A difficult question for all horse owners- euthanasia


New Member
Jan 17, 2006
I had a dog once in a sort of similar situation. She had cancer, and it meant she couldn't eat. She was old (13), and there was the possibility it might have spread. I vividly remember sitting in my parents' living room and 'discussing options'. My mum wanted to put her down, I didn't. I said, go for the operation, if it doesn't go ok, we gave her a chance and she'll never wake up. If it does, she might have a few years yet. It was a lot of money, but we could afford it. The discussion went on for some time, and I have no idea how, but somehow she understood something of what we were talking about. She'd always been my mum's dog, always, yet she came over to me and didn't want to be near her. Wouldn't look at her, anything. We had the op in the end, and afterwards she didn't want to be near my mum, didn't want her with her, just turned away, so I stayed with her that first night.
The operation gave her two weeks before we found the cancer had spread to her spine. She died very quickly, but she did have two lovely pain-free weeks to enjoy. To this day I firmly believe we did the right thing. She was not ready to just give up and go peacefully.

In contrast, a friend's horse had cushings. Over one long winter, she quite blatantly held on for her owner, who she'd been with since she was a foal. She broke a hip, and recovered, then went down again one day and really struggled to stand. She looked so tired, so ready to just give up and have some peace. She was put down and possibly would have been ready for it sooner, but she held on for the girl who had loved her all these years.

When they are ready to go, the fight goes out of them. They look tired, and fed up with life. For your horse, if getting up becomes a real problem, you're left with trying that operation if it might work, or with PTS. What determines that, is finances obviously, viability and his quality of life.


New Member
Mar 29, 2005
I've been there and believe me its never an easy decision and even when you make that decision you'll go on wondering whether or not it really was the right decision. I've posted before with my scenario but I'll attempt to keep this short: I had my old girl from the age of 12 to 34 - thats me not my mare, she was 3 and I had her PTS at the young age of 25. I still miss her terribly. She became arthritic at the age of 19. I spent a huge amount of money over the years trying to keep her comfortable. My vet kept telling me she was doing ok but over the years she went from 470kg to under 400. She never laid down. When she tried to lie down she'd manage about 1 minute then she'd get back up again as she couldn't get comfortable. I think she might still be alive today if it hadn't been for the fact we were moving house and I couldnt bear the thought of her travelling 300 miles and then going into a livery yard where the power to advocate for her would be lost. It wasn't planned but to cut a very long story short - I made the decision the day before we moved. All I can recommend is that when you do decide to have your horse PTS please make sure you arrange things properly. I wish I'd let my mare's pair bond see her before being buried, I wish I'd not had her buried minutes after the injection as I still have visions that she wasn't quite dead and lastly I wish I'd known what to expect as my callous vet did not sedate her first he simply stuck a very large needle into her - twice as he missed the spot first time. I could make this story very long with all the missing detail but I just wanted to offer a bit of friendly advice - it'll never be the right time, you just have to go with your instincts & be well prepared on the day. You'll be surprised how well you can handle it as the adrenalin that kicks in is unreal! Its after the event you'll break down so have a large supply of tissues and a good bottle of wine at the ready ;)


New Member
Nov 28, 2005
I've never had a horse put down but I've been there for 9 of my cats when they were put down. It was heartbreaking but very peaceful and professionally done. I dont think you ever get over the loss of an animal but the lasting impression of how your friend is put down never leaves you. I've still got 2 cats but they are old (15 yrs) and not really in the best of health. One has diabetes and the other a growth behind her eye.


New Member
Jun 26, 2007
Thanks Horselass - well, funny enough and even with this terrible rain, he is doing really well, we even tacked him up after he was sound for about two weeks and did some REALLY gentle excercises round the paddock:eek: The next day - no sign of stiffness at all - so we are just plodding along really, taking it day by day and seeing how he goes.;)

Here is a pic of Reece on him (he is very light, so he rides rather than me) Oh, and can I just add, that the hat Reece is wearing is an original "Sancho" cowboy hat, bought in Texas for my son. It has an inner skull lining just like an english riding hat - The reason I say this is because I was totally and utterly slated by someone else on a rescue forumn for in effect, wanting to kill my child:eek:



The Friesian
Sep 12, 2004
Visit site
This has been an interesting thread.

I would not hesitate to put any of my horses to sleep if their quality of life was gone or that they had become toooo dangerous to be handled. I have gone through this when Mysty got bitten by the snake last year, the hard thing in that scenario was telling my daughter (she is 12) that if Mysty did not show signs of recovery by xx date then we have to be kind and end her misery. Luckily Mysty pulled through only just too as the next day was the day.

I have a retired horse living out his life on my property, he is not my horse but he is very happy living with us. He has really blossomed.


New Member
Jul 14, 2007
Oh what a difficult subject. Can only tell you my story with my two dogs. German Shep and German Pointer, had both since tiny pups, very, very close 1 year between them. Always new the shepherd would survive without the pointer but always doubted the other way around.

It came one day that I realised the Shepherd had not got out of bed that morning to great me, as he always did, aged 13. I took one look at him and just knew, he lifted his head and pathetically tried to wag his tail, I got straight on phone to vet, it was a Sunday and they were closed. Met her at the surgery and she suspected he had a growth in his stomach, could operate but chance he would not make it. I had never left him, ever, and could not bear the thought that he could go and be with strangers, at least this way I could be with him, so decision made and he was PTS. We had a staffie pup also at that time and that kept the Pointer going for another year.
Same scenario really one day he didn't get out of bed, off to the vets, knew deep down it was his time as well. Vet told me that she could not find anything wrong really could have him in and do exploritory op, and then listened to his heart, again, told me he had a massive heart murmour and could go at any time. Now again, I could not bear the thought that this dog could drop at any time, overnight, or when I was at work, on his own, so made the decision and had him put to sleep then, when I could be with him and hopefully he could hear me telling him how much I had loved him. What a hard decision, horrible, but I could be with them at the end, hard as it was, and knew it was both of their times to go and that I had to be extra brave for them. Hopefully I will do the same for my two staffies that I have now when it is their turn. Only wish somebody could do it for me when my time comes:)


Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2003
I have had to have three pts due to illness/injury

broken hock - no option
colic - surgery but did not survive
tumour - surgery but did not survive

Each time pts by vet.

I have two cobs - Molly is retired and she will not leave here alive, she is a neurotic wreck of a horse and incessant worrier, if i can't keep her she will be pts

Rosie is currently off with laminitis but is a strong girl - but who wants her? She is 16, this is her second bout of lammy, she needs careful management and she is a thug - I would fight for her but if I can't keep her what then

Two donkeys - Ferguson and Aimee, easy to rehome, but now 20+

All 4 currently insured but all 4 close to the time when no insurance possible. Therefore money does become an issue as I paid out £3K for the cancer surgery.

I hope I can see them all out, but if I can't I doubt that other than the donkeys I would rehome them, Molly certainly not, Rosie could be but who wants a lame lammy with irritable nature?

When our business went bust a few years ago, I put Molly in for rehoming, she came back six weeks later with a busted leg and painfully thin - she hadn't done at all well, so I know the answer there. She doesn't leave here alive.

Rosie had been rehomed 5 times before she came to me, returned each time for her thuggish behaviour.....i have had her 4 years and for 18 months of that time she has been off sick.

Euthanasia is often the kindest thing for an elderly or unmarketable horse.


New Member
Apr 27, 2003
Visit site
difficult question for all horse owners-euthanasia

I have recently come to the conclusion that in spite of doing everything possible for my mare to keep her sound, I may well have to consider euthanasia.

The yard she is at now is not really suitable for her retirement. She is kept on her own, although I had expected a companion for her, which was mentioned at the time I visited the yard, she is not happy in my opinion and becoming more and more nervous and unsettled, when she was previously a very laid back, confident hack, and willing in the school, until I discovered her hock problems and navicular, and recently she showed a possible allergic reaction to richer grass, (though my vet, as I posted in a previous thread, felt it was initially signs of EMS, but blood tests proved negative),she is still having problems with her back, is now even unwilling to take a walk-in-hand outside the yard, and I just feel so helpless. particularly as she does look fit and well, if overweight!

She is also a head-shaker in Spring and Summer, and again, at this yard she seems an awful lot worse.

Having had to have my first horse euthanised, which after four years still haunts me, I now have to consider that if I cannot find a good retirement home for my beautiful mare where I can keep an eye on her health and visit to let her know I'm still there for her, I will have to PTS. That decision is going to break my heart, and will be the end of riding for me, as I know it will take a long time to find another sweet-natured horse like her, and I just can't go through all this again.

Thankyou for bringing up the subject. It is an important one, and at least I've voiced my feelings. I will be talking to my vet and physio next week, and then decide what to do next. I don't hold out much hope of finding a retirement home for her, even though I would pay the same for that as I'm paying now for full livery - there are too many people looking for the same retirement prospect.

I feel for all of you who have had to face this devastating decision, and hope that the rest of you may not have to, for a very long time to come.

Roseanne xxxxx
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Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2003

I have just moved from Sussex but i do have contacts there, including a 20 acre field you could rent for her to live in - with a barn in the middle of it - i used to rent it. PM for information.


Well-Known Member
Oct 13, 2004
On an island
When the time comes with both ours, I will look to various things. There will be "signs" - I know OH and I will both think long and hard about it, but I know that both of us will probably be in agreeance and try all options before having either pts. Of course, if its obvious they are suffering and the vet advises us then so be it - but I know we'll probably try our best with whatever treatments are available - even if there is only a slim chance - we'll try it. Just so long as the horses aren't suffering when there is absolutely no hope of recovery. Of course, you have to think about what kind of recovery, what quality of life - that too will play a part in decision making. Its something I do think about - (naturally quite a worrier and can't cope with "perfect" for long).


Well-Known Member
Apr 25, 2003

I tried to pm you but you aren't accept ing message so here is the message.

used to live in West sussex near chichester and have moved to Scotland.

I used to rent a 15 acre field from a lovely guy called charlie (£10 per week) and it has not been used for about 3 years now. there is a big barn in the middle of it which we used to leave open so they could go in if they wanted to in the winter.

I am sure you could rent it if it helped - it is very sheltered, woodland enclosed, very natural pasture, will probably need clearing of ragwort but otherwise it is a lovely place.

It is near Goodwood - is this within your range? Otherwise you could ask my friend Pauline at Sussex Horse Rescue Trust if she has any people looking for companion only mares on loan.

If you are just looking for livery, Sam Garry in Selsey has a lovely yard with turnout - she charges £15 a day full livery and also my ex RI has her own fields and she might be able to do you a deal on permanent livery at grass - she is a very nice lady and very caring. She is in Yapton, Sussex so again it may be close enough to you.

Hope some of this helps. If any are of interest and you want contact numbers please send me an email or PM.


New Member
May 13, 2007
Cambs/Herts border
A great number of cats, dogs and rabbits have ended their lives in my arms at the vet's, or at home, and I've held two old ponies for our huntsman to put down. In both cases they had been retired for ages, very arthritic, it wasn't a sudden decision, and in my mind their eyes had said, 'enough'. We may be facing it this winter with another old pony, with a typical Cushings coat but no unsoundness, teeth virtually useless so he can only eat soaked bucket feeds, quids on hay and now on grass too. One of the hardest things is knowing another week, another month, maybe even another year and he'd be just the same. The timing is my decision, however I try to justify it on the basis of his demeanour or expression changing. Yet if I wait until his physical condition deteriorates and it's not an emergency, but a more immediate necessity, I'll wish it had been done when he was comparatively well, or at least, seemed bright and happy. I don't know if there's ever a right time when it's NOT an emergency situation in terms of pain, safety or whatever, it's the most awful part of taking on an animal for the rest of its life.


New Member
Sep 18, 2006
North Lincolnshire
Palomino - I'm in the same position, now.

Spoke to my vet the other day, as my old guy's been steadily losing weight over the past couple of weeks - not good at this time of year. His 'twitch' seems to have returned with a vengeance, and he's just not 'looked right', if you know what I mean. She said it could be his heart affecting his other organs and we need to consider whether he's having more bad days than good. It's so incredibly difficult, as he's STILL eating and looked happy again yesterday. I just don't know what to do for the best.

Doesn't help that previous owner has recently said (in a conversation with someone else) ...

a) she doesn't want him to suffer - if it's a brain tumour or something, he's going to be in a lot of pain, and

b) haven't I had top local vet out to look at him?

Given that my lad's 26+ and can't be moved, I fail to see how getting him to the veterinary hospital for tests on his liver/brain, etc., is gonna help:(

PLUS he's been examined by two vets from the same practice - one a heart specialist. I just feel as if I can't do right for doing wrong, really.

I've got to bite the bullet this week and make some decisions...........
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