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When The Horrible Happens - Putting A Horse Down
 By mosquito   •   21st Aug 2011   •   8,908 views   •   25 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.



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.



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.



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.



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.



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!
Horse News More In This Category:  Care and Grooming      Horse News More From This Author:  mosquito
Beautiful article, mosquito. I had to put my first pony down a few days ago due to a sudden spinal cord injury, and you're right- the most important thing to consider is not your distress, but the justice you're doing your horse by ending his misery.
After years of faithful service, it's the final act of kindness we owe our friends.
  Jan 26, 2013  •  4,441 views
Mrs West Malik  
this would be such an awful decision to make
  Apr 4, 2012  •  4,279 views
Sapphire Flames  
Awesome article. Putting a horse down is really hard. But sometimes, unfortunately, it's necessary.
  Mar 30, 2012  •  4,247 views
Mrs West Malik  
aw:'( im so glad i have had to make this descion yet.
  Sep 18, 2011  •  4,262 views
I don't ever want to think about putting down my horse :/ But it's better then letting them be in pain.
  Sep 8, 2011  •  4,259 views
Phyxius  MOD 
Very helpful and well written
  Sep 3, 2011  •  4,418 views
Thank you, this is a very positive, and helpful article.=)
  Sep 3, 2011  •  4,440 views
very nice article
  Sep 2, 2011  •  4,248 views
Dunns DragonFly Stable   online
My horse is only 12, but still there is a horse named Mocha at the barn he is not mine and he is 29. He is most loved there and reading this made me think about him.
  Aug 27, 2011  •  4,243 views
Great article!
I'm the strong one in our family, but this is such a hard thing to do I cracked when we put down our mare.
  Aug 25, 2011  •  4,259 views
yeah, i've been there and done that.It is tough but i'm still goin strong so anyone of you guys can get through it too.
  Aug 24, 2011  •  4,282 views
This was a really great artical! Thanks for posting it :)
  Aug 23, 2011  •  4,257 views
I will always remember Starlite and Doc and Norman and Badger.They all have a special place in my heart along with all my other friends and family who have passed away.
♥ Miss you guys and Rest In Peace. ♥
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,269 views
Stay Untamed  
This is a sad thing to talk about,but it's a good article as always.
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,271 views
Reading this article made me think of a beloved pony that had to be put down. I never got to say good bye to her and I still cry when I think of her. Unfortunatly things fell out with the barn owner and I cannot even go to her grave to say goodbye. I did cry well reading this...#4 killed me...
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,241 views
Excellent article, it is such a hard decision to make, I fortunately haven't had to make this decision fully yet because my mum's normally the one to step in and I sometimes have a little input, but I've been through the day waiting for the vet to arrive and that long walk to them with your horse. A very good article and it's extremely helpful to anyone having to make this tough decision. Thumbs up to you! :)
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,244 views
Aslans Roar  
great article
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,246 views
Sky Caballos  
great article!!! thx :D
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,245 views
Soul Horse  
Great article I have lost several horse all were not mine but they didn't get put to sleep sadly they were lost in a barn fire.My friend who does lessons with me lost her horse and can't get over number 5. Although I don't have a horse these are great tips for the future.
  Aug 22, 2011  •  4,274 views
Love the article
  Aug 22, 2011  •  2,789 views
It's always hard having to put one of your beloved pets to sleep and the longer you know them the harder it is to let them go, I have a dog of fifteen years who currently has a heart murmur and I know that time may come where we may have to put her down, as horrible as it is we have to think like that animal and it's true that they live in the present not the future and if they don't have a future or a present then putting them down would have to be the best option.
  Aug 22, 2011  •  2,816 views
Prarie Rose  
Great article. We'll probably all need this someday.
  Aug 22, 2011  •  2,829 views
All That Jazz  
Geez, I almost cried just reading this. xD But it was a great article, as usual. :)
  Aug 21, 2011  •  4,999 views
This article is great. My cash is getting old and Fhe vet says he is in tip top shape. I just don't want him to have some sort of sudden illness where I have to make a decision then and there to put him down. Cash is 26 and is retiring from jumping and showing in October...
  Aug 21, 2011  •  2,786 views
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