At Trail’s End
Read Lisa’s “Listening to Our Elders” in the February/March issue of Holistic Horse
Caring for our equine companions is something we do throughout their lives. It’s a responsibility we carry all the way to the end. “Sometimes humane euthanasia is the best outcome for a horse after a life lived well,” says Dr. Robert Holland, veterinarian for Pfizer Equine Technical Service.
“However, those are some of the hardest discussions for veterinarians to have with owners.” Dr. Holland should know; as author of Understanding the Older Horse (Eclipse Press), he’s literally written the book on caring for equine elders. Does Dr. Holland have any advice for knowing when it’s time? “If a horse is having unrelenting pain or can’t stand on their own, if they’re not interested in other horses or activities, or they’re just plain unaware of their surroundings, then it could be time to have that tough discussion,” he says. Holland says that’s where diagnostic assessment can help determine a course of action. “Blood tests and a complete physical exam will provide information, so owners can make an informed decision as the steward of their horse’s care and quality of life. But ultimately, the decision is between that horse and his owner,” Holland concludes. One California-based equine rescue facility is helping economically challenged horse owners with a new approach to end-of-life issues: Their first low-cost humane euthanasia clinic took place in mid-November, 2008. Following significant public support and donations that enabled them to switch the clinic from low-cost to no-cost for qualifying horses and owners, NorCal Equine Rescue (NER) plans additional euthanasia clinics throughout the winter. However, NER founders Tawnee and Jason Preisner have made sure they can save every horse possible; owners must sign over any horse they want euthanized, so that NER staff can find homes for the adoptable ones. Holland thinks the Preisners might be on to something. “We need different approaches to finding homes for unwanted horses, or those that are still healthy but maybe can’t be ridden as much. I like this concept, because if a horse is still adoptable, they’ll find a new place for him to go. And, if a horse is truly not adoptable, he won’t suffer from neglect due to economic reasons,” he says. For additional information on NER and their humane euthanasia clinics, visit www.savethehorse.com