She just won't keep weight on her anymore. He costs too much to feed. You want to compete, but the hocks are just gone. He has melanomas or sarcomas so bad you can't put a saddle on him.
We've all heard the reasons-and sometimes we think of them as excuses, let's be honest. After all, that horse gave you everything they had for as long as they had anything to give. Now we feel guilty about not caring for them as long as we possibly can.
It is a very tough decision to make.
Nobody said it would be easy. By all rights, it shouldn't be.
If all things are equal and you can do it, the ideal thing is to care for your horse until the very end. No question. That's the "gold standard". But how many of us can do that? Realistically? not very many. The truth is brutal-this is a luxury. An elderly horse is a financial drain that puts all the rest to shame. They just are. They require more vet attention, special feeding, extra care in bad weather, may need dental attention, may need special farrier attention, might even need special stabling-and every bit of it means more money.
They don't call this the 'sport of kings' for nothing. As the old saying goes "how do you make a small fortune with horses? You start out with a large one." It's true. But every passion is that way.
So what are your alternatives?
1. Take them to an auction or sale and just say good-bye. Hmmm. Well, it works, but the old friend may or may not be purchased by some new buyer who will appreciate their good qualities. It is possible of course. Someone might be there looking for a horse for a beginner or as a pasture mate. However, it is equally likely that a 'horse flipper' will be there to buy up cheap horses to resell later. Those horses generally do not have good futures.
2. Advertise on something like craigslist or horsetrader.com. The ad generally reads "free horse to good home" or maybe "cheap horse cannot be ridden for a pasture mate". Congratulations, you just sent out an engraved invitation to every scammer in the area to come get your horse. I'm not being sarcastic or mean here-just truthful. They look for ads like that. They know that well-meaning but naive people who do not know any better are just begging somebody to come get that horse. So they do. Trouble is that the horses are frequently sold to slaughter.
3. You take your time and do your homework. You might find a place close enough that you can visit every week. You send your horse there and you do go visit frequently to make sure things are okay.
4. Call the vet and whatever means of disposal your area allows. You use euthanasia and you know for certain that your horse left with dignity and without pain, loved by the human who loved them best. Yes, it hurts a lot. But what hurts more is not knowing or knowing for certain that one of yours ended up abused or slaughtered. Yes, it is an additional cost. But all of love is a cost that we willingly bear for the rewards it brings.
Khahil Gibran said in the poem The Prophet:
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you"
It is always worth the wounds in order to be loved and to have loved. Whatever we decide for our horses, we should decide carefully and thoughtfully. They depend on us.