Having livestock means having to make hard choices, they are entrusted into our care. We keep them for food, we keep them for protection, we keep them for companions. Eventually we are going to have to make a decision about them for end of life.
We decide when it's time to be butchered, when it's time to move on to someone elses care, when it's time to put them out of their misery, or end suffering. This last week I had to make a terribly hard choice, that many people would not agree with. I had to find somewhere else for Apache, my blind gelding. He was finally completely blind. He may have been able to see some shadows far away, but he was blind.
He was doing fairly well out in the pasture by himself. As long as he didn't have any contact with the other horses, he didn't loose his mind. If we tried to take Ben past him, or off the property, he paced, he whinnied, he tried to plunge around and not move at the same time. It was very sad to watch. I tried putting him out front with the cows. He paced so much he made the front pasture a bog.
I put him in the dry lot and fed him hay, but when the winds came, and we get hellacious winds here in Idaho, he freaked out trying to find shelter from the blowing sand. Trying to walk up to him and catch him to put him in the round pen was almost dangerous. He didn't want to listen to pay attention to where I was standing to avoid running me over.
In the round pen he couldn't hear Dave's horses out back and worried himself into a frenzy trying alllll day and night long to find a way out of the pen. He was loosing weight no matter how much I fed him. He banged into the water barrel, tripped over it, scabbed up his shins.
Last week the calves figured out the fence wasn't hot down in the one corner. My steer broke out 4 times in one afternoon, even with adding a third hot wire. We had to move all three of them up into the round pen until I can pay to have someone come out and drill through the lava rock just under the soil, and make a new fence corner. The round pen is a good 60 round, but there just wasn't enough room for two- 13 month old steer, one 4 month old steer, and one blind horse.
I put Apache out on the short pasture and in trying to find his way to Ben, he bumped the wire fence pretty hard. It wasn't hot, but it was enough to knock some of the wire out of the insulators and bring the top of the fence down. He got tangled up in it. He managed to get free, but what if he didn't? What if I hadn't been home?
So I called Steve. He's the horse trader I got Ben from. I didn't want to have to take him to the sale. It would have been a terrifying nightmare for him to try and run him through the sale. I didn't want to think about him in a feed lot getting ready to be on a truck bound for Canada when he can't see. I don't have the money to euth him and have him hauled off.
Steve agreed on coming out to take a look and see what my options were. I know what he is. I know the horses he buys sometimes end up at the sale and on a truck with the kill buyer. He doesn't try and hide it. He's a horse trader and everyone knows it.
Steve and his wife came out with their truck and trailer. I got Apache haltered and he got some hands on with him. He agreed with me that he wasn't dangerous. He stopped when Steve intentionally stopped in front of him and didn't say Whoa. Apache just backed off a few steps. I said to him i was being a realist, that I knew he might end up on the kill buyer truck. He told his wife she had a new horse to ride. See what they could do. He told me he'd put Apache down if things didn't work. He wouldn't ship him. I believe him.
I cried, I haltered him and led him to the truck. He loaded very cautiously, but jumped up without freaking. I cried some more when they pulled out of the driveway. It was terrible, but it was something that needed to be done before I came home and found him bled out from impaling himself of a tee post.