PTS or keep going

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17 November 2021
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I’m at a cross roads and don’t know what to do. Do I PTS or pay more money to send my horse away for training?

My horse had KS surgery last year and also had her SI injected. She’s ok ridden (happily hack and have basic flat work lessons) but ive got nagging doubts she’s still not right, the physio noticed she has a slight toe drag and sometimes stumbles behind (hacking) so the physio is saying more rehab to get her stronger! Here’s the thing- she’s pretty awful on the ground, quite dangerous at times (rears, tries to bugger off unless led in a bridle, even then drags me around) She’s a dominant horse that is constantly trying to push the boundaries so it’s not fun (it’s something new every week!). She’s also not a very cuddly horse so wouldn’t make a nice pet. She also gets separation anxiety which causes a lot of the behaviour. I can’t tie her up on the yard to be groomed because she is worried about being away from other horses, hates being bathed because doesn’t like the hose. She now doesn’t travel without vet sedation after a bad experience. When she’s relaxed she can be lovely. When she’s in the field she’s so happy. Under saddle she’s lovely, kind and talented (and seems happy, no behavioural issues) but how much longer do I need to keep doing rehab?! Will I ever have a low level riding club horse I can enjoy? I’ve spent so much money so far (tens of thousands) and so much time. I’m so miserable now. She’s not sellable either. However it feels wrong to put a horse down that could hack out happily (if she was nice and easy on the ground it would make things so much easier).

I know behavioural things can be improved and I was planning to send her away to a kind natural horsemanship type pro who is great with these types of horses. However can a horse this tricky be improved enough? Under saddle she’s great and has never done anything nasty (even when in pain). On the ground she is so tricky. Do I throw more money at her and hope retraining works? Or PTS?

thankyou
 

Antw23uk

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I dont think you should be sending her away, i do think you should be being taught with her if you get in a professional. If she is making you miserable and isn't sellable and you don't feel retirement is an option then PTS. Horses are PTS for a lot less!

Your advise from the physio sounds overwhelming, they should be breaking this down and helping you decide if its manageable. A lot of the time their advise is stretches, in-hand pole work etc. and once you get into a routine that can be enjoyable and rewarding ....... providing the horse isnt trying to stand on your head i guess!
 

IrishMilo

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Tough situation and the thing for me that stands out is that you say you're miserable. I think as owners we often get sucked into doing everything for our horses we forget to do what's right for us. There are no medals for being a martyr... you know your horse best but she doesn't sound content to me. You say she's fine under saddle but that's what, 10% of your time together? If someone else posted this would you think 'I'd keep going' or would you think 'Sounds like a good candidate for PTS?'. I would and have PTS for very similar reasons.
 

Widgeon

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Has she always been a bit of a monster on the ground? My last pony was (as it turned out) in pain from his back, and his behaviour on the ground deteriorated the more he was ridden. He was a sweetie to handle once you stopped riding him. Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing. I'm just wondering whether she might be difficult because she's unhappy / in pain?

Either way, I don't think anyone should be judging you for PTS under these circumstances. You say "I’m so miserable now....[but] it feels wrong to put a horse down that could hack out happily". However - most people who want a nice hack also want their horse to be a pet. So I'm not sure you should be using that reasoning to beat yourself up.

If you have the money to spare, I would persist as Antw23uk says - but if you don't really have it, there's nothing wrong with PTS, assuming retirement isn't an option for whatever reason. I'm so well aware of how all consuming the worry over a troubled horse can be - don't make yourself ill over this.
 
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If she's happy in the field - why not retire her, and buy yourself a new one?
I have thought of this but because she’s so hard on the ground I don’t think it would be fun, not to mention she’s on livery and I’m already tens of thousands in debt. Shes also worse when in less work and I’d still need to handle her for the farrier, dentist etc and try to change her rugs (she tries to tank off and bucks in my face at times during rug changes).
 
Joined
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Has she always been a bit of a monster on the ground? My last pony was (as it turned out) in pain from his back, and his behaviour on the ground deteriorated the more he was ridden. He was a sweetie to handle once you stopped riding him. Obviously hindsight is a wonderful thing. I'm just wondering whether she might be difficult because she's unhappy / in pain?

Either way, I don't think anyone should be judging you for PTS under these circumstances. You say "I’m so miserable now....[but] it feels wrong to put a horse down that could hack out happily". However - most people who want a nice hack also want their horse to be a pet. So I'm not sure you should be using that reasoning to beat yourself up.

If you have the money to spare, I would persist as Antw23uk says - but if you don't really have it, there's nothing wrong with PTS, assuming retirement isn't an option for whatever reason. I'm so well aware of how all consuming the worry over a troubled horse can be - don't make yourself ill over this.
Thank you. I don’t have money spare as such but feel like it’s maybe worth paying another £1-2k as a last ditch attempt to see if a pro can help with her
 
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You don't say how old this horse is??

You say you have spent a fortune on her and she's still not come right for WHAT YOU WANT. You by your own admission are not a happy hacker - you want a horse for as you say "low level riding club".

Yes you could pass her on, perhaps on loan, to someone who DOES want a happy hacker, but you say she is frankly dangerous on the ground and isn't easy to handle, and I think you would worry (a) that the "happy hacker" would at some point perhaps be wanting to do more and that level of work would not be helpful for her and would cause even more problems (which you would have to sort as she'd at that point bounce back to you) or (b) that because of her behaviour at some point someone could get injured especially if she was in a yard where you weren't there to see the warning signs and intervene.

I feel your pain; I had a mare who whilst she wasn't exhibiting the extremes of dangerous behaviour which you describe, was in pain (trigeminal headshaking) and that pain was making her very aggressive to other members of the herd - it was when things escalated and she began to turn that behaviour against humans on the yard that I had to make a sad decision. It wasn't just headshaking it was a lot of other issues as well and I know there was no other decision I could have made. Vet said I could easily have spent over £20k on her and still get neither answers nor solutions. So we did the best we could for her and let her go.

Field companion might be an option....... but as she's nasty to deal with on the ground you will struggle to find anywhere to take her on, frankly, as most people wanting a field companion need something that is "easy" to do.

Sadly I feel that you don't have many options left with this poor mare. The other thing I would say is that you have to consider your own safety at the end of the day and if she is in pain now this behaviour is likely to escalate and either you or someone else may get badly hurt. Feeling deeply sorry that you're having to face a difficult decision, but do admire you for NOT just washing your hands of her and chucking her on the wagon to the nearest market.........
 
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Tough situation and the thing for me that stands out is that you say you're miserable. I think as owners we often get sucked into doing everything for our horses we forget to do what's right for us. There are no medals for being a martyr... you know your horse best but she doesn't sound content to me. You say she's fine under saddle but that's what, 10% of your time together? If someone else posted this would you think 'I'd keep going' or would you think 'Sounds like a good candidate for PTS?'. I would and have PTS for very similar reasons.
Thank you. It’s hard when you’ve put your heart and soul into rehab for almost a year (5 days pw of long reining, poles, stretches etc), but equally I’m so unhappy and it’s making me miserable even when I’m not at the yard. She’s also injured me a few times (on the ground, not ridden). There are times I think she could really hurt me
 
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You don't say how old this horse is??

You say you have spent a fortune on her and she's still not come right for WHAT YOU WANT. You by your own admission are not a happy hacker - you want a horse for as you say "low level riding club".

Yes you could pass her on, perhaps on loan, to someone who DOES want a happy hacker, but you say she is frankly dangerous on the ground and isn't easy to handle, and I think you would worry (a) that the "happy hacker" would at some point perhaps be wanting to do more and that level of work would not be helpful for her and would cause even more problems (which you would have to sort as she'd at that point bounce back to you or (b) that because of her behaviour at some point someone could get injured especially if she was in a yard where you weren't there to see the warning signs and intervene.

I feel your pain; I had a mare who whilst she wasn't exhibiting the extremes of dangerous behaviour which you describe, was in pain (trigeminal headshaking) and that pain was making her very aggressive to other members of the herd - it was when things escalated and she began to turn that behaviour against humans on the yard that I had to make a sad decision. It wasn't just headshaking it was a lot of other issues as well and I know there was no other decision I could have made. Vet said I could easily have spent over £20k on her and still get neither answers nor solutions. So we did the best we could for her and let her go.

Field companion might be an option....... but as she's nasty to deal with on the ground you will struggle to find anywhere to take her on, frankly, as most people wanting a field companion need something that is "easy" to do.

Sadly I feel that you don't have many options left with this poor mare. Feeling deeply sorry that you're having to face a difficult decision, but do admire you for NOT just washing your hands of her and chucking her on the wagon to the nearest market.........
Thank you. She’s only 6 :-(
 

bonny

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I don’t think you should spend any more money on her as it sounds like you and her have reached the end of the road. Maybe turn her out for the winter and then advertise her next spring, as long as you are honest she sounds like someone would want her, maybe just for hacking. Or loan ?
 
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I dont think you should be sending her away, i do think you should be being taught with her if you get in a professional. If she is making you miserable and isn't sellable and you don't feel retirement is an option then PTS. Horses are PTS for a lot less!

Your advise from the physio sounds overwhelming, they should be breaking this down and helping you decide if its manageable. A lot of the time their advise is stretches, in-hand pole work etc. and once you get into a routine that can be enjoyable and rewarding ....... providing the horse isnt trying to stand on your head i guess!
Thank you. I’ve got a plan from the physio but it’s the same as what we’ve been doing day in day out for a year. Also when she’s anxious she takes off on the lunge and likes to buck while we’re long lining which isn’t fun. I definitely need a break (I used to be good at dealing with her behaviour and the rehab). Not sure if I send to a pro, I’ll get the rest I need and then we’ll also have lessons together. It’s the thought of spending more money that’s making me want to stop
 

Blanche

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If she was mine I would pts. In your first post you say she drags her toes and stumbles behind when hacking, that indicates to me that something isn’t right. She sounds like a deeply unhappy mare and I would suspect that pain is the reason. If you pts please know you have tried your best for her. Sometimes they will never come right however much money you throw at the problem. The one thing I would not do is pass the mare on, it wouldn’t be fair on her.
 

Winters100

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I don't think that I could bring myself to sell a horse with this history / behavior. She is only 6, so who knows when the back problems may arise again, and who knows in what kind of home she might be at the time.

It is a tough one, but I think in your position I would PTS. If she was easy to handle I would find a nice retirement livery, but she sounds as if she could be a danger to you / others, so that is not an option which will give you any peace.

I am so sorry for you being in this position, it is very tough when they are young.
 

Antw23uk

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I wouldn’t really want to sell her because I fear she’d get passed around (and possibly beaten because of how defiant she is). I also don’t think anyone would buy a kissing spine horse that’s had surgery plus has SI issues would they? I’d love to find her a home with someone but I don’t think that exists
I think you'll find more people advocating PTS than rehoming and you sound like you are the type to take the responsibility of her very seriously and make the right decision to secure her future. Best of luck
 

stangs

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I’d book a good behaviourist to come and see her first, before doing anything else.

My only comment on PTS is that it’s easy for people without an emotional attachment to the horse to advocate it as a final solution, but how would you cope with the aftermath of the decision?
 

Birker2020

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If she's happy in the field - why not retire her, and buy yourself a new one?
I assume most people are in the same position, if they don't lose a horse or have it put down under BEVA guidelines they cannot afford another as the insurance wouldn't pay out.

Not everyone can afford to get a second horse without the demise of the first, especially in today's market.
 

ycbm

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My only comment on PTS is that it’s easy for people without an emotional attachment to the horse to advocate it as a final solution, but how would you cope with the aftermath of the decision?
I cope by knowing that the horse can never suffer a moments pain or anxiety ever again and that they were completely unaware that I chose to take an unknown number of years of life of a questionable quality away from them.
.
 

Birker2020

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I would support you having this unhappy mare who has bankrupted you to sleep. You've done your best.
.
Agree - I'm afraid after playing nurse to my last beloved horse a good part of its life, and in excess of 30K (a good £6K through self funding) should I ever find myself in a position where I couldn't ride a horse again I would very much consider this option especially if the horse was young and had a good 15 years of life left or I didn't have the affinity or devotion and complete love that comes with having a horse for many years. Even if it meant not being able to afford another one.

Sometimes you have to consider your mental health in all of this.

I used to be one of those that was in the 'never pts if you can help it' camp. Now I'm just too knackered financially and emotionally to believe in that viewpoint.
 

Winters100

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I’d book a good behaviourist to come and see her first, before doing anything else.

My only comment on PTS is that it’s easy for people without an emotional attachment to the horse to advocate it as a final solution, but how would you cope with the aftermath of the decision?
I understand what you are saying, but in all honesty I would cope better with this decision than with the alternatives. Sell and I would worry about where she was / how she was being treated, loan and I would worry about someone getting hurt on my watch, and keeping the horse in a retirement livery would be a constant worry about those handling her / what I would do in case of needing the vet / farrier.

There us not an easy option for OP here, and sadly whatever decision she makes comes with a certain amount of pain. The only thing I would say is that the horse sounds unhappy, and there is only 1 option which guarantees that she does not suffer. Not a decision to be taken lightly, but it sounds as if OP has done an enormous amount for this horse, and everyone has a point after which it is impractical to go on.
 

Denbob

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I’d book a good behaviourist to come and see her first, before doing anything else.

My only comment on PTS is that it’s easy for people without an emotional attachment to the horse to advocate it as a final solution, but how would you cope with the aftermath of the decision?
I see what you mean, it can be easy to look at it without the emotional attachment but I think we're all very aware of the emotional attachment and bond you can have so it's not a throwaway bit of advice from anyone here.

I was in OP's shoes (or similar at least) and I couldn't keep him in a capacity that meant he had a good quality of life nor could I guarantee anyone else could and be safe doing so. It sucked, quite frankly, and over a year and a half on it still sucks and I do still cry about it because I miss him dearly and always will but I can live with myself knowing that he isn't in pain and he won't be causing anyone else pain.
 

babymare

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You would have my support if you PTS. My 14 yr half blind stressful mare was PTS when I moved out of area and the vet and I believed to move her would be to much for her to cope with. Some people were not nice about my decision but I knew it was right. Just big hug because I know it’s a hard and awful decision to make x
 
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Thank you for all of the replies, it’s such a tough position to be in :-( How do you find someone to PTS? Is it better to get the vet to do this or get a number for the local hunt? Also my horse panics when leaving her field so would they put her to sleep in the field or would the noise upset nearby horses (and what about other liveries). Does the vet or person dealing with this hold the horse for you? I’m not sure I’d want to be involved at all
 

eggs

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Could the rehab work be done ridden? What does your vet (rather than your physio) say?

When I have had horses PTS I have the vet using an injection. Some have been done in the stable and some in the field. My vet will hold the horse if I ask them to. She also arranges for some-one to come and collect them (whatever you do, do not be around for that bit)
 

Meadow21

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This is a really horrible situation for you to be in and it must be devastating. Personally I feel we all have a duty of care with any animal we buy. I don't think it would be appropriate to loan or sell her on if she is unpredictable, most happy hackers looking for a loan horse will be after something steady and safe but there may be someone out there. The current horse market is saturated and overpriced so dealers are desperate to get anything they can resell, and lots are reselling lame doped up horses. No matter how good the home you pass her onto is, you cant control where they might resell her or even how they treat her.
One option is sending her to a retirement livery, there are several nice ones about the UK where they are kept in small herds/groups and often really horse focus rather than rider/client focus. Many have local hacking routes and are cheaper than ordinary livery. They normally only cater for a full livery package however and not all of them offer stabling (large barns or sheltering is often the stable replacement).
It is a very upsetting thought to PTS an animal however it is often a kinder option. The horse does not understand it is going to be PTS nor will feel pain/distress when this occurs. If i was in your position this is probably the pathway i would go down. I know many horses that have been put to sleep for similar reasons, including one very highly bred (expensive) show jumping 4 year old who developed a minor fracture to the leg which healed incorrectly. He was big and difficult to handle, too challenging and highly strung to be a happy hacker or pet. He could not be kept nor rehomed, so sadly was pts peacefully in the field on a nice summers day. He most likely would have been subjected to a life of being passed around for a cheap price due to his on and off lameness and challenging attitude. The owner being a competative rider could also not allocate herself to care for such a challenging field ordement. It guarantees they will not suffer, and i believe it is an owners responsibility to prevent a horse from suffering.
 
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