End of life issues

Post all general case studies and issues about chronic conditions not related to other categories here. Please also post any general topics that dont fit into other forums here. If you need help posting please email moderator@holistichorsekeeping.com.

End of life issues

Postby dfearon » Wed Jan 12, 2011 11:16 am

Lots of "stuff' happening and many new lessons to be learned!
It feels like the time for community support.
I recently lost my horse,Mr Peabody, he was so much more than a horse to me, it's been hard and has brought up many issues regarding letting go, dying, living in pain, and generally growing up(for me). I'm struggling with the unpopluar belief that dying is not always the worse thing. Hindsight makes everything clearer, but my regret that I didn't understand or adknowledge his desire to pass sooner is a difficult hurdle to get over.
Going out on the horse-crazy-limb here, he had sent me dreams weeks before he passed. They involved me helping a giant homeless person and me grappling with an intense fear. These were the kind of dreams where you sit up in bed and say WHOA!
He began to colic after a huge snow storm a few weeks ago. I got out the homeopathic and accupressure books and took a lot of deep breaths. After a few hours I was able to find vet that would come out in the miserable road conditions. He was my last choice but only option. Looking back it was a miserable decision, my horse HATED vets and would fight tooth and hoof to keep them away. The vet sedated him, twice, kicked him in the gut, tubed him, harangued me about his tooth care, and charged me a bucket full of money. As the horse was coming out of the sedation he was in a rage. He kicked open the barn door, turned over a cot, broke down a wall and pushed me aside. I cautiously continued massage and accupressure, really desperately at this point. When I had the realization that he may not make it, I gave him permission to die. It changed everything, immediately. His stood up, his breathing became shallow, he nuzzled me, and he began to sweat profusely. I think he went into shock at this point, but I was so greatful for the calm. He lasted another couple of hours, standing near me, asking for belly rubs and hugs. He passed just as I returned with dry blankets and a new remedy.
Thannks for letting me write this, it helps me sort out a myraid of emotions.
I guess my questions or issues are, Why I felt so guilty when i first deceided not to call a vet. And then why I feel guilty over calling the vet? Every class I've ever taken, has drilled into me to first call the vet and then procede with alternate modalities till the vet arrrives. I think the reality that the horse wanted to pass and die without drugs was too hard for me to face. I've also never encountered that discussion in any of my "healing" classes. I have read about end of life classes, my own personal fear kept me from ever attending one. There is much talk about humans asking for no extraordinary life saving measures, my mother has all the paper work filled out and I have copies. This whole event has brought to light the importance of thinking and planning ahead of these issues. Of course Mr.Peabody didn't have access to these documents, nor a pen to sign them, but I believe my dreams were his request. Is it wrong to let an animal pass on their terms? I can't imagine explaining to my other horse people how I "just let him die". He was not an old horse, 18-20, so I didn't have the , "but he was old" excuse to hide behind.
I guess i'm trying to find the balance between acting responsibly and honoring the animals spirit.
User avatar
Posts: 20
Joined: Tue Mar 18, 2008 10:06 am
Location: New Mexico

Re: End of life issues

Postby jmorris » Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:40 am

I just put down my 26 year old TB one month ago. He was my first horse and my heart horse. As much as I wanted him to survive, I had to *listen* to him. He never had a history of colic in the 14 years I knew him, but last summer he did colic and badly. Refluxed through the stomach tube about 2 gallons. I really thought *that* was the day I was going to have to let him go but he was VERY stoic and pulled through. The vet was actually going to come back that evening and put him down. He proceeded to colic 3 more times over the summer (due to our extreme heat, he was not a good sweater and a poor drinker). I managed those 3 with just shot of banamine. He did bueatifully all through the fall and then December 5th, he coliced again. This was similar to the first one in June. Had the vet out and after he was sedated, he lowered his head and began to reflux on his own. Got the tube in and he refluxed almost 4 gallons. This was an on-call vet for my regular vet who was out of town and it was already dark out so I asked him to leave me with enough drugs to keep him comfortable overnight until the weekday on-call vet could come out and put him down for me. That vet was my horse's vet from the time he was 8 until he was about 15. I just wanted a vet that knew him to help him cross. She came out the next morning and I decided to try and tube him again. If he refluxed again, he was going to be put down. He did not reflux, so we got the bucket full of oil, electrolytes and water into him. At this point, he had not pooped since the previous morning. I watched him all day. Sometime overnight, he finally passed the impaction and I thought I was out of the woods but his appetite never picked back up. By Friday am he began to run a fever. My vet was back in town and came to pull blood (CBC and a chem panel). His bloodwork came back fine so she came back out that night to start IV antibiotics. I still had to syringe a powdered antibiotic into him. She got the IV anti-biotic into him along with another shot of banamine, but when I came back out later that night to syringe him - he got beligerant. It was as if he was saying, "Please, don't bother, just let me go."

I had called my animal communicator the Wednesday before and he told her he was "giving up." He was tired. He was ready. I did an Integrated Energy Therapy session on him and that revealed threat and fear. I feel the fear he was holding onto was my own. My fear of him dying. I got 2 VERY big releases from him and his eye seemed very much at ease after that session.

Saturday, December 11, I had my vet out to euthanize. At his age, I knew it would be a herculean effort to get him through this and we were about to get horrible winter weather. I just couldn't put him through that. Knowing his "m.o." for colic, (refluxing) I also couldn't risk him colicing again - possibly overnight - and ruptering his stomach.

It was hard but I know I made the right decision. We have had 22 freezes since late November - which is a HUGE amount for Florida. He obviously was not able to deal with temperature extremes anymore.

The Friday night before I put him down - when he got beligerant about taking his meds, I too gave him permission to cross over. Even though he had been retired for about 5 years, I told him he still had a job here. Besides being the leader of my herd, his "job" was to help keep my younger mare "Mattie" calm. Mattie suffers from anxiety and Mikey was her "rock." She always ran to him when she got scared or anxious. I told him Mattie would be fine. She was older now and could take care of herself. I told him he had done a great job with her and that I would now try to be her rock. It was o.k. if he wanted to go.

After he crossed over, I watched my remaining horses carefully for signs of grief. Everyone did o.k., but I did see Mattie pawing at his grave. She also would just stare into my back pasture for a few nights after he was gone. As if she was looking for him. I waited about 4 days and then gave them all the remedy Nat Mur 200c for any grief they may have had. Each one got a dose for 3 days. I've meaning to do an Integrated Energy Session on them all to help release any grief they may still be holding onto but they all seem to be doing ok right now.

It is tough to let them go. I miss him very much but I feel it is always better to let them go a moment too soon than a moment too late. Mikey was very noble and majestic and he deserved to leave this earth in that way.

Here I am saying goodbye to him moments before the vet arrived. I can see in his eye the peace he was about to receive:


For a 26 year old, hard keeper TB, he sure looked good:

Posts: 150
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2007 7:44 pm

Re: End of life issues

Postby mward » Thu Jan 20, 2011 4:46 pm

I am late to the discussion because I have been down with the Flu.
It is always a challenge to try and interpret our horse's behavior and make decisions as what our horse wishes. How can you know what is best long term for your horse when he is in extreme pain from an acute colic or severe injury?

Here are some important points to consider.
Is the condition life threatening?
Is the treatment invasive or painful?
Is the life force of your horse strong enough to fully recover?
Are there potential long term consequences to recommended treatment?
Can your horse have a good quality of life once recovered?

It helps to engage both your intelligence and emotions when making these kinds of life choices. I have found my horses do shift into a different state when they are ready to go but this is hard to interpret during a crisis. When your intention is to do the best thing you can for your horse you have to trust your heart and not second guess your choices. Madalyn
Posts: 2744
Joined: Fri Sep 09, 2005 10:48 am

Return to General and Chronic Conditions