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struggling with stringhalt- endpoint?

I’m struggling to make the ‘right’ decision regarding my older horse with stringhalt. I usually lurk, but after searching through all the euthanasia threads I feel like each situation is so unique that I’d give posting a try. Its long- I’m sorry.

I own 2 older horses- a leftover from when my parents owned land and I was an active Pony Clubber. I’m not a horse person anymore, but I’m trying to keep my old guys comfortable in their retirement. One is a 23yo who developed severe stringhalt in 2008 (I’ve owned him since 1999). We had the tenectomy done, but it had almost no impact, and he has been only pasture sound since. His stringhalt is extreme- he kicks his belly with every step, ends up hopping every 3-4 steps b/c the leg won’t go down, and is affected at all gaits (though not quite so bad at trot/canter- his leg at least goes down regularly at the faster gaits). Mud and rainy conditions are harder on him and he stands in one spot more then. I had been saying I’d ‘wait til another leg went’ since he is operating on 3 good legs, but now I’m questioning if that is actually a kind endpoint for him. I don’t know if its humane to wait until he is unable to get up because he only has 2 working legs.

My current boarding situation is not an option after the summer, and it was pointed out to me that the best option for him might be euthanasia. He currently seems pasture sound, but his gait is so off (his stringhalt affects all gaits) that I can’t tell if there are any other lameness issues going on. He had hock and undiagnosed front-end issues before the stringhalt, now constantly has bog spavins on both hind legs and his front left is showing signs of wear (constantly stocked up, new splints showing up monthly). I’m worried about trailering him since he can’t always put his leg down when he wants to. I’m worried about putting him in a new herd. I’m honestly worried now about how humane it is to wait until a 2nd leg has a massive issue- is it right to wait until something happens and he literally can’t stand? Outside of the stringhalt, he is pretty healthy (other than being old and needing tons of grain to keep weight).

And as horrible as it is, there is also a financial aspect to this. I was getting an amazing deal at my current barn, and boarding him (+other horse) at equal care will cost at least twice what I’d been paying. Finding that $ in the budget is incredibly difficult. If it were just finding him a pasture to chill out in, that might be different, but he has never been an easy keeper and needs a lot of grain.

I’ve been hunting for board options that I can afford- getting the same level of care will be an extreme financial strain (and current level of care is a safe pasture and lots and lots of grain). Rehoming isn’t an option- if I can’t care for my lame, elderly pet, why would anyone else? I’ve looked for the ‘quiet companion horse’ homes and there just aren’t any here.

So, end point of this long story: What is a reasonable endpoint for a horse with severe stringhalt when you don’t have a back pasture to retire them to? I don’t want to be the ‘convenient euthanizer’, but is that what this would be?

I tried working through on my own, but apparently I can cry buckets and still not make a decision. I’m hearing conflicting viewpoints in the real world, so despite my general fear of flames, I wanted to see what the COTH community would do in this situation. If you read through to the end, thank you for taking the time.

I would not even hesitate to euth with stringhalt that bad. He is 23 so certainly has enjoyed a long life as well! I’d spoil him rotten a few days and know you’ve absolutely done the right thing. Hope that helps, but even if $ was not an issue I would choose euthanizing over trying to move him, etc.

I’ve read that if there’s dandelion in the pasture that can contribute and make it worse?? Perhaps moving him to a different pasture/retirement situation

ladipus- Unfortunately he has moved a couple times (before the stringhalt was as bad). We were in Iowa when he developed stringhalt, then moved to Texas, then from one facility to another. Now his stringhalt is more severe, so I think his was some injury onset stringhalt, not the Australian/weed related stringhalt :(.

Thank you- it helps. Its a hard decision and I’m afraid to make the wrong choice.

In your situation I wouldn’t hesitate to euthanize. Moving is tough on any horse, being introduced to a new herd can be stressful, especially if they aren’t quite as quick or agile as the others.

I was in a similar situation about 10 years ago, however it was with a 9yo who had mild shivers. At that point he was still young and riding sound so I didn’t feel euthanasia was fair, but I felt awful giving him away.

I euthanized two on the same day. Both were 23. One had nerve damage in the shoulder and fell down easily. The other had a horrendous colic. The vet found a large tumor in his rectum. He survived that day but I did not want to put him through another colic episode. The other horse was a very stoic, proud animal. I did not want to wait until he fell down again this time unable to get up.

I had my own place but still felt it was kinder to put them down.

I also wouldn’t hesitate in these circumstances.

There is no shame in putting a horse down for many reasons, including economic ones. Do not apologize for Euth-ing the horse. It is better than when people give away or discard old or sick horses. You’ve done as much as you can for him. Money is one of many considerations in keeping a horse. I would much rather Euth a horse than give him away or sell him. There are worst things that a peaceful death. Pay the extra to have the horse tranquilized before he gets the Euthanol.

We here on Coth have collected money to have horses rehomed and to Euth horses. It’s a matter for what is best for the horse and what is best for the owner. We’ve been criticized for doing both, but we all do it for the best for the horse.

Put him down if you cannot afford to keep him at a full care, more expensive barn.

Agreed with everyone else…sounds like he’s not terribly comfortable and it’s absolutely okay to spoil him rotten and let him go.

You don’t need to hear me try to put it in my own words, I echo the folks here. Revolver said it - begin to think about his last days, and plan a nice day with him first. It will be much better for him to experience this beautiful weather, green grass, some nice treats, peaceful tim with you then struggle more and more into the winter. This is a good time to let him go, and plan to help him out of this body. Good luck, and we’ll all be here for you.

Thanks everyone. I am pretty heartbroken about having to make this choice, but appreciate getting viewpoints from impartial horse owners. I know euthanasia shouldn’t be an easy decision, but reaching this decision really stinks.

I’m sorry for every horse owner and every horse that comes to this point. In my life, I’ve had to euthanize seven horses. It’s sad every time, but I didn’t feel I had any other choices that were good for the horse. I felt relief every time too–the horse didn’t have to suffer any longer, and I didn’t have to worry anymore about what to I could do to make that too old/too sick/too weak horse young and sound again.