still manage to ride. Are my riding goals compromised? Yes. But I was never comfortable with putting down an animal who didn’t know of my goals and my dreams just because I could not afford two.

I know other adult ammys who have been in a similar situation and have put their horse down. Euth is a better option than letting them end up in the wrong hands, in my opinon.


Yes the hard part is definitely swallowing the fact that the young horse with a condition that may deteriorate and may cause dangerous and expensive behaviors needs to to stay on your (g) bill or be PTS.

ETA: I intended to type dangerous and explosive behaviors but I guess expensive works too


Absolutely. It’s hard to fund a “useless” horse for years on end and it’s also hard to PTS a horse. Two hard choices. I’m not promoting one over the other, but people need to be prepared to make a choice.


My answer?

Euthanize. That may be a hard thing to do when you’re looking at a beautiful horse that seems to be ok in the moment, but there is no “up” for them. There is no recovery. There’s no hope.


Leasing is the only affordable option. Or getting good enough to ride and train other people’s horses.

Some people move to a region where they can purchase or rent their own farm to be able to keep retired horses.


We didn’t have to relocate. But we made choices (and had a bit of luck) so that we were able to purchase a wee farmette. I recall saying to Mr LS when we first began discussing the possibility of buying a farm: 1. Board is only increasing in price 2. My horse (homebred and with me until the end of his days) doesn’t like the standard of care at most board barns 3. Horse will need to retire one day and I would like to try and ride until I’m too old / cripple to do so therefore footing the bill for two or more horses is already a certainty. So here we are.


I agree that selling the horse on is inadvisable. I also think that giving up 20 years of goals and money shouldn’t be required of anyone if that is not their choice.

I’m curious about donating horses to vet schools - obviously they will ultimately euth, but is this even an option? It is the same outcome, but education for future vets might be a valid “use” for an animal that doesn’t know about tomorrow. I have no clue if this is an option or what the cons might be.


Same. We humans tend to project our ‘human-ness’ on our animals and forget that animals do not think like we do. They only know the here and now.
And honestly, if everybody would quit trying to ‘pass around’ these types, there’d be a LOT less horses at low end auctions, kill pens, etc. Which would solve another ‘soft heart’ problem, not to mention financial.
There are just not enough resources of any kind to ‘save them all’.


I know for a fact it used to be an option. I am unsure if it still is. A call to your ag school should provide answers fairly easily.

The con was uncertainty.

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I’ll share a personal story. I had a lovely 10 y/o APHA mare. I bought as a yearling, started her myself, etc. She was the best horse ever. She developed navicular. I was not able to keep her sound (or safe) enough for even light riding. I board. At the time our family was young and we were a one income household. Everything we tried therapeutically did nothing and basically was nickel-and-diming me to death. In the best interests of our household, I opted to PTS. I cried. I still cry over it. In the years that followed I have to the best of my ability pulled out all the stops to fix/help/manage whatever lameness issues I’ve come up against. I think it is why I persist in struggling with the current horse I have. She’s got KS, developed as a result of hind-end issues (SI,NPA, etc). For the money and time I’ve invested in this horse, I could have bought or developed a much sounder animal. But she has my heart, and for all the times I “couldn’t”, this time, I “do”. It will get to a point where I just can’t, or shouldn’t, anymore, not if I want to continue riding, and I do. I can’t afford 2 horses as a boarder.
All that said, at some point I will have to have the PTS conversation with my vet. I will absolutely not pass this mare on.


This is my “full stop” with the questionable soundness.

Yes, the horse maybe could go on to a less demanding career. But barring a known, bulletproof home for the horse, the risk of them ending up in a bad spot is not something I can stomach. I want to know for a fact they were treated fairly till the end.


I just want to point out, for anyone who might consider this option, that a lot of recip mares end up dumped at low end auctions (like Bowie) once they are no longer useful. So, if you’re considering that route and it matters to you, find out if the farm has a disposal method that aligns with your ethics first. Same with donating horses to other programs (therapy programs, vet schools); always read the fine print on what happens to the horse when they are done with it.

Sometimes it is kinder in the long run to just euthanize up front.