A rider who had her 33-year-old mare put down after 30 years together has urged others in the same situation to do the right thing – rather than rehome or neglect elderly horses.
Belinda Morris was heartbroken to lose thoroughbred Smartie, whom she bought as a three-year-old, but was there to ensure her welfare until the very end.
Belinda told H&H the mare had been an expensive but cherished field ornament, who came in every night “because she liked to”, since she retired aged 27. Smartie still had her teeth and was eating and doing well, but then went wrong behind.
“As they get older all sorts of problems arise, rather like us,” Belinda said. “They are just better at hiding it.”
Belinda, who worked in racing for over 25 years and has owned horses all her life, said Smartie was a tricky, quirky mare.
“A lot of people didn’t like her because she was so marish but you just had to understand her,” Belinda said.”Like all horses, you have to get inside their heads. I did everything with her.
“When my daughter was growing up and had ridden a horse who knocked her confidence, she’d come home and say ‘Can I take Smartie out?’ She was really good at looking after you – when she chose to! And my daughter would come back feeling a lot better about herself.”
Smartie had one arthritic hock, Belinda said, but it was the other hind leg that was the issue that led to the decision, after consultation with the vet.
“I phoned [cremation service] Cremtor, which was the hardest part; ‘it’s really happening now’,” Belinda said. “She came out the next morning and did it.
“What was horrible was, both she and the vet said what good condition Smartie was in; they see so many horses in shocking condition, and it shouldn’t have got that far. How can you do that?”
H&H has reported on delayed euthanasia as one of the biggest welfare issues facing the national herd, and Belinda agrees.
“People might hope something happens so you don’t have to make the call,” she said. “If it does, maybe you’re lucky – but the horse isn’t. That was my biggest fear. I’m glad, or not glad but relieved, that it happened like this; she was a truly beautiful mare, and she didn’t deserve that.
“The lady was so empathetic and you want someone kind for those last moments. I’d had Smartie so long, I wanted to be there till the very end.”
Belinda said she recognises that everyone’s situation, and every horse, is different, and that putting a horse down has a high price tag.
“But you have to do what’s right by the horse,” she said. “I’m so tired of seeing adverts for old horses for sale, ‘as a companion’, and you think what’s going to happen to that horse, and how could you do that? I think we’ve become a throwaway society, and that includes animals.
“I’d rather starve for a month myself, and do the right thing for my horse.”
Belinda said her main message to those delaying making the call when it would be best for the horse is “don’t be selfish”.
“I think that’s what it comes down to,” she said. “It’s hard but it is better a day early than a day late.”
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