Last Updated on February 19, 2022 by Allison Price
Castration is the most commonly performed equine surgery on horse farms. While veterinarians may use different methods, routine castrations follow the same process and aftercare procedures. These are the essential facts to know if your colt or stallion will need this procedure.
Castration is also known as “gelding” for horses. It involves the surgical removal of both testicles. Castration is most common in young colts. It removes the primary source testosterone from the animal and eliminates unwanted behavior like aggression. There are many benefits to owning a mare over a stallion, for horse owners. Stallions are much more difficult to manage than Geldings. They can be turned out together with horses of either gender and they are more calm and predictable.Get our weekly Enewsletter about horses
Horses are approximately 1 to 2 years old when the testicles descend fully from the abdomen into their scrotum. Most veterinarians recommend that gelding be done as soon as both testicles are down. Because young animals have smaller blood vessels, gelding is easier if the colt has less than two weeks to go. This reduces the risk of bleeding during surgery.
Castrations can be done standing or lying down with basic castrations. It all depends on the preference of the veterinarian.
Sedation is the first step in an horse castration. The horse’s estimated weight and temperament will determine the initial dose of sedation that is required before castration can begin. The intravenous (IV), injection of the sedative into the jugular vein is the most common method. The drugs are absorbed quickly and the horse will be calm and relaxed within minutes. The veterinarian can then check that both the testicles and the head are in good condition.
The anesthetic drugs that are used to render the horse unconscious will be given next if the horse is to lie down. These medications will not be administered to horses undergoing a standing procedure. Instead, local anesthetic will be used to block the testicles, scrotum, and testicles.
Anesthetic drugs are administered to horses on farms. This is a carefully planned series of events that requires everyone’s attention. The drugs take effect immediately after they are administered intravenously. The horse will fall to the ground after being sedated. This step requires a large area of clear space. The horse will be unable to control his movements while lying down and could injure himself on any object. You can perform the procedure in the pasture, riding ring or anywhere else there is light.
Most veterinarians prefer the horse to lie down on his back, with one or both of his hind legs up. The anesthesia only lasts about 15-30 minutes. Therefore, the vet must be quiet and efficient to prepare the surgical site, castrate the horse, and clean up after the horse tries to get up.
Both standing and recumbent castrations can be done in the same way. After cleaning the surgical area, the vet will make 2 incisions into each scrotum. One over each testicle.
The majority of veterinarians use an emasculator to remove the testicles. It crushes the spermatic chord and cuts it. To prevent bleeding, crushing is necessary. To prevent further bleeding, if the horse is large or an adult, the vet may also place stitches known as ligatures around its cord. These ligatures can be used to hold the horse together and are made from absorbable suture material.
After the testicles are removed, the incision can be left open. This is an important step in the castration process. It allows the surgical wounds to drain slowly over a period of time, decreasing the risk of painful swelling.
After surgery is completed, the horse will be placed on his side and allowed the anesthesia to wear off. When he stands for the first time, he will feel groggy and unsteady. Give him space to balance and stand straight. When he is calm and steady, you can take him to his stall. You can remove all food, including hay, from him until he is awake. This usually takes a few hours.
A cryptorchid is an adult horse that has only one descend testicle. It can also be called a “ridgling” (or “rig”) or a “ridgling”. An undescended testicle may be located in the middle of the abdomen or scrotum. These horses are often called “high flankers” or can be castrated at the farm. Sometimes, an undescended testicle may be kept completely in the abdominal cavity. These cases may require more detailed surgical exploration to locate the testicle.
For the first few weeks after castration, it is important to monitor your horse’s behavior and the surgical site. For up to two weeks, some drainage may occur from the open incision. The drainage may initially appear bloody but will eventually turn more serum-like. Even with open drainage, mild to moderate swelling is possible in the scrotum. The sheath will often be affected by swelling. It is normal, and not enough to cause problems with urination.
The area may become clogged as it drains. This can attract flies in the summer, so it is important to keep the area clean. Castrations are often performed in the fall or spring by many vets to avoid the fly season. Cold hosing for the first week can be helpful if drainage is a problem. It will help to keep the incision clean, reduce swelling, inflammation and help the horse feel better.
The horse will need to be unmounted for the next two weeks. Moving will encourage drainage and reduce swelling. Sometimes horses are stiff and may not want to move, so it is not enough to just turn the horse in the pasture. It is recommended that horses be ridden daily to the trot. Incisions should be closed in three weeks. Normally, four weeks later, the horse can return to work or training.
Many vets will give pain relief medication to patients during surgery. For a few days after surgery, oral phenylbutazone (bute), may be prescribed.
There are many opinions among veterinarians regarding the use of preventive anti-biotics after castration. The vet might recommend that the horse be given broad-spectrum antibiotics if the horse is susceptible to infection or has had complications during surgery. These medications are not usually necessary. A tetanus booster is another common prophylactic measure after castration.
Castration is a common procedure. However, castration should not be considered routine or simple. There are some complications that can occur.
- Post-operative hemorhage: A slow drip from the incision is okay, but a steady drip or flow is not. The veterinarian can pack the incision with sterile gauze if excessive bleeding occurs. This can be done in just a few hours. The pressure placed on the bleeding vessel will usually stop it from continuing. If the bleeding continues after surgery, or if it is severe, the horse may need to be anesthetized once more. The vet will then search for the leakage and clamp the vessel.
- Hyperswelling: Premature healing of the incision site is another possible problem. It is important to close the incision site quickly so that drainage can occur. Fluid will build up in the scrotum. This not only makes it uncomfortable for horses, but also increases the chance of infection. Your veterinarian will often reopen the incision if it heals too quickly or causes excessive swelling.
- Infection: An infection is an issue that can occur in open incisions. You can detect if there is an infection by monitoring the drainage. Drainage should not smell foul or be thick. Infection can be detected by heat from the site, a horse acting lethargic or having a fever. The vet will then re-examine any signs of infection. The vet may flush the area with antiseptic, open the wound further if necessary, and prescribe antibiotics based on the severity of the infection. Rarely, infection can travel up to the stump of the remaining Spermatic Cord. This is known as a “scirrhous” cord and requires another surgery to remove infected tissue.
- Eventration: This can be a life-threatening, but rare, complication of castration. This happens when tissue, such as intestines or abdominal fat, protrudes from the incision. It is important to monitor the area at least twice daily in order to catch any complications quickly. A small amount of blood may appear within the first few days after surgery. This is normal. You should immediately call your vet if you notice anything other than a small blood clot hanging from the incision.
If you have ever had to perform equine casting, you will be much more comfortable. You will have a smooth experience by knowing how to take care of your horse after surgery.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!