HORSEPLAY: The right thing can be hard to do

SHE MADE THE right call. Though some may question it, or even chastise her for it.

After months of agonizing, she came to the conclusion that euthanizing her beautiful, beloved and decades-long companion was the most humane and kindest decision she could make.

Now in her late 70s, she became weaker.

Caring for her horse had become more difficult: handling bales of hay, grasping a manure fork to pick up the big piles of poop, and then pushing the full wheelbarrow away from the barn to overturn its load on the ever-growing manure and compost pile.

Then there was the arduous task of bending over to lift each hoof to clean out the little rocks and debris stuck in there with a hoof pick and keeping the water buckets filled with clean water.

Then, there was the car accident.

Her little car was T-boned so hard by a large, fast-moving car that all four of her airbags exploded around her.

They saved her life.

Still, she was left battered, bruised and in constant pain.

Yet, she soldiered on.

Factoring into her decision was the sudden excessive jump in the price of hay: $30 a bale that wasn’t even high quality.

And now winter’s coming.

She well knew the toll that trudging out in the freezing cold weather multiple times a day to feed and care would have on her increasingly frail body.

To preserve my friend’s privacy, I’m not sharing her name, nor the name of her horse.

I’m sharing her story because I’ve heard far too many sad stories of others in similar situations: those who keep their horses at home and one day finding themselves getting too old, arthritic and frail to keep up with the feeding, brushing and mucking that comes with owning a horse.

There are other reasons, too — the owner got Alzheimer’s or cancer, got injured in a car accident or lost a job.

Then there’s the skyrocketing cost of hay due to the drought and inflation.

Rapidly rising costs of everything certainly has me wondering how much longer I can afford to feed my own horses.

So what to do?

If the horse is young, in good health and well-trained, then selling to someone you deem will provide a good home may be a good option. Or not, especially in these uncertain economic times.

Is the horse older than 20? Had the same owner most of its life? In poor health or with lameness issues? Does the horse have behavior problems? Is he dangerous to handle? Is he well-trained and safe to ride?

If your horse has spent most of its life roaming a pasture, or if you’ll have to advertise for “experienced rider only,” then it’s truly not considered safe for others to ride.

If it’s a young horse that just needs time with a good trainer, then that’s how you advertise it.

But that’s not the point of this column.

This is about what do for your animal when you can no longer care for it.

If you answered “yes” to two or more of the above questions, then do the right thing by the animal and euthanize it.

There are plenty of experienced horsemen around willing to help you through the process.

You can ask a veterinarian to make a farm call to come euthanize the horse at home.

I’ve done that more than once. Then, find someone with a backhoe to come bury the animal deep in the ground (county websites list the requirements for your area).

I’ve also reached out to the Olympic Game Farm in Sequim.

Their highly experienced marksman came to my home, gave a quick gun shot to the correct spot that instantly, and humanly, killed my very much-loved horse.

He then used a winch to load him onto his trailer and took him to the game farm, where he became food for the carnivorous animals there.

For more information, see www. right.

What you don’t want to do is pass your older, sick, problematic horse you’ve owned for years off to an often-scary unknown.

Sadly, most will end up at an auction to be cheaply sold for the price of his meat (and by then, your horse will have lost weight).

Then, he’ll be crammed into the back of a tractor trailer with a lot of other unwanted and scared horses and driven for hours across the border to Canada, to a slaughterhouse where their processed meat is sold for human and animal consumption.

Ever since equine slaughter plants were closed in the U.S. in 1998, tens of thousands of horses each year have been crammed into livestock trailers and trucked to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico.

Tragically, many were highly trained, prizewinning horses once worth thousands of dollars.

So what chance does your horse have of not ending up there?

Think hard about your horse’s future.

The worst thing you can do is close your mind and heart to the harsh reality by choosing to pass your horse along to someone else and hope for the best.

Please don’t do that to your horse.

You can do what’s right for your horse like my friend did.

As difficult as the decision was, she knew she was doing the greatest act of kindness to her companion by putting her to sleep in the comfort of her familiar surroundings.

This act of kindness includes if your horse is boarded at stables.

Is it easy to put a beloved horse down? Of course not.

It’s harder on the human than the animal.

Done professionally, their lives come to a quiet and peaceful end within a few seconds.

As for my friend, even though her veterinarian assured her she’d made the right decision by euthanizing at home, after the deed was done, she was overcome with feelings of grief, guilt and loss.

Her horse had been her companion, source of love and joy. Her reason to get out of bed and get moving after that horrific car accident.

Yes, she made the right call.

When the time comes, will you?

Prize ride

Prize Ride: Today, from 8 a.m. to raffle drawing at 3 p.m., the BCH Peninsula Chapter’s Olympic Spirit Prize Ride at Layton Hill Horse Camp. Top prize is a $300 Visa gift card.

For $30, you get to ride a three-hour, 8-mile scenic loop along with four raffle tickets.

Don’t want to ride but want a chance to earn a prize?

Just come pay the $30 for the four raffle tickets before 3 p.m. You must be there in person for the 3 p.m. drawing to win.

If riding the trail, it has some rocky areas so your horse will need to wear shoes or hoof boots.

Lunch is $10 and is a fundraiser for Ranahan Pony Club.

Dry camping is also available.

For more information, call Kim Merrick at 253-261-6188.

Layton Hill Horse Camp is located at 2514 Chicken Coop Road in Blyn (Sequim).


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Saturday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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