‘Be brave and say goodbye’: Owners urged to do right by older horses after skeletal 45-year-old pony put down

  • An equine welfare officer alerted to a skeletal pony who was found to be 45 years old has urged owners to do the right thing with older horses, rather than send them to an uncertain future.

    Lisa Lanfear, of Welsh charity Communities for Horses, visited the pony last Monday (19 October), having been sent pictures and details by a concerned member of the public.

    “I was horrified; he was a walking skeleton,” she told H&H.

    “It was soul-destroying. He was such a lovely pony, and not many cases really get to me, because I see so many. But he did.”

    Lisa said the owners told her they had only owned the pony for a short time. She said they had the best intentions, but neither the knowledge nor the means to do what was right for him.

    “They’d had him in rugs and been feeding him; going on advice from the feed store as they didn’t know what to give him,” she said. “He hadn’t seen a vet but I felt for them; they were doing the best they could to the best of their capabilities. They’d seen something awful and wanted to try to help.”

    On checking the pony’s passport, Lisa found out his age.

    “I was flabbergasted,” she said. “I thought ‘how on earth have you ended up here, at this age?’ It broke my heart.

    “The owners said they’d do whatever it took but at that age, the muscle wastage is phenomenal; however much food you put in, you’re not going to get it back.”

    Lisa advised the owners to call a vet, and said his teeth would need to be checked, but the owners then decided it would be best to put the pony down.

    “I’m glad,” Lisa said. “I’m proud of them for doing the right thing by him.”

    Lisa said she is sure the pony had been looked after well in the past.

    “He was such a sweet pony, but at that age, why had someone passed him on?” she asked. “We’ve got to be responsible for the animals we have.”

    Lisa urged owners to seek help, “be brave and say goodbye” when the time comes. She pointed out that most welfare charities can offer advice and guidance, and even someone to be there at the end should the owner feel they cannot.

    “The one promise I always make to a horse is that I won’t let them suffer,” she said.

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    “They have to thrive, not just survive. Surviving is no quality of life and we, as the theoretically more educated species, have to make that decision.

    “We have to try to improve their lives, and if we can’t, we have to let them go. I saw someone the other day looking for a home for a 26-year-old horse, then asking when the sales were; she was going to put her through that.

    “Please don’t do that. Give them a good feed, and a good groom, and put them to sleep rather than packing them off elsewhere, and let’s stop condemning people for being responsible.”

    To the old pony’s previous owner, she added: “Why did you pass him on to suffer more? His days were done – it was not fair of you to send him away again, passing on the burden to another.

    “In all this, I ask please do not send your old horse to face an uncertain future. Be brave, say goodbye and be with them to the end.”

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