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When The Horrible Happens - Putting A Horse Down
 By mosquito   •   21st Aug 2011   •   8,171 views   •   26 comments
Sometimes we have to make tough decisions as horse owners. A horse we love may get old, sick, or injured, and we have to face the difficult question of whether his quality of life is fair to him, or whether it is time to call it a day and gently put our ailing horse down. If a horse has a sudden, drastic injury, you may not have any choice. The tougher times are when a horse is gradually deteriorating with advanced age, a severe illness or congenital disease, or has a serious injury that just won’t get better. Facing the decision to put a horse down is the toughest thing a horse owner will ever have to do, but here are a few things to keep in mind if you are ever in that place.

1.

 

Don’t put your feelings onto your horse


Putting a horse downOnce you have made the decision to put your horse down, be confident about it. You see the world in a different way from your horse. He isn’t dreaming about seeing his kids graduate from college, get married, and have his grandkids. He isn’t thinking about his ‘bucket list’ and all the things he wished he’d done. He’s thinking about pain, discomfort, exhaustion. All too often we think our animals feel the same fears of death as we do as people, and for injured or old animals, that just isn’t the case. We often feel guilty, but that’s because we think we’ve taken away some opportunity for our animals – opportunities they don’t even know about. Animals are more concerned with the present than the future – and if right now is misery for your horse, and getting better isn’t going to happen or is going to take an intolerably long time, then you have made the right decision.

2.

 

Don’t face it alone


Involve those you trust in your decision, so the burden isn’t all on you. Your vet is the main source of realistic advice. They’ll advise you on any treatment options and what those would mean for your horse, and on how much discomfort your horse is in. Then turn to close friends and family that you trust to be honest with you. They’ll help you with the decision, and they are the ones you’ll turn to for support whether you decide to persevere with your horse or to put him down. Ultimately your horse’s future is your decision, but you don’t need to make it alone. Start with frank and open conversations with your vet, your trainer or instructor, and with people you trust to be open and honest with you.

3.

 

Research your options


Your vet will be able to tell you about your options for putting your horse down, and what they involve. Your region, country or state may have specific regulations you need to follow, and your vet can advise you of those. You and your vet can discuss how, when and where to put your horse down, and what options will be least stressful and most comfortable for you and your horse. You know your horse best, and you can work with your vet to find the best time and place for your horse’s final moments. The more you understand about the process, the less difficult it will be for you.

4.

 

Let it out


Your horse is a special friend, and this is a hard decision to make, and even harder to follow through. Don’t try and be tough; go ahead and cry if you need to. I’ve had to put a few horses down over the years, and it doesn’t get any easier – even horses I frankly didn’t like that much still left me a sobbing wreck. If you don’t want to be there at the time – and you don’t have to, so don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to – it’s still okay to come in afterward and sit with your horse for a while, and cry if you want. Be open with others about what you want. If you want a close friend or family member with you, say so, and if you want to be alone, then make that crystal clear. Putting your horse down will be far harder on you than anyone else – even your horse – so remember you need special care too. Whatever you want goes, and don’t be afraid or ashamed of being irritable or emotional.

5.

 

Remember, but move on


For all the horses close to me that I’ve lost, I’ve kept pictures framed in the house. At first, remembering your special friend will be hard, but soon you’ll be able to look at the pictures and smile and remember the good times you had. Make an album or a scrapbook about your horse; it will help you focus on the good times and work through your emotions. If you have other horses then spend some extra time with them, or if you don’t, think about getting a new horse. It may be tough at first, but nothing speeds up the grieving process like a new horse. If it wasn’t your horse, but a favorite horse at your riding school, then open your heart to the next favorite – a new horse will be looking to move into that special place in your heart and you will feel better once you let him in!

Putting a horse down is never easy, and it really hurts. Trust me, the pain and sadness you feel after your horse is gone does get better with time. In the meantime, trust in yourself that you have done the right thing for your horse, and let yourself run through your emotions. It’s okay to be sad, tearful, or even angry and irritable for a while. It’s all normal. With time, you’ll feel better, you’ll be able to remember your horse without tears, and you’ll start new friendships with new horses that will be just as special!
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