Electing to euthanize is a difficult part of horse ownership, and the hard decisions don’t stop there

The grass had sprouted knee-high beneath the almond blossoms. Clouds dotted the sky as the mare yanked and munched mouthfuls of green blades. It was the perfect spring picture, except that the mare’s hooves were too long and her hip-bones were too prominent. I had repeated the routine hundreds of times in my career–placing a catheter in the jugular vein and filling the syringes with a solution that looks like a melted blue-raspberry popsicle. I nodded to my assistant, and she raised the mare’s head from the grass. I attached the first syringe to the end of the catheter, made sure the catheter was working, and depressed the plunger. The second syringe followed the first. And, as Goldie’s palomino body crumpled to the ground, my heart and body dropped with her. I had literally just killed my best friend.

Eu: Good. Thanatos: Death. Euthanasia. Taken from the Greek, a good death.

In its Euthanasia Guidelines (2011), the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) states that:

  • A horse should not have to endure continuous or unmanageable pain from a condition that is chronic and incurable.
  • A horse should not have to endure a medical or surgical condition that has a hopeless chance of survival.
  • A horse should not have to remain alive if it has an unmanageable medical condition that renders it a hazard to itself or its handlers.
  • A horse should not have to receive continuous analgesic medication for the relief of pain for the rest of its l