Elderly mini and difficult decisions

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summer_rain

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Hello! I have an older (almost 32-year-old) miniature horse gelding. I've had him for 19 years, he's been with me through all the major events in my life. For the most part, he's doing okay. He has almost no teeth left, but he eats his senior feed, tries to gum the grass and has been maintaining his weight. He still gets around the field reasonably well. He just had bloodwork done that was perfect. But over the past month or two, he just seems to be feeling his age. He gets around the field well enough, he can lay down and get back up...but he's moving slower. He takes longer to come in to eat than he used to, and he just seems like he's lost some of his "spark". He used to always demand breakfast with a sassy little head toss and he hasn't been doing that for a few weeks. Sometimes when he kicks at a fly, I can hear that his joints are creaky. When he does lie down, he's definitely slower and does it more gingerly. He's on multiple joint supplements (omega 3's, flexadin, glucosamine/chondroitin with green lipped muscle, and buteless) and some hoof supplements (biotin and smart lamina). I just started him on equioxx which does seem to help him get around better, do laser therapy on his hocks and stifles, and do adequan injections when I can afford it. And he does okay with all that, but he was still a little lame when he tried to take some trot steps today and he doesn't have the same spark or sass that he used to. There's nothing major I can point to, but after 19 years of caring for him, there's just this gut feeling that he isn't himself. I don't know if maybe its time to spoil him rotten for the summer and fall and then let him go before it gets cold in the winter? I'm just so worried that even though physically he seems okay, these little changes in his personality are his way of telling me his quality of life isn't what it once was. And even though he gets up and down okay now, I worry about it being cold out and him getting stuck and being alone. I don't want to give up on him, and I wouldn't even know how to begin to have this conversation with my husband. I'm a (small animal) veterinarian, and I know better too soon than too late and all the logic behind it. But it's so hard to be objective right now, and its so hard when overall he seems to be doing okay. I just don't know what the right thing to do is.
 

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So sorry you are going through this, it's always a hard decision to make. I always feel like your gut knows the right thing to do, it's when you listen to your heart that you get into trouble. But in your case it seems like you can hold off on the decision for a little bit. No reason you can't spoil him rotten all summer and then see how he does when it starts to get cold.
 
So sorry you are going through this, it's always a hard decision to make. I always feel like your gut knows the right thing to do, it's when you listen to your heart that you get into trouble. But in your case it seems like you can hold off on the decision for a little bit. No reason you can't spoil him rotten all summer and then see how he does when it starts to get cold.
Thank you for the reply! My gut tells me I should be at least preparing myself to let go...but its so hard. I have a new farrier coming to see if they have thoughts and I'm trying to do everything I can and see how he responds/if we can get him really comfy before it gets cold, but I'm also trying to mentally prepare myself. I dont know how, or even if to broach the topic with my husband because he's come to love him too. But I so want to keep this little guy happy and comfortable.

My thoughts are to try everything I can over the Summer to get him comfy, then see how he does as things get colder while preparing myself that this could be his last Summer. If he gets increasingly sore or struggles at all going into Winter, I think I have to let him go. But I keep crying when Im with him, and I dont know how or if to talk to my husband about my thoughts. I know my husband has come to love him, but this horse has been with me through middle school, highschool, college, the loss of my other horses, vet school, marriage, every major event or loss in my life. In a way, he's a last tie to my childhood. I can hardly handle that, much less try to support my husband through it/deal with him second guessing me making a decision too soon.
 
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That's going to depend on your relationship and your husband's level of horse sense, I guess. I had to make a similar difficult decision this year, and I let my husband know I was thinking about the decision. Then I made the decision and let him know. He isn't going to deal well with the reality of it, but he has been warned, and has time to try to come to terms with it.
 
I am sorry you have this to face. Having also been through it, I appreciate LostandFounds advice on letting your husband know in advance. My husband sounds a bit similar and giving him time to ask questions, while hard, may help clarify/solidify your stance and also give him a base to build on as time passes. It also can put things in a slightly different perspective for both of you.

In the meantime, while he is slowing down, it also sounds like he is enjoying the simple life, so letting him keep going on his terms for now makes sense. It sounds like you see him daily, so as Marsha wrote, one day, you will know.

💕
 
@summer_rain how sweet to have had your little friend for nearly 2 full decades! He's been so fortunate to have been loved and very well cared for that whole time. Many aren't nearly as fortunate. You are right in your knowledge that it's better a day too soon than have them suffering at all, at least I agree with that. We tend to let our old guys go in the fall, when it's coming to their time. Spoil them in the summer and then give them the rest before they risk a winter being uncomfortable and, heaven forbid, get stuck down and struggle and suffer. Only you know when the time is right. Sending big hugs.
 
Hello! I have an older (almost 32-year-old) miniature horse gelding. I've had him for 19 years, he's been with me through all the major events in my life. For the most part, he's doing okay. He has almost no teeth left, but he eats his senior feed, tries to gum the grass and has been maintaining his weight. He still gets around the field reasonably well. He just had bloodwork done that was perfect. But over the past month or two, he just seems to be feeling his age. He gets around the field well enough, he can lay down and get back up...but he's moving slower. He takes longer to come in to eat than he used to, and he just seems like he's lost some of his "spark". He used to always demand breakfast with a sassy little head toss and he hasn't been doing that for a few weeks. Sometimes when he kicks at a fly, I can hear that his joints are creaky. When he does lie down, he's definitely slower and does it more gingerly. He's on multiple joint supplements (omega 3's, flexadin, glucosamine/chondroitin with green lipped muscle, and buteless) and some hoof supplements (biotin and smart lamina). I just started him on equioxx which does seem to help him get around better, do laser therapy on his hocks and stifles, and do adequan injections when I can afford it. And he does okay with all that, but he was still a little lame when he tried to take some trot steps today and he doesn't have the same spark or sass that he used to. There's nothing major I can point to, but after 19 years of caring for him, there's just this gut feeling that he isn't himself. I don't know if maybe its time to spoil him rotten for the summer and fall and then let him go before it gets cold in the winter? I'm just so worried that even though physically he seems okay, these little changes in his personality are his way of telling me his quality of life isn't what it once was. And even though he gets up and down okay now, I worry about it being cold out and him getting stuck and being alone. I don't want to give up on him, and I wouldn't even know how to begin to have this conversation with my husband. I'm a (small animal) veterinarian, and I know better too soon than too late and all the logic behind it. But it's so hard to be objective right now, and its so hard when overall he seems to be doing okay. I just don't know what the right thing to do is.
What a beautiful little man you have there, he is lucky to have you as his person in his geriatric years.

I feel a little hesitant giving a Vet any ideas but I've had a bunch of old timers who I love/loved dearly so I'll tell you my thoughts and what helped my guys. I'll probably ramble, but here we go.
1. Since he hasn't been as eager for his meals my thought go to ulcers and his remaining teeth. Could you try some UlcerGard for a week or so and see what happens? Has he had his remaining teeth checked for an abscess or for EOTHR? I just had an oldie (27) have 5 teeth removed because of EOTHR and he has done quite a turnaround. He had gotten very indifferent to his feed over the past few months, once the teeth were out he's ravenous again and his whole personality changed for the better.

2. About the lameness. Have you tried boots? Could he have an abscess brewing? I have had several on previcox with varying results, some it helped but my current pony is unresponsive to it. My vet and I decided to treat him for his discomfort on as as needed basis with banamine. Usually a 3 day course will set him straight for awhile, it gets him over the humps and bumps of old age. I figure at his age it's a quality of life thing and comfort if more important than possible side effects.

3. Any possibility of the little man having Lyme? A long shot probably but I'm throwing it out there.

Hang in there, it's not easy watching them age but there is some satisfaction in knowing you are doing the best you can and giving them an easy retirement.
 

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