Should I geld my young stallion?

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Farm Forum

A responsibility shared by producers is to breed the very best in order to produce horses that are sound of mind and body and who are likely to excel in the intended discipline. A discerning eye for selecting quality breeding stock ensures the horse industry continues to advance and is not saturated with inferior stock. Critically evaluate each young stallion. Do they have a superior phenotype, which should be passed on to future offspring, or are they best suited for competition or recreation? Unless the young horse is identified as a superior horse with strong potential to create similar offspring, it is recommended that they are gelded.

What is gelding?

Gelding is the castration of a male horse. A veterinarian most often performs this procedure. The benefit of having a veterinarian perform the surgery is that they can use anesthesia so that your horse’s pain is managed. Additionally the use of chemical restraint in addition to anesthesia is a current standard of care to minimize distress as well as complications such as bleeding or adverse reactions to medication.

Should we castrate?

There are many factors to consider when deciding if your horse should be gelded. A few things that you need to take into consideration are his genetics, performance, behavior, and attitude. Unless your horse excels in all of these areas it would be in your best interest, as well as your horse’s, to geld him. There are many benefits of gelding, such as: ease of handling, being able to ride or turn him out in the presence of mares without breeding behaviors, preventing unintended pregnancies, limiting aggression towards other males, and improving safety.

Talking to your veterinarian

Once you have identified colts for castration contact your veterinarian to discuss the process. They will talk to you about the ideal time to perform the surgery. Age at castration may have an impact on adult height. Young colts must be healthy and in good condition at the time of castration. It is common to castrate a colt around one year of age and when the weather is mild. The surgical procedure is most easily performed once both testicles have descended into the scrotum. Veterinarians are able to extract testes that are retained in the abdominal cavity, but the procedure is much more invasive. They will also talk to you about the risks associated with the surgery such as any complications that may occur.

Preparing for castration

Once you have identified colts that should be gelded there are many steps to take prior to gelding to ensure their health. Colts should be in good health, up to date on vaccinations, and provided with a suitable diet for growing horses. Your veterinarian will likely give a booster vaccination for tetanus at the time of castration. Please refer to the publication “Vaccination of Foals” (http://bit.ly/1VTEls5) for additional information on vaccinations. Combined, these provisions will yield a healthy colt that will be well positioned for a healthy recovery. Next, identify the location of the surgery. If it is to take place outside, identify a quiet and flat area free of rocks, potholes, and tripping or entanglement hazards, which could pose a danger during recovery. Finally, it is important that the horse has had some handling. If he has never been handled, it will be difficult to administer injectable sedatives, anesthetics, and analgesics prior to surgery. He will also be much more difficult and potentially dangerous to handle when he is recovering from anesthesia/sedation.

Post-surgery

After surgery, it will take your horse about 20-40 minutes to wake up. It is important that he is in a safe place where he can recover. Horses often act erratically when waking up from anesthesia or sedation, make sure handlers take precautions and are extra careful when dealing with the new gelding during his recovery. You should expect some drainage from the incision site for about 2-3 weeks. During this time, it is important to walk him to encourage blood flow. At this point, however, strenuous work should be avoided.

Summary

• Most male horses should be gelded, retaining only superior breeding stock as stallions.

• Gelding will keep your male horse safe, allow you to handle him with ease, and turn him out with other horses without worrying about breeding or poor behavior.

• Contact your local veterinarian to discuss the best time and place to have your horse castrated.

• Make sure your horse is up to date on vaccinations, is in good health, and has had some handling prior to surgery.

• After surgery you can expect him to be drowsy and have some drainage from the incision site with a full recovery expected within 2-3 weeks. Give him a day of rest in a clean location such as a grassy pasture if he is accustomed to grazing or a clean, well-bedded stall. Hand-walk him each day for per your veterinarian’s recommendations to help reduce this swelling.