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How Do They Do It?
A few weeks ago we gelded five colts. I friend asked me, does the vet do the procedure with the horse standing?
It never occurred to me that so many horse owners have no clue about the gelding process. When to geld is a topic that renders many opinions.
“When” could mean, time of day, time of month, time of year, OR age of the horse. The varied opinion focuses on age of horse more than the
other options. Some say geld early because they get rid of the inclination to do those things a stallion must. Others say WAIT because you get a
bigger stouter horse. One study reflected this important observation: Colts who are not gelded early close their leg/bone growth earlier than
those who were gelded.
It makes all the sense in the world to me. In the wild, if a young fellow is going to be breeding, he will need to fight. Nature could not allow this
young stud to be running around on legs that could not handle the work. Therefore the presence of testosterone at a certain level stops bone and
joint growth, permitting the development of muscle necessary to survive. Makes sense to me and I’m going with it.
I have never gelded in the early months of life. (Except for that one little dude who decided to try kicking me right out of the pen one morning as
I entered with my arms full of hay. He met his calling at 5 months!) Normally I choose to geld in the spring of the year following their birth. We
breed to have foals arriving from March through April. It allows the mare to pass through the rainy period alone. By the time the foal is ready to
graze, the spring grasses will be available and bursting with healthy protein.
It is for this same reason I choose to wait until the following spring. Separation from their dams in the fall and going through winter is stressful. I
like to think that remaining intact gives them a certain amount of emotional as well as physical strength to endure. Once the spring grasses
begin to flourish and the colts show bloom, the time has arrived.
Prior to beginning the process, the colt is checked to determine both testicles have dropped. He is given a sleeping cocktail and placed down on
the ground for the procedure.
Once he is “asleep,” his eye exposed to the light is covered to protect it from sun damage; the other is protected with another towel to prevent
scratching the cornea. The top hind leg is brought forward a short distance & tied to a rope looped around his shoulders. This insures safety
while the vet works and keeps the area exposed. The remainder of the procedure is very straightforward and fairly brief. Once complete the vet
moves to the mouth to check for wolf teeth. It is not uncommon to find none or only one. Sometimes they just have not erupted yet.
The incisions are not sutured. Drainage is important for proper healing. The colt will awaken and be assisted to his feet. Normally he is slow
and sleepy for 20 minutes or so. Care after the surgery will include exercise and possibly flushing the area with cold water to reduce swelling if
it occurs. Keeping fly repellant applied is helpful. Within a week the horse is well on his way to being healed and after two weeks, all is safe.
SAFE???? Yes. For as long as up to 14 days after the removal of his testicles a colt may still have enough testosterone in his system to breed a
mare. The personality of the colt can be drastically changed by the gelding process or not at all. The range is individual.
The Last Thing You Do is the First Thing Your Horse Will Learn.
Think about what that means. For example, if returning your horse to the stall or pasture and he is in a hurry to get out of the halter...and you
permit it...the NEXT time he will press to get free even faster. He will learn that if he pushes you to set him free, it happens. Instead, take your
time. Think about the parting experience. Ask him to stay with you, head lowered for a few seconds and be patient. Be sure to wait on him to let
him learn what you are asking. Pet him along his neck. DO NOT REWARD HIM WITH TREATS FOR HIS PATIENCE. His reward will be his
total freedom. Once he relaxes and waits, then release him. Do this EVERY single time and you will see a change in your horse that you will
These Horses Have GREAT FEET!
The recent trend has been to keep the horse barefoot. Allow the horse to be natural. I agree God did not put them on the ground wearing shoes.
Nor did He put US on this earth wearing shoes. So WHY do we wear shoes and WHY do we put them on horses?
Interestingly, WE wear shoes for protection. The various activities we enjoy and the places to which we travel tend to endanger the health of our
feet. Shoes offer our body structure support. Different angles of heel from stiletto to flip flops strongly affect our way of going. Were we simply
hunters and gatherers as our forefathers, the focus on our feet would be greatly different. BUT WE ARE NO LONGER LIVING IN THAT
It is the same for the horse. Left alone he would only do the flying lead change when needed. He would not choose to run unless there was
danger or need to escape (or play). He would choose his footing to protect his feet, as opposed to riding on pavement, over rocky areas at speed
and long distances. Nor does he carry more weight on those feet than his own. In the wild if the foot was damaged, enough to change his way of
going, that change may well be the reason he became a predator’s meal.
A damaged or sore foot puts strain on the rest of the body. It can result in neck, shoulder and spinal issues. It can cause muscular development
that is imbalanced. The horse being a creature of habit will not know he is doing any of this to himself and can continue an off way of going the
rest of his life.
Protecting the foot to insure and stabilize the horse’s way of going is the strongest proponent for using horse shoes. GAITED HORSES’ way of
going is another level of precision in movement. We want to enjoy a crisp and smooth1-2-3-4 for long distances. Imagine 1 – 2 – 3 – OUCH! – 4 in
Whom will the horse blame for that pain? He quickly learns when pressed to gait he might feel it again so he learns to become careful. In order
to be careful he will NO LONGER just freely give that rhythm. He will change in some manner so as to avoid that ouch. That Change will then
cause the rider to no longer feel a smooth steady 4 beat.
Our farrier’s words are “confidence in where he places his feet” is why shoeing is important. When the horse is not working, natural is the best.
But it is only fair to understand the difference and protect those feet when using your horse.