Gelding Your Colt
Although a routine procedure, this is a serious operation. Good preparation helps and knowing what to expect will make it easier for you to prepare. Here are a few common questions:
Where do you do the operation?
We carry out nearly all castrations at your stables, either in a paddock or in a stable depending on the weather and the colt.
Do you ‘knock the horse down’?
We generally prefer to use a general anaesthetic and carry out the operation with the colt completely unconscious. Although this carries the risk of the anaesthetic, there are generally less complications after the surgery and we feel it is easier on the animal overall.
How old should my colt be before he is done?
Obviously he needs both testicles descended before we do the operation so it is worth getting him used to a little groping so you can check that they are both down. Once they are down, he can be done. We do not carry out the operation during the summer due to fly risk, and very muddy periods during the winter are best avoided. Ideal times are dry periods between October and April/May. Many colts are done in the spring of their yearling year. You should bear in mind that leaving it too long makes it more expensive since a heavier animal requires more anaesthetic and it also increases the risk of bumps and scrapes during recovery if the animal is too large for us to safely stabilise while it wobbles around immediately after standing. Castrating an adult stallion is a serious business and should be discussed very carefully with your vet before proceeding.
What do I need to do to prepare for the vet?
You need to discuss where the operation is to take place. This should be as clean as possible and free of any obstacles that the colt may crash into either when the anaesthetic takes effect or when trying to stand afterwards. The colt should be clean and dry. Your vet may want you to withhold food prior to the operation. A couple of buckets of clean, hot water and a towel are appreciated and a long, strong lead rope should be available. A second helper is handy although castrations are not participation sports and vets do not generally appreciate large audiences!
What should I expect to see after the operation?
Once back on his feet, he will be groggy for a little while. There may be the odd bit of blood dripping from the wound. He should not appear too distressed. He should be alert and interested in food again within an hour or so.
When do I turn the horse out?
We normally recommend keeping the colt in on the night of the operation. Once the anaesthetic has worn off completely he should be fed normally. The colt should then be turned out the next day, preferably in a small paddock. The more the horse is stabled, the more swelling you will get, so daily exercise is essential. If the fields are muddy, walking in hand may be better if possible.
How much swelling should he get?
If the swelling is plum to mango sized, that is normal. Pineapple sized swelling is getting a little much and you should contact your vet.
What do I do to clean the wound?
Understandably most colts are a little reluctant to allow anyone else underneath for a little while. However, effective cleaning can be done with a gentle spray with cold water from a hose twice daily. Alternatively a large wad of wet cotton wool with little chlorhexidine can be used to ‘dab’ the wound clean. The colt’s fidgeting should provide enough cleaning action. We stress this cleaning should be gentle! Blood should be washed from the hind legs.
What Complications Can Happen?
Bleeding: this normally occurs immediately or soon afterwards. Do not be concerned if there is a little blood dripping after the operation but very fast dripping or spurting blood is a problem. This is normally dealt with by revisiting the horse and stitching the scrotum closed for 24 hours. Infection: this normally occurs 3-4 days after the operation and first signs will be the colt off his food or walking awkwardly. A short course of antibiotics normally sorts this out. Very occasionally, a ‘schirrous cord’ may develop. Here, the stumps become chronically infected and repeated abscesses can form. Further surgery may be necessary. Very rarely, the intestines can drop through the holes. Obviously this is a dire emergency and your vet must be contacted without delay. We do everything possible to minimize the risk of complications but occasionally they do happen. Be aware that complications can increase the cost of the procedure significantly.