I’m posting today because we’ll be losing Bruno next week having taken the decision to have him put to sleep. This post is about that decision, not the outcome (or whether it’s right or wrong – this is a very personal and individual decision and an emotive subject) but about the process of making that decision and what you learn about yourself as a horseperson. I think it’s a decision that at some point most horse owners will be involved in, directly or indirectly. Please try not to judge others unkindly until you’ve really really asked yourself what you’d do.
The situation with Bruno is that unfortunately, despite all of our efforts with barefoot rehabilitation over the last 18 months, he is increasingly uncomfortable now. Bruno has always been an animal whose main joy in life came from
excessive speed and adrenalin movement, so it’s particularly hard to see him stand by when the others canter off to play. Whilst he’s not suffering to the extent of cruelty (yet) it is clear he is dealing, stoically, with pain on a pretty much constant basis. I think that I could, perhaps, buy him a little more time with more painkillers…up to a point. But I had to ask…would that really be time for him or me?
After much agonising, I’ve realised that the world shifted last week when it became clear that I couldn’t continue to pretend that B’s in ‘rehab’. In ‘rehab mode’ there was at least the hope of improvement even if it was up and down at times and he wasn’t always feeling great. Even when it was hard work, disheartening, excessively time consuming and bloody expensive it all had a point. Now I am faced with making a plan to manage his inevitable decline I find that I am simply not comfortable that ‘B’ should have to deal with any level of pain when he doesn’t need to and when there is nothing ultimately to be gained from it (by him or me).
The truth is no-one can make him better, but I can make the pain go away and frankly that’s what it comes down to for me. Horses can’t do Sudoko or enjoy art or music, a good movie or just good conversation or any other stationary ‘pursuits’ we take for granted. I’m sorry if that sounds odd, but it’s hard not to make comparisons when B has become like family (I have owned him as long as I have known my husband). But there is a big difference between horses and humans in that movement isn’t optional for horses – it’s what they’re about. Well, that and eating but as I’ve said, eating was always way down B’s priority list in his prime. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe they can be ‘nourished’ in some ways by human love ..at least I think they know they’re loved by us. But I don’t think love trumps feeling good in motion for horses. Whilst this all probably reads like a justification, that isn’t the purpose of this post. Because I have tried to rationalise it, doesn’t mean I will ever be comfortable with it. I won’t. I am taking a life. This does and and probably always will feel wrong to me. Whilst this may seem inconsistent I am also someone who enjoys eating meat, but I don’t think I would be comfortable to kill my own chicken. At least I am consistently inconsistent. See what I mean about learning quite a bit about yourself?
So, in the final analysis just because I could keep Bruno going, I don’t think that means I should. I think if I’ve learned anything about myself and my relationship with horses this last year it’s why I’m in this. What it’s all about for me is keeping horses happy and healthy.
So that’s why I think it’s the hardest decision, because when you get to a point where you can’t keep that promise, to keep them healthy and happy then you have to make a decision about when not if. I think B is going sooner rather than later. I for one am not prepared to wait until the decision is easy because by that point he will have suffered…and whilst I can prevent that, I will.