So many of you commented regarding your experiences with putting horses down – and I wanted to relay these valuable insights to you.
First, I should have titled yesterday’s post, “When it is time to put your horse down.” Because that would have been more correct. The article was not really about ‘should you be there’, but more about what to expect should you be faced with putting your horse to sleep.
MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE – If you can, PREPARE beforehand
I think what I really wanted to convey is that it is important to go over the scenario with your vet before any immediate action is needed so that you can make informed decisions.
Basically, don’t put it off. Knowledge helps the fear of it all. It won’t help the pain, but it helps the fear.
Make sure you and your vet are on the same wavelength. Ask the vet how he/she performs the last act and make sure you are OK with those methods. Perhaps you might need to know which specific vet to call for this specific task. (I heard from some readers that there are vets who don’t sedate first… and there are vets who administer the final fluids in an IV and some administer the shot directly into the heart… some who are loving and some who are not.)
For me, it was very helpful to understand the process and know what would happen and how it would happen and that my vets would do their best to accommodate both the needs of my mare and myself.
Also, make sure you know how you are going to deal with the body of your loved one. And, let the other horses witness the body, if they wish.
Lastly, if possible, think about and prepare where your horse should be located during this final act in order to make the removal of the body a non-issue.
A BIT MORE EXPLANATION ABOUT MAMA TESS (some sad and maybe gruesome details that might help some of you)
In my case, many of you called me a ‘coward’ for not staying until her body fell.
That is fine. However, I would like to add the extenuating circumstances that helped me make my decision, which might be too much for some of you to hear, but it might also be helpful.
You see, Tess was down in the barn. There was no way a rendering truck (or any tractor) would have been able to get in there without taking down the walls, chaining her up and dragging her, or removing some of her limbs.
Since I had spoken to my vet beforehand about this possibility, he assured me that he could block her feet (inhibit pain in the feet) and we could walk her to her final resting place.
HOWEVER, if he did block her feet, she would not know where her lower legs were, and when she did finally lay down, she could crumple and break her legs, crack her cheekbones, pop out an eye…. My vet offered that I stay through her very heavy sedation – after which she would have little cognition anymore – and then leave for her falling.
I chose to block her feet and have her painlessly walk out of the barn. And she did. Almost regally.
She looked very resigned, relieved and ready.
But, for me, I didn’t want to risk hearing/seeing her break her legs as she fell, so I left after I felt that she was no longer really inside herself anymore.
Perhaps that was cowardly, but this was between me and Tess, and I am sure Tess never considered me a coward.
A GOOD POINT – LET THE STABLE MATES KNOW WHAT HAPPENED
A reader brought up a great point. It is helpful to let stablemates or paddock mates witness (if they want) the process. This does help. As I wrote after MT passed, our barn was almost magical. That’s the only word I have for it… the air was more light, the colors more crisp and the animals could almost speak to me with their eyes. I will never forget that gift.
So, if you can, let the other horses see…
And, if you can, plan for a new buddy or stable mate (goat, chicken…), should one horse be left alone.
LIST OF THINGS TO THINK ABOUT AND PREPARE
–Is your regular vet the best vet to do this for you? Ask and discuss it with him/her. What are the circumstances of the illness and will this effect how the task? How will the procedure happen? What is his/her method?
–What will you do with the remains? Is it legal in your County to bury the remains? Do you have a backhoe available and at the ready? Do you know the schedule of the renderer, if needed? Think about making this payment easy for you – as it is a tough moment.
–It is nice to let the other horses witness (if they choose) the process and the remains.
–Take the time… take the time with your horse and take the time with your decisions. It is a gift to have the time to prepare.
No regrets needed in this situation. It is hard enough.