Health & Care

What Is Gelding?: Equine Castration Procedure

Male horses that aren’t for breeding purposes undergo equine castration (also called gelding). The process of gelding involves removing a horse’s epididymis, both testicles, and cutting the spermatic cord supplying nerves and blood to the testicles. Equine castration generally makes a horse more convenient to handle and even-tempered. However, a stallion gelded after maturity may still retain an aggressive behavior.

Differences Between Stallions and Geldings

Handling and housing stallions can be challenging. That’s why horse owners prefer geldings as they seem to make more tractable and manageable mounting. Some riders also prefer geldings to mares that can get moody in their heating period. For a beginner, a gelding is safer than a stallion. Geldings tend to grow taller than stallions but don’t become as muscular as them.

Besides making a quieter and safer riding horse, geldings are an effective way to preserve only the best equines for breeding and prevent unwanted offspring.


What Is the Best Age to Geld a Horse?

You can geld a foal before it reaches one year old — once its testicles descend into the scrotum. Most horse owners prefer castration at an earlier age to prevent the foal from developing unwanted stallion-like behaviors. These characteristics can endanger other animals and anyone who handles the horse. A few people prefer gelding at an older age, believing it’ll give the horse a more attractive appearance.

Gelding or Castration Procedure in Horses

Before Gelding

Gelding can be performed under general anesthesia or while a sedated horse stands, and the process can be closed, semi-closed, or open. Veterinarians usually suggest tetanus vaccination for the horse before the castration procedure. They also examine the horse to ensure its testicles have fully descended. If not, it’s a cryptorchid and requires a particular gelding procedure performed in a vet hospital.

The most common method is the open process under general anesthesia. The process involves sedating the horse, administering the anesthesia, and gradually lowering the horse to the ground. Vets can perform this gelding procedure at the horse owner’s home site, in a grassy environment, to reduce contamination and ensure the horse’s safety while recovering from the anesthetic effects.

Intravenous anesthesia lasts about ten minutes. The procedure is usually within a dose, but you can repeat the anesthesia during the process if required. You’ll place the horse on its side and move its legs out of the way.

During Gelding

The vet will make an incision over each testicle to expose it. He then applies an emasculator (a tool used to crush and cut a spermatic cord) to the spermatic cord and squeezes vessels, which will cause bleeding. Squeezing blood supply in matured stallions may not be enough to control the bleeding, and there may be a need to tie off the blood vessels. He then cuts the cord, taking off about four centimeters to ensure no tissue is left to produce testosterone. He observes the site to ensure that bleeding doesn’t occur. He’ll then remove the testicle and related tissue and repeat the procedure on the other side.


After Gelding

If the horse doesn’t properly tolerate anesthesia, you can perform a standing castration with sedation. However, the horse should be halter broke and tall enough for a vet to operate under, and the vet may be at risk if your stallion reacts during the process. Also, correcting bleeding may be hard if it occurs during the process, and you’ll need to put the horse under anesthetic.

If the procedure is in the field, the vet may leave the incision sites to heal, which may need the owner’s aftercare. Most horse owners prefer the incisions closed.

If the horse is under anesthesia, you should monitor it until recovery from anesthetic, which usually takes about fifteen minutes.

Efficacy of Castration or Gelding in Horses

If performed rightly and there’s no tissue left to produce testosterone, equine castration is very useful in preventing unwanted stallion behaviors and fertility. In some cases, mainly when gelding occurs after maturity and stallion behavior already manifests, the habit may continue or take longer to stop.

Equine Castration or Gelding Recovery

The vet must leave the incision open to heal the wound from inside out and prevent the building up of fluids in the horse’s scrotal sac, which could get infected.

To ensure clotting after castration, confine the horse for twenty-four hours. Also, to allow drainage and prevent swelling, the horse requires mild exercise. You can take it on a trotting exercise for fifteen minutes twice daily or take it for long walks every day. Your vet may prescribe anti-inflammatories, and you can apply cold water to reduce swelling.

The horse may require more exercise if there’s swelling in the abdominal area. Watch out for excessive bleeding from the incision spot. You can use bandage materials to apply pressure for moderate bleeding, but you may need your vet to litigate blood vessels and anesthesia for excessive bleeding.

Examine your horse’s temperature and administer antibiotics if fever occurs. If there are any signs of severe swelling, you should inform your vet. It may take almost two months before extra testosterone leaves your horse’s body, and you may not see any behavioral changes immediately after the castration.


Equine Castration or Gelding Considerations

The gelding may experience a severe complication when its intestine descends into its scrotal area via the inguinal canal. If the incisions are yet to close, this condition can lead to the intestine’s protruding in the open wound, which endangers the horse’s life and requires urgent vet surgery.

Another possible problem is cryptorchidism, a condition where a horse’s testicle is undescended. Horses in such situations are called ridglings or rigs, and they may require a more concentrated procedure.

Cost of Gelding or Castration

The cost of castrating a horse depends on where it’s done (clinic or site), whether incisions are left open or closed, and the use of general anesthesia. Another factor is the distance your vet travels to your site. Horse gelding generally costs between 200 and 500 dollars.

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