Weighing the advantages of castrating colts
I am often asked the question this time of year; “Should I castrate my weanling colt now or wait until next spring?” There are a number of things to consider when answering this question.
The majority of the time financially, a good gelding is worth more than a stallion. Owning a stallion is a huge responsibility and unless you are set up to have a stallion on your premises and are interested in the breeding business, most colts should be castrated, and the sooner the better.
Castration involves surgical removal of the testicles. It is performed on colts to modify their behavior and to prevent the development of stallion-like body development. In normal colts, the testicles have descended into the scrotum by the time of birth. In some colts, called “high flankers”, one testicle does not completely descend into the scrotum and remains in the inguinal canal.
As the testicle grows in size from birth, it becomes easier to surgically remove. Testicles that remain in the abdominal cavity, without descending into the scrotum, require more complicated surgery to remove. These foals are known as “crypt orchids”.
There are a number of advantages to castrating colts as weanlings. I have done colts as young as ten days of age without any detrimental effects. If I had my choice, I would do the majority of castrations at 2-3 months of age. A study done in Kentucky showed that colts castrated at this early age, were taller when they matured, and also had thinner more refined necks.
In the horse industry, the taller the horse and the more attractive the neck, generally the more the horse is worth financially, or if it is a show horse, these horses tend to place better in the show ring.
Physically horses recover more quickly when they are castrated at an early age. They tend to bleed less, swell less and have reduced chances of developing any secondary complications as a result of the surgery.
It is also beneficial to get colts castrated before they develop any stallion behavior. Many times people put up with the obnoxious yearling or two year old only to end up castrating them later on anyway. Sometimes these behaviors can be difficult to break once, they become a habit.
Prior to surgery, the colt should be halter broke and accustomed to handling so it can be easily managed during and after surgery. If the colt has not been handled much and he gets excited prior to administration of the tranquilizer and anesthesia, the drugs do not work as well, more needs to be given, and the horse may not recover from the drugs as smoothly.
Postoperative care is needed for at least two weeks following surgery. After the testicles are removed, the scrotal incision is left open and is allowed to heal from the inside out. If the incision closes prematurely, infection can be sealed inside. To prevent this premature closure, an exercise program should consist of a minimum of 15 minutes of forced exercise, both morning and evening. Lunging or ponying at the trot is ideal. The horse may start out stiff behind, but this stiffness will generally resolve with continued exercise. Ideally, the horse should also be turned out 24 hours a day to also encourage self- exercise.
During the first few days following the surgery, the scrotum may swell up to four times its normal size. This is to be expected, and will resolve with exercise.
Please call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment to have your colts castrated. Fall is an excellent time to have this surgery performed. Remember any colt older than 9 months of age should not be grouped with fillies or mares if you do not want this colt to sire any foals.