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I am struggling with whether to euthanize my old stallion. He is 29, he has arthritis in one front leg, I give him two grams of 'bute a day and he can get out and graze, get down and roll, poop in his normal poop piles, etc. Up until last winter he was doing pretty good, he had lost his hearing in one ear a couple years ago, and several of his teeth, but he can eat Senior Horse feed, and alfalfa cubes. His weight is good. But last winter he went blind. So now I have a half deaf, blind, toothless old horse that I've owned for 28 years and that I love dearly. My vet thinks I should put him down, but I'm having a hard time deciding what to do. He eats fairly well, albeit slowly, he is out 24/7 and can get into his stall any time he wants. He knows when I'm at the door and will usually nicker at me. He sleeps a lot, and sometimes falls asleep over his feed tub. I will poke him awake, and then he is OK... I don't think he's in serious pain.

I just hate the thought of taking his life before his time.

Any thoughts you could give me would help. I don't want him to die a traumatic death, but I also don't want to take his life while he still has life.

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

K. S.


Believe me, I feel your pain, because I have walked down the same path you're on. And it's not a pleasant one.

Here are a few thoughts that may help in your decision-making:

1. Remember that the decision is yours alone to make. No one else knows your horse, your emotions, your physical situation, like you do. Almost literally from the day I acquired Willy, well-meaning folks were urging me to have him put down. If I had listened to them, I would have missed out on 17 of the best years of my life. Does being deaf and blind make your long-time companion less lovable? I don't think so. If you've seen the movie Seabiscuit, you probably recall Tom Smith's words about not giving up on a life just because it's gotten banged up a bit.

2. Be sensitive to what God and your horse are telling you. If he doesn't just go on his own, there will come a day when your old boy will send you the message, "It's okay; I'm ready to go." Willy was normally skittish when the vet came around, but when I made the decision that Willy shouldn't endure any more suffering, Willy was perfectly calm. When he looked at me that last time, his big brown eyes seemed to tell me that he knew it was his time to go -- and he was all right with it. I don't know how you'll know if and when it's the right time. I just know you'll know. (The fact that you don't know at the present moment indicates to me that the time is not yet right.)

3. My biggest struggle was with the fact that I am staunchly opposed to "mercy killing" of humans. Even in my son's final days, I never even considered "putting him out of his misery." I am not God, and we should never play God toward another human being.

It's a different matter, however, when it comes to animals. God appointed us to literally be lesser gods over the animals.

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.' "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. "God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"
-- Genesis 1:26-28 (NIV)

In other words, part of our being created "in the image of God" is the fact that we are called on to make God-like decisions regarding the rest of Creation. Some of His own characteristics that God built in to us are knowledge, insight, empathy, compassion, judgment, mercy, etc. These all come into play at a time like this. Do you think it was easy for God when His wisdom and mercy told Him that it was time for His own Son to die for sin in place of the rest of us? Fortunately, He made that tough decision, or we'd have no way to get to heaven. Like Him, sometimes we have to make difficult, life-and-death decisions regarding creatures that we love very much.

Yes, you'll have to play god in your horse's life. Of course, you've been doing it all along: providing nourishment, shelter, healing care, discipline, companionship... and all the other lovely things God does in OUR lives.

You don't think you have enough wisdom for the job? No problem. Just ask the One who does!

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."
-- James 1:5-6 (NIV)

I'll also be praying with you that God will make the path that seems to you so dark at present be as bright as the light of day when the right time comes.

God bless!

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