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Think it’s time to PTS and I’m heartbroken

46 replies

ToWorryOrNot · 22/04/2023 22:53

I literally feel like I’m losing my mind and just need to talk things through. I honestly can’t think straight and have been crying pretty constantly for the last few days.

I have a pony who really is one in a million. I’ve owned her for 2 years and she’s 25 now. She had intermittent lameness last summer when the ground was so hard, then in the autumn I had her hocks and coffins injected. She wasn’t ridden that much over the winter due to horrible weather and also because she suffers from
mallenders, which flared up really badly and was obviously going to be sore for her.

Over the last couple of months I’d finally got her mallenders under control, and my daughter was bringing her back into work. She took her for a long hack last weekend and then she went hopping lame again. Put her on 2 bute a day but was still looking really lame even in walk by Thursday so got the vet out. She said likely just arthritis, couldn’t see anything else that’s obvious. Did flexion tests and definitely lame on both back legs. Vet advised to keep her on two bute until Monday and then hopefully she’d be looking better by then, and drop down to one. But said basically her ridden days were over, and best we could hope for is field sound.

She’s still not sound, although I think she’s slowly improving on that front, but lamer than you’d want her to look on 2 bute. However, in the last few days she’s had another mega mallanders flare up, even worse than it was in the winter. And now with the flies out and about it’s not ideal to have open sores.

I honestly don’t know what to do, whether to give her more time and hope she improves lameness wise, and go all out trying to fix her mallanders again. Or whether to have her PTS. I guess that would be the obvious thing, but I don’t whether I’m being too hasty? The waters are muddied because I love that pony to pieces, I have a stronger bond with her than any other horse in a lifetime of knowing and owning horses, she really is so special to me and she’s been an amazing pony to so many people over her life.

To complicate matters further, there’s the logistical issues of being at a small yard that I love, it’s close by and I share yard duties with a friend whose pony lives with mine, we have been keeping an eye out for a new horse/pony for a while but the market is ridiculous at the moment, and I don’t have 10 grand to spend. I don’t want to lose my space there but at the same time I don’t want to pay for a space for no pony, it could be another 6 months before we find something! This is very much a side issue and not really relevant to whether or not I have my pony PTS but it is something that’s troubling me.

I have been spending lots of time with my pony over the last few days, just letting her graze nice grass in hand, and sobbing to myself. Honestly it would break me to lose her but also I don’t want her to suffer in any way. I don’t know how I’ve dodged it but I’ve never had to have one put down before, and I am a complete wreck thinking about it. Shooting or injection, neither sound pleasant although I understand that shooting is less traumatic for the horse? She seems quite happy in herself, and although she was so lame when the vet came she was so willing and was quite pleased to go and do some lunging, she always tries her heart out for me and she trusts me so much. I’d be happy to keep her as an expensive pet if I could get her comfortable, but obviously I am just prolonging the inevitable. Also the yard I’m at never allows 24/7 turnout, we’re still on winter routine at the moment due to the wet ground but even when it’s dryer she’ll have to come in during the day. Which the vet said isn’t ideal for her arthritis. However retirement livery would be difficult too, she needs daily attention for her mallenders and legs clipped every two weeks, and is very pink skinned so doesn’t cope well out in the sun…she’s pretty high maintenance.

Help! My head is saying it’s logically the end for her but then as I said she still seems so happy in herself, so maybe I should give her a bit longer and see if she improves enough to be retirement sound?

Sorry for the long ramble.

OP posts:
BarkyMatherson · 23/04/2023 21:54

Have you had physio out? I have an older horse and between vet and physio she’s come right, still joints are gently mobilised to get the joint fluid moving before exercise, lots of carrot stretches, joint supplement etc.

But, if you do think it’s time then don’t be afraid, she won’t suffer and it will be harder for you but better for her. It’s a hard choice but there is no wrong answer.

If you can’t buy, have a look at charities, many will sign over ownership after a few years and you can get a cracking horses for few hundred pounds donation.

Maverickess · 23/04/2023 21:55

Aw OP, you sound like you adore her. Lucky pony to have someone like you looking out for her.
I have my old lads bridle and show head collar cleaned and oiled and a plaque on each with his name and two of the last set of shoes he had on painted and on the wall - he's very much alive and kicking but those things felt like good things to keep for some reason when he had to retire.
I have a pic of my old dog and a bit of her hair tucked in the back of the frame, can't see it but I know it's there.

Floralnomad · 23/04/2023 22:07

I hope you manage to sort something out to get her pain under control as it sounds like she is very uncomfortable at the moment .

ToWorryOrNot · 23/04/2023 23:16

I haven’t had the physio out for this bout of lameness, she had a few sessions last year when she was lame and I can’t say it made a whole lot of difference. I’ve had a really good equine osteopath recommended to me and it may be worth getting her out to see what she thinks.

I really do adore me. And she adores me. Which is amazing because when we got her we were warned she wasn’t a cuddly pony, but that was putting it mildly. It took 3 people, one brandishing a broom, one holding her and one charging at her with a saddle to tack her up when we first got her. When we went to catch her in the field she’d charge at us with her teeth bared and then swing her arse and seriously try to kick us in the head. I even got a natural horsemanship person out because I was thinking there’s something seriously wrong with this pony. It turned out she was just very cross at moving again, which was understandable at 23, and slowly she learnt to trust us and now she’s like putty in my hands, and actually really quite cuddly! I mean she still pulls faces or occasionally lifts her leg to kick but I just say her name and she looks at me sheepishly like ‘sorry mum, forgot myself there 😂’. And the way she’s looked after my daughter and built her confidence up riding wise is just incredible. She is so special. It was difficult to win her over but once we did she gave us everything. I will be bereft without her.

OP posts:
ToWorryOrNot · 23/04/2023 23:28

Adore her not me 😂. I’m not that gone on myself.

OP posts:
Pleasedontdothat · 24/04/2023 09:50

I’m so sorry OP but she sounds desperately uncomfortable. Horses are incredibly good at hiding pain so for her to be showing this many signs does not bode well. And to be honest from your description of what she was like when you first got her I suspect she’s been in a lot of pain for a long time. Horses don’t think about the past or the future - all they know is right now.

The British Horse Society has a service called Friends at the End which can offer support and advice about when and how to make the decision:

Friends at the End | The British Horse Society

ToWorryOrNot · 24/04/2023 12:57

That’s what I worried about too, that was there something majorly wrong with her and that’s why she was so grumpy. But then I bumped into her previous owners at a show, who owned her from 12-15 kind of age, and when I talked to them about it they said “oh no she’s always been evil 😂😂”. It’s like her default mode is to pretend to hate everyone but once she decides you’re ok she’s really quite lovely.

OP posts:
Pleasedontdothat · 24/04/2023 13:11

Horses don’t have the mental capacity to be evil or naughty - if she was showing pain signs then it’s 99.99999% likely she was in pain but strong riding could push her through.

icclemunchy · 24/04/2023 13:19

I think the fact that you're even asking the question means she's prob nearing time. Maybe not today but if she's still not sound its prob worth making a plan with the vet as to what to try and how long.

But hugs for you. I had my old girl pts last year. She'd had a hard winter and I knew she wouldn't make another but I hoped she'd have a good summer. Then she went off her food and I knew it was time.

The day of she galloped across the field calling to me when I got there. She had a huge feed, a pick of all the lush tufts of grass round the stables and so many mints she turned her nose up at them. Then she went quietly with the sun shining on her.

maxelly · 24/04/2023 14:38

Hugs OP, it's so tough. For what it's worth it does to me too like she might be coming to the end, visibly very lame on 2 bute a day sounds like she must be in quite a lot of pain and like you say you can't keep her on that level of painkiller indefinitely. I had to have my mare PTS for incurable arthritis on vets advice in the end and she hasn't as lame as that (after trying lots of rehab over the course of many years I may add). What we forget easily as humans is how stressful and upsetting it is for horses to be lame and immobile, obviously arthritis and being in pain isn't nice for anyone, human horse or other animal, but flight animals literally depend on being able to run for their survival and I'm pretty convinced that even domestic horses must be very fearful of imaginary predators/threats if they know they can't get away quickly (why you so often get a horse in pain lashing out and acting aggressive and also why horses can 'mask'/be very stoic, their only hope is to stick with the herd and and if they show weakness the others will often bully them and prevent them from eating etc., it's harsh but abandoning/kicking out the weakest member is how the herd as a whole survives) .

Hopefully the vet will have some more options you can try that would give her maybe another summer with sunshine on her back at grass, but ultimately I think as loving owners we often try and stretch things out more for our own benefit than theirs, with my mare I was almost addicted to trying just one more thing, one more drug change or supplement or rehab technique even well after the point it became clear her issues were unfixable, and TBH even if we'd sustained that 'field sound/ready for happy retirement' goal for any length of time I'm not sure she'd ever have settled happily to that life, she was always a stressy anxious mare prone to being bullied whoever you put her out with (possibly because she was always a bit lame, see above!) so really that lovely vision of her roaming free in a sun-kissed field was my dream, not hers. It's heartbreaking but sometimes that peaceful end is the best you can hope for. I've always had the vet do it by injection and it's been absolutely fine every time, they've gone down quickly and quietly, I've always stayed with them although some vets do ask the owner to step away in case of the very rare adverse reaction which although the horse is usually past feeling it could be distressing to see. However the bit I do strongly advise you don't stay around to see is the body being moved as that is a bit undignified/distressing and of no benefit to the horse at that stage. Don't engage too much with yard discussion, despite everything I've said above one or two 'helpful' yard people made comments about 'giving up' or whatever and even the ones who were very sympathetic I just didn't really enjoy going over the whole thing again (and don't get me started on the people at the work in the 'it's just a horse why are you upset' brigade, maybe just talk to a few people you can trust to 'get it'?

Flowers to you and hope you find the right answer, all the best whatever you decide.

SirVixofVixHall · 24/04/2023 14:44

Aylestone · 22/04/2023 23:30

I didn’t mean for my comment to sound judgemental. You’ve just said that the lameness is new, obviously mallenders comes and goes, it’s only just flared up again and you’ve treated it successfully before. I’m not sure what treatments you’ve tried (again don’t mean to sound judgemental) but I’ve found it easy to treat when you’ve found what works for them. I’ve never known mallenders to be a death sentence. It’s just the combination of you sobbing for days over this pony in a million who is ‘so happy in herself’, and is still going through the initial vet treatment which isn’t ending until Monday before you need to review, that’s making me think why is putting her down even an option yet?

I agree with this.
Most elderly animals have issues, arthritis, other niggly health things, just like elderly people. But most of us would rather be alive and coping with this than dead.
Of course it is possible to leave it too late with a much loved animal and put them through unnecessary suffering, but it is also easy to do it too early. If she is getting some happiness out of her life then it is too early. If she was very unhappy and nothing was going to change then it would be time.

Honeyroar · 24/04/2023 14:54

I had my horse of a lifetime put to sleep last summer. It was a similar situation. She was 24. Had several smaller issues, meaning she needed bute and prascend daily. She’d get occasional abscesses etc. It got where, although things were usually fixable, she was lurching from one lameness issue to the next. We saw the vet for something every couple of months. She was sound in wall, sometimes trot, but she never cantered around, like she used to do gleefully when younger. What decided it for me was that this wasn’t the happy retirement I’d dreamed of for her, having to have the vet so often and permanent pain killers. So the next time she went lame with something we decided it was enough. She was pts quietly at home. Knew nothing. And you know what, it was easier to do than I thought. Far easier than watching her struggle on vainly. And her ashes are buried under a beautiful tree in the corner of the field that she used to always doze in. I miss her a lot. But I’m happy that it was a good decision.

ToWorryOrNot · 24/04/2023 17:58

Thank you to all the replies. To be clear, she’s always been a very moody mare on the ground, but to ride she is an absolute angel, the most kind hearted pony you could ever meet. Even right up until her last ride just over a week ago. She’s so willing and enjoys getting out and about so much. So she’s not been showing any distress from being ridden, if she had she wouldn’t have been ridden.

Things are becoming clearer in my head. I have handed my notice in at the yard, having spoken to my boss at work. Depending how she looks on one bute and the feedback I get from the vet this week, I’ll either have her PTS or if the vet thinks she can go on a bit longer I will move her to where I work, it’s a place which does equine facilitated learning, and most of the horses there are retired or semi retired, so she can be in a herd with other oldies and I’ll still see her most days. But either way, she won’t be staying at the yard i’m at, due to the having to be stabled for part of the night or day all year round, and she needs to be able to keep moving.

It’s so sad, the end of an era. My daughter is adamant she wants to give up riding and although I could get a horse for me, realistically I’m so busy with work and kids that I just wouldn’t have enough time to ride to make it worthwhile. It’s going to be very weird not having the daily ‘time to do the horses’ thing going on. And really sad to sell all my stuff, but no point in keeping it. And I’ll really miss being at the yard I’m at, everyone is so lovely there.

OP posts:
Floralnomad · 24/04/2023 19:40

Sounds like a great plan @ToWorryOrNot .

ToWorryOrNot · 25/04/2023 01:47

Thanks for sharing your experience @Honeyroar, I’m glad you still feel positive it was the right thing to do. I wish someone could
just make the decision for me, even with vets I think you have to read between the lines a bit. Apart from my mum’s vet, he’s blunt as fuck 😂.

Pony cantered to the gate this evening and then did her excited prancy trot all the way to her stable, so I think she’s feeling a bit better in herself. She’s definitely looking sounder than she was, one back leg is still stiff though.

But no going back now, notice is handed in (kind of wish I hadn’t just bulk bought about 6 months worth of hay and straw now 🤦‍♀️). And tomorrow will start the mammoth task of listing more stuff than you could imagine for sale. I have a week’s training course for work coming up and also riding my mum’s horse at a county show in a few weeks so it’s going to be a busy old time.

OP posts:
Moanranger · 26/04/2023 14:15

Have you considered hock injections? This is standard on dressage & sport horses in their teens & onwards? I don’t see this mentioned anywhere above. We do these semi annually on our sports horse, makes a huge difference.Steroidal anti-inflammatories.

Floralnomad · 26/04/2023 15:15

@Moanranger , it says in the original post that she had hock and coffin joints injected in the autumn .

walktrotandcanter · 29/04/2023 07:31

Gosh. I'd wait a bit tbh. Sorry that your daughter has lost interest. You cannot cure mallenders, it needs management.

ToWorryOrNot · 05/05/2023 04:31

UPDATE - I moved my dear old pony to retirement livery yesterday. She’s looking a lot sounder, and I think she’s feeling a lot more comfortable on bute, she’d even been lying down in her stable in the days before she went so she must be feeling happier.

I decided against moving her to where I work, partly because the ground is so wet there (still!), and I thought although it’s drying up and she’d be ok for the summer, I would definitely have to move her again come the autumn as she’d be up to her fanny in mud otherwise (no exaggeration 😂).

So she’s gone to a friend’s retirement livery, she’ll be in a herd of no more than 6 oldies, out 24/7 on 50 acres of lovely parkland. It’s close to where I work, so I can call in and see her regularly. I dropped her off yesterday morning then checked on her yesterday afternoon and again this afternoon, and she seems happy enough, she’s separated from the others for a few days while she gets to know them over the fence. She’s taken a shine to one of the geldings and seems to be spending most of her time squealing at him and showing him her flaps 🙄, she’s a terrible tart. It’s been a very emotional week and I hope I’ve done the right thing, she’s in good hands and will be well cared for, hopefully she’ll adjust to living out and not having a job.

Bit worried about how she’ll manage if we have another boiling summer, with her pink skin. Recommendations for rugs to keep the sun off and keep them cool appreciated, she has a normal fly rug but it’s not a UV one, and she has a UV rug but it’s quite a thick material and I found she used to get quite hot in it if it was much over 20 degrees, and that was when she was fully clipped.

OP posts:
liveforsummer · 05/05/2023 06:49

Do they have shade and an option to bring in? With pale skin I'd be looking to bring in for the hottest part of the day in very hot weather far more so than during bad weather. If she's on livery presumably they can apply sun cream to noses etc? You can get some pretty heavy duty stuff that lasts a while

Floralnomad · 05/05/2023 10:53

Hope she has a lovely retirement @ToWorryOrNot

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