Unfortunately, deciding to end a life is never easy. The fact is, making a decision to euthanize a horse or any animal is a selfless act: essentially putting aside what “we” want for what is “best for the patient.” If you are a horse owner, giving some thought to this difficult decision may help you prepare to handle the decision and the loss of a friend in a slightly less painful way.
Serious illnesses, including colic and fractured limbs, create circumstances that can feel overwhelming. They happen at unexpected times, they catch us by surprise, and in an instant we are forced to consider a decision from which there is no turning back. The unfortunate fact is bad things happen to good horses, and as their advocates, we want to be prepared to step in and if needed, spare them needless pain and suffering.
Once the decision is made, the process is fairly quick, though that doesn’t mean it is easy. Some owners choose to be present, and others prefer to remember a better time. Either way, the reality is horses are large animals, and one way or another they will fall. Usually it is a smooth process, but there are times when this can be very difficult to witness. We can sedate patients in some instances to encourage a smoother transition from standing to recumbent, but that doesn’t always play out as expected. Choosing to be present or not is a personal decision but either way, a little preparation can help you better cope with the reality.
Remember, the key to minimizing the pain that inevitably goes with losing a trusted friend is to keep in mind the purpose of your decision is to prevent needless suffering. It is a decision that allows us to care for a valued friend one last time and in their most critical time of need.