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Horse Castration Questions: Breeding Decisions and Methods

As with many other animals, leaving the male of the species intact – a term that usually applied to the animal not being neutered or castrated – brings with it a host of problems. While some horse owners envision a career in breeding their horses, it is important to recognize that only the very best animals should be part of a breeding program, while all others should be altered.

Add to this the fact that handling a stud requires not only adequate facilities but also specialized training, and it only makes sense to think twice before embarking on that venture. For example, did you know that an intact horse will very often act out aggressively toward geldings and mares and will therefore have to be kept separately to avoid injuries? Do you have the facilities it takes to separate your stallions, and do you really want to deprive them of the companionship of other horses simply to breed him?
For the horse owner who is considering castration, it is usually a good choice to have the operation done at an early age. The colt is much easier to handle, the incision site will be able to be closed off with sutures, and obviously the testicles are much smaller. All these conditions translate into a much reduced incident of swelling, as well as cosmetically more handsome features. For example, horses castrated this young will refrain from developing some muscle masses that cause them to have thicker necks. If you wait for the horse to be a bit older – say between one and two years of age – the testicles will be much larger, and the incision site will not be closeable. Healing is much slower, and it is important to keep parasites away from the open wound.

The surgical procedure itself may be performed in one of two ways, depending on the veterinarian’s and owner’s choice. First is the “up” castration which simply refers to the fact that the horse will be standing up. After being anesthetized, the horse’s testicles are removed and the blood vessel is crimped as well as sealed. A “down” castration refers to the animal’s laying down during the procedure. This requires a general anesthetic as well tying up of the animals’ hind leg. There is now a new methodology that is not yet approved but that is being tested for effectiveness. It involves the application of a clamp to the testicular cord which is then attached to a power drill. The goal is to spin the clamp until the cord is severed. While this may seem a bit odd, it has been shown that the blood vessels are being sealed off and that there is less swelling following the procedure.

Once in a while there may be a longer recovery time required, such as when the horse’s testicles have not fully descended. This will require the veterinarian to actually remove the testicles from the abdomen, and will sometimes also spell longer recovery periods.



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