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Horse Problem - Gelding a Horse - Preparing a young horse for gelding procedure









QUESTION: Hello Sylvia. We have purchased a “baby brother” for our 10-year-old gelding so he wouldn’t be alone as he lost his “big brother” a month ago.

The yearling is not gelded yet – he has been well handled and is very respectful of humans. We have not gone through the process of having a horse gelded – and in reading some articles, I find that there is a little bit of prep work to do before the day of the surgery.

The yearling has not been taught how to accept his sheath being cleaned and “handled” – I have been working with it a little. When he is groomed, he will drop it and I can touch it a few times before he pulls it back in, but with each touch, he brings his back leg up (and fast) – like “get away!” – I tell him “NO!” And each time I touch it with little movement from his leg, I reward by currying and saying “Good.” What are your recommendations to make sure I am not being too quick or rough? I also read that I should take his temperature to learn what his normal range is before his surgery so that I could monitor his recovery. What are ways to do this?

Another “side bar” – we have a mare on the left of us and a mare on the right of us – separated by two fences each. When the yearling was delivered, he was brought with a 3-year-old mare (she went back home) – but he reared up and screamed and presented “himself” as she walked past the stall he was in. Now my husband has inflicted worry in me about his behavior in the pasture towards the mares. What kind of drive does a yearling have? The two neighbors do not have an option to move their mares away; the yearling is 13.1 hands and the fence is 54” – he is not aggressive in any way. I know this isn’t a whole lot of information, but, what kind of precautions would you suggest while we train prior to the gelding date (which may be a month off)? Thank you so much for a great web site and sharing your knowledge. I look forward to your response.

REPLY: Actually, I haven't personally had experience with gelding a male horse. Although I own 3 geldings myself, they all came to me later, already gelded. I do have a link on my web site about being gelded, with tips from another natural horsemanship trainer & breeding expert I lean on in this category, our "resident breeding expert," Bob Claymier of Desert Rose Ranch in Hume, Virginia, who is featured in our Whispering Way™ Foundation Training Series: Complete Guide to Horse Breeding, Foaling and Foal Training, Featuring Bob Claymier DVDs (see below for more information on that DVD set).

However, I'm going to bounce your questions here to Bob Claymier so he can help you further there.

Bob Claymier's Response:

    Hi K. – Sylvia asked me to respond to your questions. Hope some of this helps and good luck!

    First the sheath handling: You are right to start this procedure now as it is a health procedure that must be continued throughout his life. I often get in geldings that have a “bean” that has developed right at the opening of the urethra which can interfere with urination and ultimately result in bladder issues if left unchecked. Boys will naturally be protective of the sheath area and it is not unusual for them to raise a leg or strike out so any training must proceed with baby steps like we do all training related to natural horsemanship.

    I would start by stroking his flank area while holding onto the halter with your other hand – try to stroke a bit with that halter hand as well and bend his head slightly towards you so any kicking can be controlled away from you somewhat (via pulling the lead rope to move his hind quarters away if ever needed in emergency).

    You will begin to find his discomfort zone pretty quickly as you get closer to the sheath – back off your stroking a tad from there and then try again with going a bit further the next time, then retreating. I would probably try to do less reprimanding (when he brings his leg up) and more trying to get him to accept the stroking as something enjoyable – you can sometimes rub on the inside and outside of his hind leg high up at the same time and he begins to find that enjoyable which automatically puts the inside hand a little closer to the sheath.  

    When (if) he finally begins to accept his entire outside sheath area being handled, I get a bucket of warm water and a sponge and begin to do the stroking all over again – now with the intent of actually putting the sponge in the sheath opening (at this point, I will have on a pair of surgical gloves). They often accept the warmth of the sponge better than just the hand alone. The sponge should be small enough to get into the sheath opening. This now might become a two-person job as you will be bent over and it often requires two hands to proceed any further – the other person should continue to hold the head bent a bit to the side you are on, with lots of stroking.

    Baby steps are again needed, so proceed and back off/retreat as necessary. When and if he accepts this, you should be able to grasp the penis which is likely to be in a fully retracted position. If you are able to get this far – the goal now is to teach him to drop the penis with very gentle downward pressure as he is likely to kick out at this point. You have to be very careful of your own safety as they can “cow kick” to the side a bit and you could be hit in the head area (you might wear a helmet in first lessons for this). Continue using a sponge and warm water in the sheath opening and hopefully he will ultimately become accustomed to this area being handled.

    I want to also add that I graduate up to using a hose with gentle pressure warm water when I finally get my boys to accepting having their sheaths cleaned. This can help clean the area and often quickly as well. Some boys obviously never accept any of these procedures very well and if that is the case, cleaning can be done with sedation and usually geared to semi-annual dental work or the like.

    Now for the temperature-taking:  This is again a two-person operation with one holding the head with the horse's head again bent at a slight angle toward you so the rear of the horse can be controlled a bit when needed (pulling on the head moves the hindquarter away from you when needed). As above, we begin with baby steps, now stroking under the tail (using the tops of our fingernails) and gently rubbing around the anal area. When the horse relaxes, the tail should automatically lift, indicating acceptance.

    You can then grasp the tail up near the dock (the dock is the top base of the tail where it connects to the rump) and move it in circles – this is a good relaxation technique for other horse training as well. When all of this is accepted – and they usually find this enjoyable pretty quickly – you can graduate to the temperature taking.  

    I like to use a digital thermometer because it is quicker, with something like Vaseline on the end. Some people like to tie or glue a string on the thermometer end – perhaps even with a clip to attach to the hairs of the tail, but I don’t go that far. Pick up the tail with one hand, which should be easily accepted after the above training, and insert the thermometer into the rectum with the other – watch out for any quick kicking action here. You might have to go back to using surgical gloves that are lubricated and gently insert a finger into the anal opening to get them to accept this part. I usually find that horses accept temperature-taking training easier than either having the sheath cleaned for the boys or udder cleaned for the girls (which should also be done on a regular basis).

    The subject of his behavior with other horses & the actual gelding time/procedures:  I suspect the behavior you saw there (when he reared up and screamed and presented “himself”) was just normal separation behavior as he was losing his pasture friend who left, and felt threatened. Like all things in the horse world, there are no absolutes, but a yearling should not have really developed any drive yet. I have often kept my colts (that are going to remain stallions) in with mares for sometimes up to two years of age, but watching them carefully at this point. I do this to get them a little herd behavior training on how to be a gentleman around the girls. Usually if the boy gets to be 1 ˝-2 years of age during the winter season when the mares are likely not to be in heat, then he doesn’t have any yearnings either – again there are no always or nevers when it comes to this issue.

    I gear my gelding dates to two things: time of year and “dropping” of the testicles. I NEVER like to geld in fly season and either do an early spring or late fall surgery to stay out of the timeframe which you are suggesting. Your chances of infection are much greater due to the flies and the heat of summer and just makes all else related to this surgery difficult. Your vet will likely not want to perform the surgery as well if the testicles haven’t dropped, which can be determined by feel from the training above. The testicles should actually be outside of the body cavity and you shouldn’t have to search for them – I think gelding too early might also lead to more geldings being “proud cut” which leads them to being a bit studly throughout their life.

    Your vet can help you with what you are likely to see after the surgery, but the two obvious concerns are excessive bleeding and then swelling that does not subside in a few days. He will naturally drain some fluid after the surgery, but it will be lighter looking than blood – any stream of blood is an obvious sign of concern, but dripping initially is natural. They should be confined for perhaps a day after the surgery to ensure the bleeding is under control and then they need limited turn out to help the swelling reduce with exercise. Sometimes longeing is required to get that exercise as they likely will not feel much like moving for several days after the surgery. Cool water hosing of the area for cleanliness and to help with the swelling is a good idea as well.

    Good luck with your efforts and let us know how it all goes.

    Cheers, Bob Claymier

NOTE FROM A CLIENT/READER - HANDY TIP!: We had an idea that might be handy for someone out there who is dealing with a horse that has just been gelded. When our horse's wound was infected (post gelding), vets orders were to wash it out every day. I guess we did not do enough desensitizing ahead of time, and even though he let me touch and manipulate his scrotum before the gelding procedure, he would not have any of it afterwards, so getting in there with a sponge or washcloth to clean the wound was difficult. Since we knew that plenty of irrigating is good, we bought one of those insecticide/fertilizer sprayers at the home improvement store. You know the kind that holds about one or two gallons of fluid, that you pump up by hand and then have a hose with a short wand and nozzle at the end? We removed the nozzle, leaving just the 1/8 inch pipe at the end. That way the water comes out of the pipe with the same pressure as it does from a drinking fountain, so it's not painful. We'd fill the bottle with warm water at home, so it beats a dirty bucket as well. That way we could safely get in there and irrigate the wound. The whole thing did not scare him at all. We showed it to him and rubbed it on him. Like with the sponge, he did not get excited until we got near his crotch. When we let loose, he tried to kick at it for a second or two, but very quickly stood still, almost like he does when he urinates, and waited until it was over. I'd not say he enjoyed it, but it did not seem to bother him a whole lot. Seemed like a good trick to us, so maybe it can help someone else. He's almost healed up now, so we're all very relieved.

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