Stable Owner's permission needed when euthanizing a horse

First, I apologize for the length of this post. I’ve owned horses for over 50 years and have always been at boarding stables. Never run into this situation. I’ve been a long time reader and respect the groups opinions.

Some background information: Healthy 17 year old mare presents as suddenly laminitic this past Tuesday… Vet is called, diagnosis confirmed. Blood drawn. Stall side testing indicates infection. X rays show no rotation. Treated with bute, vasodilator and antibiotics, ice baths, soft ride boots. Blood is sent to Cornell for further testing as well as local lab for basic stuff… Stable owner (SO), who currently resides approximately 800 miles away is made aware of the situation and given full access to all medical information.

Vet is there daily as we try to stabilize her condition, but it continues is in extreme pain. X rays confirm the coffin bone has begun to sink. Vet and owner make the heartbreaking decision to do the right thing and euthanize. SO has been kept in the loop all along and is notified by trainer via text of the decision. Owner stays with the horse until her body is removed and after giving myself a brief period of time to compose myself, calls SO directly. Call goes to voice mail. To date, she has never called me back.

Here’s the part where I’m having an issue. SO has called my vet berating her for not getting SO’s permission first before putting the mare down. SO is offsite, has been kept aware of the situation and has absolutely no veterinary training. I’ve never heard of such a thing. Was I supposed to let my horse continue to suffer waiting for her to call back? Any delay would have been inhumane. Our State vet is involved in this due to some of the test results. My reaction to this is to no longer give SO direct access to any information and direct her to go the the State vet.

Did I do anything wrong? I’ve been open and above board with everything. My horse was in horrendous pain, barely able to stand. This was an emergency situation as far as I was concerned. Has the pain of suddenly losing my partner of 9 years made me over sensitive?Is this accepted practice among SOs now?


You did nothing wrong. You 100% did the right thing, and you handled it start to finish.

I’d never ever ever board with SO again if they think they have a say in when it’s the right time to euthanize, and I’d be pretty vocal about this if someone asked me for boarding stable suggestions.


Trust me, I’ll deal with it. Just need a little time and distance. The loss is still to painful and I’m to emotional right now. My trainer has purchased her own property and we are moving within the next few weeks. Just wanted to confirm that I didn’t do anything wrong.


In my opinion the BO has the right to know about the plans for removal of the body since the procedure is taking place on their property, and that’s about it. I absolutely love my BO even though technically, there’s more rules where I board than the average barn. Even then, I’d be completely affronted if their reaction to me euthanizing would be “how dare you not involve me”. Uh…

You did the right thing and I applaud you prioritizing your horse’s dignity and comfort.


I wouldn’t directly deal with it, as the horse world is small. That said, word of mouth is very powerful - and it doesn’t behoove a SO to piss off a vet (which is sounds like they did). If you’re not very good friends with the stable owner, I’d be SEETHING but not say anything directly to them.

I am very good friends with a previous BO, and he and I had a big argument after he implied I did the wrong thing for strongly suggesting euthanasia on a torsional colic. Not my horse, but mare was down, could not stand, vet was there saying there is zero hope of survival - yet BO thought they should sleep on it to decide. The owners asked what I would do. I told them unequivocally I would euthanize, immediately. I then pulled BO off to the side and let him HAVE it about being a steward of the animal - sleep on it? The mare would have been dead in the morning, left to suffer alone through the night.

These choices are very emotional, no doubt. But when an animal is suffering, outside of whatever insurance company implications come into play for euthing (which should be known ahead of time, they should be one of your first calls if a horse is seriously sick etc.), the answer is CLEAR. We owe it to the animals, not a nosy barn owner, to make the humane choice.


Barn Owner here. The stable owner lives how many miles away?

I have requested that a boarder wait to euthanize (more of a voluntary scheduled situation) until I was present because I know she will not be able to handle dealing with the removal of the body. But I live onsite and do not have staff that can handle that (emotionally) either.

But I can’t imagine this situation making any sense - what was his/her reasoning?


This I get. We had someone euth a horse in a stall, that was able to walk. Gah. We didn’t say anything to her, we got the horse out after hours due to needing the tractor/chains and lots of stall and arena fence disassembly. It still wasn’t pretty.

It would have been much easier to have the horse in an open area to start with, but it really wasn’t our choice.

All handling of bodies is done without owner present. If a horse is down and needs euthed on the spot, we send owners away while we move the carcass to the dropoff spot (not fair to have the other boarders have to see/maneuver around the body). We have a “standard” place we leave them for the pickup guy, out of the way but accessible.


OP, you did nothing wrong and please do not let this barn owner stress you any longer.
You did the right thing for your horse.

Just for reference. I have told the barn owner what is going on with my horse when there is a vet thing going on, but I have never given them access to all of the vet documents.

I do agree that if it is a scheduled euthanasia that coordinating with the barn owner is important, so you are not euthanizing at the same time as the weekly up down kid lesson or at a time when they know that the body removal truck will have limited access to the lawn mowing service will be there…
But this is not that type of situation.


You didn’t do anything wrong. The only “rights” I think a BO has in this situation is to be made aware and to have input on the logistics of it - where to do it, how to get the body out, don’t do it during the kids’ lesson times, etc. The vet should have no obligation to speak to them at all.


You did nothing wrong.

On the other hand, where did you get the information that she berated the vet? Second hand from the vet? Do you actually know what BO said? Indeed, should vet be reporting such conversation to you?

The BO was acting out of shock and grief. The BO was also acting very inappropriately and may be a bit disconnected from reality.

However this bad behaviour is really between BO and vet, and perhaps vet should not have burdened you with it.

As you are moving barns anyhow just move on and let it go. I would not discuss with BO.


Since OP is leaving this barn, then just leave. I think this act will speak volumes and you won’t have to re-live the emotional pain of losing your horse and speaking to an unsympathetic BO about it.


I can see the vet asking the OP if this barn had some rule regarding euthanasia and having to explain to the OP why they were asking.

I am not going to blame the vet for that inappropriate outburst. I also think a horse owner should know that their barn owner is being ridiculous to their vet.


OK, yes.

But does OP know exactly what was said, and exactly how loud, extended, and craycray? Was this a true rant, or a 45 second quibble? I agree that it’s ridiculous and good grounds for re evaluating things going forward but also BO is speaking out of shock and grief (less than HO of course) and likely has pervasive underlying anxiety about being an absent owner. BO didn’t say this to the actual HO.

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I still think the BO is very wrong here.

If you as a barn owner can not handle the emotional side of a boarded horse being euthanized then you should not be a barn owner.

If the barn owner was so upset about the euthanasia that they can not control their emotions then they should have waited to discuss their latest weird barn rule with the horse owner, not the vet. They really had no grounds to call the vet at all about the euthanasia. Period. So even if it was as short quibble, it was wrong.

If this barn owner wants to implement a rule that they get the final say on all euthanasia on their property they need to inform the boarders and add it to their boarding contract, not call up the local vets.


Oh no honey, you did not do anything wrong! You did what was best for your horse, period. As far as I am concerned, the only ‘say’ your Stable Owner could have had was not to euth during lessons or advising where to bury horse if needed. If SO is going to require horse owners to get his permission to put a horse down in an emergency situation, that needs to be in the boarding contract so people know up front. I can tell you for sure it would be a HUGE deal breaker for myself and many others I know


The stable owner’s actions could invalidate some insurance conditions as well.


I didn’t think about that TBH.

The stable owner is being an asshat.

It’s already such an incredibly difficult, sensitive, and emotional situation. I mean, the SO doesn’t even need to be given “full access to all medical information” unless it’s outlined in a contract somewhere, or a public health matter. Yes, I do keep my SO in the loop,
since I am doing things on their property and they generally like to know what is going on with horses in their care/on their property, but I don’t give them access to vet records or anything. Usually just give them a briefing of sorts and that suffices. Usually they’re just like, “Ok, do your thing, thanks for telling me.”

For body removal, I would absolutely speak with the SO and SM (stable manager), because again, their property and a horse they cared for, and sometimes they will actually coordinate and/or offer suggestions/resources. If I already had a removal service coming, if inform them, and they’d very likely be ok with that.

I don’t think that you did anything wrong, and I’d simply tell the SO to ask the vet if she wants more info. I’d say because this is a hard time for me and it’d be best to speak directly to the vet, or I’d say I’m rather emotional and if you want exact details, go to the state vet (who will either give them, or not). Most reasonable people would give you space and peace, it’s not as if you put the horse down without reason.

I wouldn’t say that this is an accepted practice, and the horse world, especially the boarding aspect of it, is totally bizarre at times. I really don’t understand it. I don’t know why people have to be so flipping WEIRD. I’ve been fortunate to have good SO’s, for the most part, but some of the stuff I read on here makes me cringe.

I’m so sorry for your loss, OP. I would quietly make my exit from that stable, and as swiftly as possible.


Agreeing with all that the OP was correctly focused on what the horse needed, and BO’s reaction is odd.

The only thing I’d add- we often see posts of people asking what to discuss when selecting a boarding barn. The last time I had to board, one of the questions on my list for my potential BO was how would a euthanasia be managed if needed (on site burial, body removal, access to the farm after hours, etc.). I had an older mare that was in fine condition when we moved in, but you just never know and I didn’t want to be making hard decisions under duress. I understand that people don’t like to talk about end of life decisions, but I would strongly advice that this topic is on the list of things that belong in a boarding contract, or at the very least, a straightforward discussion when you’re moving in.


I am surprised that you would share vet records with an absentee BO. While things may be more murky if a horse is “in a program” with an BO/Trainer, I have never heard of needing a BOs approval for an emergent euthanasia.
With my last, the BO was there, so aware of what was happening, but was not interactive with the vet regarding whether to euth. She did help with the logistics, bless her.