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When to call it a day...

(23 Posts)
HeartvsHead Sun 29-Sep-19 08:39:35

My horse is almost 17 and I have owned her since she was 6 years old. She was the picture of perfect health for years until the last 3 in which she has been in and out of work with various things.

Firstly she has navicular in her front feet which has been medicated twice (a year apart) and after a period of bar shoes is now managed. Then was diagnosed with ulcers, quite severe but again treated and now managed. Then had an eye infection which has recurred on and off since June, which wood we seem to have finally gotten on top of it this time (next step was eye removal!) but if it comes back that is becoming our only real option. She is now off work again with lameness in her back legs. X-rays picked up slight arthritic changes so they were medicated but a month on no improvement. Current plan is to get her to the vets surgery for further investigations but I'm starting to wonder how far to keep going...

She is clearly uncomfortable and has become very withdrawn. Long term pain relief is not an option due to the ulcer history. If I retire her she will still need navicular injections again at some point and the ulcer supplement and that's assuming we can get her back legs comfortable enough for her to be a retired pet.

Add into this that I am 35 weeks pregnant and my sharer has now (understandably) given notice which makes logistics 100x more tricky. I love her to bits but seeing her so flat is horrid and I'm not really sure she would suit retirement as is quite highly strung (when feeling well!).

When did you know it was time to make a decision? I plan to call the vets tomorrow and have a further discussion about what they could potentially find with further tests and what the outcomes of each will be for her but starting to feel like I'm losing her and it's not fair on her (pregnancy hormones not helping!).

Any advice/thought/experiences welcome. Thanks.

HeartvsHead Sun 29-Sep-19 09:17:45

Also forgot to add she was off work with a damaged check ligament for 6 months earlier this year. Came back into work April time then back leg lameness started in August!

katalavenete Sun 29-Sep-19 09:26:47

She is clearly uncomfortable and has become very withdrawn

I've never had to make this decision myself, only been in the background when others had to. This line stands out for me. If we 're thinking solely of her best interests, are things at a point where anything else you do is just prolonging her being in this degree of discomfort and suffering? How long has it been the case? Is there a realistic prospect of it changing?

Are you planning to include this in your discussion with the vet?

countrygirl99 Sun 29-Sep-19 11:43:06

Always remember that pts is painful for you, not the horse was probably the best advice I ever received.

HeartvsHead Sun 29-Sep-19 13:09:37

I think I need to have quite an open discussion with the vet about what in their experience they think they are likely to find and what the prognosis will be in each case. I don't really want to put her through days of tests (they want to nerve block, bone scan etc) if it's highly probably she will still be uncomfortable or need major surgery.

Yeahnahyeah1 Sun 29-Sep-19 13:14:52

Honestly I think now she’s uncomfortable and not happy, that’s the time to have her pts. I wouldn’t pull her through another winter tbh.
I had to make the decision for my old boy and while it was hard for me to stand with him, I knew I couldn’t have done anything kinder for him.

Elieza Sun 29-Sep-19 13:32:51

Depends on what pain management can be offered that won’t affect the stomach ulcer. Would you like to be in that much pain with no relief, I don’t think I would. . If she gets pain meds and a good nights sleep see if she’s her usual self the next day then you know it’s the pain that’s making her flat. If she is suffering and if there is no long term affordable and practical solution to make her comfortable it will be time to think of the alternative. Your know when you’ve tried everything and it doesn’t help that it’s time. I’ve got tears in my eyes for you and your horse writing this, so sorry OP. See what the vet says.

UrsulaPandress Sun 29-Sep-19 13:44:18

Brave me says call it a day. I don’t know where you are but it’s done nothing but rain here and I said to DH this morning “It’s days like this I’m glad I don’t have a horse any more”.

Realistic me says do what you can live with afterwards. I made the decision to have my mare pts when I was going on holiday and I knew I couldn’t expect anyone else to care for her the way I was doing.

Sending hugs. Had to say goodbye to my Spaniel 3 weeks ago and I still sob several times a day.

HeartvsHead Sun 29-Sep-19 13:46:02

I think I just want to get the balance between feeling like I've done everything can for her but not at the expense of her suffering. It's a fine line.

Will see what the vets say tomorrow. Thanks for the hand hold all x

Moanranger Sun 29-Sep-19 23:28:25

This is difficult, but given her age & multiple problems, puts might be for the best. You will be busy with a baby soon, and your DHorse is likely towards the end of her riding days, esp if ulcers are limiting pain options. I had to make this decision for an 11 year old, but multiple problems with limitedchance for treatment was the decider for me. They don’t last forever, big creatures, they just wear out.

GothMummy Sun 29-Sep-19 23:44:47

Can you make any management changes that would improve her comfort and make it easier for you to cope? I'm thinking grass livery if she holds weight well, as constant movement could be good for arthritis and possibly the ulcers too. Additionally, have you looked in to the "barefoot" approach to navicular rehab? I have no direct experience of this but I do have a friend who is an equine podiatrist who has spoken about success in that respect. The eye issue will be more distressing for you than her. Horses manage fine with only one eye, and it can be done under standing sedation on the yard if necessary.

However. Only you know the limits of your energy, money and presumably your vets fees insurance. If you feel you have come to the end of the road, then have no qualms about calling it a day. You obviously cannot pass her on to another home.

I took the decision to have our old pony put to sleep before he reached crisis point last year. It was very sad, but he had "that look" in his eye, and was struggling with cushings and recurrent laminitis. I have no doubt in my mind that we did the right thing, though some would say that we should have kept him going I am sure. Best of luck to you. I know you will do the best by your horse.

maxelly Mon 30-Sep-19 14:13:17

The old adage is better a week too soon than a day too late with horses and I think it holds true. I have to admit to being quite pragmatic/un-sentimental about it, most horses are bred and trained to be working animals all their lives and while some do settle to a lovely contented retirement even with some aches and pains, a lot just seem to go downhill quite rapidly once problems set in or they can't work any more, and I think it's a kindness to spare them that decline, as well as a sensible decision from a human/financial point of view to not throw the kitchen sink at them medically with only a slim chance of them coming right again.

I also think it takes quite a lot of time and skill to manage a really good retirement set up especially in winter for oldies, they need to be kept out as much as possible to be kept on the move and grazing, but they can get quite miserable if cold/damp/muddy so you need to rug appropriately and rotate the turnout a lot as well as judiciously stabling in the worst of the weather. There are some excellent grass livery set ups particularly geared at rehab or retirement you could look into which will manage everything for you but they don't come cheap... overall I think your mare will tell you when it's time and there's no harm having the conversation with your vet now.

CaptainClover Mon 30-Sep-19 15:40:57

17 really isn't old, there are 17 year old out eventing and show jumping at decent levels.

The front feet issues have prob. caused the rest inc. the ulcers, hock issues are common as a result of soft tissue damage in the front fee (which is what "navicular" is)

The best help for front feet is taking the shoes off. If you could manage this you might get your horse back.

HeartvsHead Mon 30-Sep-19 18:27:00

Vet says there is still a number of things it can be and pushing for the further tests until insurance limit then review. Can't help but feel they will say that as it's money...

I would need to get her up to the vets practice for further tests which is about half hour away and last time she went in a trailer she fell over every time we went round a corner (thankfully only local at the time) so will need to find someone with a box to take me. She doesn't hold weight well over winter and at current yard is in quite a bit during the winter which I really think won't do her any good now.

Do I need to just come out and ask vets about PTS? They didn't mention it as an option but then I guess they would automatically think more down diagnosis and treatment route?

UrsulaPandress Mon 30-Sep-19 19:00:39

In my experience they rarely offer it as an option.

GothMummy Tue 01-Oct-19 00:09:12

Vets are not allowed to offer it as an option, unless you are out of options. If you say "I can't manage my horse's health conditions and am considering PTS" your vet will tell you whether they would support you in that decision. If treatment or investigative options are available, thru have to offer them.

AngelicCurls Thu 03-Oct-19 13:35:52

gothmummy Vets are absolutely do and will offer pts, we certainly don’t have to wait until the client asks about it. They may not have mentioned it yet because they feel there is still a way to go with investigations. But that absolutely doesn’t mean they won’t support you if you want to make that decision.
OP, they won’t have offered more investigations simply to make money, the vast majority of vets are just as invested in your horses welfare as you are and want to provide the best treatment possible. But I’m quite sure they won’t be adverse to having a discussion about euthanasia with you. Often in these situation there is no clear cut right way to go. Good luck with whatever you decide

HeartvsHead Mon 07-Oct-19 20:10:12

She went to the vets today and it would seem there is degeneration in the sesamoid bone. All ligaments, soft tissue etc are good. It's been injected and basically vets have said it will go one way or the other. It will either work and she will be sound and back in work in a few weeks or will only ever be sound in walk and likely to be uncomfortable.

If she doesn't come sound I will ask about PTS as I don't want her uncomfortable the rest of her life.

Thanks for the advice and hand holds. Keeping fingers crossed now.

Elieza Mon 07-Oct-19 21:48:48

Fingers crossed for you OP. Let’s hope for good news.

Wolfiefan Mon 07-Oct-19 21:52:44

Fingers crossed here too. You are doing all you can to give her a good quality of life. Hope it works.

Itallt0omuch Mon 07-Oct-19 21:59:05

Fingers crossed op. I do think it's a bit mad to keep a horse in retirement for years and years that can't be ridden and is always likely to be in a bit of pain, especially if they're kept at livery rather than at home. There's no shame in PTS if that's what you choose.

Hollywhiskey Mon 07-Oct-19 22:02:04

For me it was when the bad days outnumbered the good days. My pony's arthritis got worse, I couldn't retire her to grass because she had cushings and was so prone to laminitis and she needed two Bute a day which wasn't sustainable for her size. It's hard whenever you do it, but only for you, not for your horse.

Vanhi Tue 08-Oct-19 16:19:19

The best help for front feet is taking the shoes off. If you could manage this you might get your horse back.

I've seen this happen and I would seriously consider it. The navicular and pain in the front feet are probably causing the other issues. I'd want to find out what is at the root of the navicular. Shoes off and a rest could see a huge change.

That said, I would fully understand if given your personal circumstances you decided to PTS. If you weren't pregnant and it were spring it would make sense to give her a summer out barefoot and see how she came back. Over the winter with a small baby this might just be miserable for both of you. But the ulcers are down to pain and that's down to the navicular and my bet is the hind leg issues have the same root cause.

My old boy is 20, been retired nearly 2 years. Never been healthier or happier. I would have said he wouldn't suit retirement but manage them right and often they love it so you could give it a go. But no, I wouldn't blame you if you didn't and you could at least be sure the mare isn't suffering.

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