Castrating Your Colt

Fall and early spring is a great time to consider gelding your colt or stallion. The more mild temperatures and virtual elimination of insects due to these colder temperatures results in a lower complication rate associated with infection.

We offer several different techniques for gelding. Many younger horses are done with a technique called an open castration. With this technique the incisions are left open to drain. The incisions will heal within 14—21 days. Regular turnout and exercise during this time is helpful for promoting drainage and decreasing the normal swelling that occurs with all castrations. This procedure can be performed either on your farm or at the clinic. Depending on the size and demeanor of the horse that is to be gelded, the procedure can either be done standing or down. The standing castrations are done with sedation that allows the horse to continue standing, and a local anesthetic is given at the site of the castration. In other cases, the horse is put under a short general anesthesia and then laid down in a clean, level area to perform the surgery. A recent tetanus vaccination (given within three months) is required. The veterinarian may also give antibiotics to the horse on the day of the surgery.

The other technique that can be used is performed under gas anesthesia at the clinic on the surgery table. This technique is called a closed castration. The difference is that the incisions are closed with absorbable sutures. As a result there are no open incisions to drain or heal. This type of procedure is often chosen for older mature stallions that would have a higher likelihood of post-surgical complications if the incisions were left open. The closed technique is also used for cryptorchid males. A cryptorchid is a stallion or colt that does not have both testicles descended into his scrotum. These horses have either one or both testicles still in their abdomen or inguinal ring. The testicles should drop into the scrotum within the first few months of life at the latest. Most newborn colts already have both testicles down in their scrotum.

Henderson Castration Instrument

By Dr. David Schwinghamer

Castration is the most common surgical procedure performed on the equine patient each year. A multitude of complications can occur with this procedure, the most common of which include hemorrhage and swelling. Other possible complications are intestinal evisceration, infection of the cord, fluid accumulation in the cord, and peritonitits (abdominal infection). The Henderson Castration Instrument was designed to help decrease some of the possible complications of equine castration. This method uses a rotary or spinning action of the instrument to ligate the vasculature of the testicular cord, thus decreasing bleeding after castration and reducing the degree of swelling. This method can be done as a sterile procedure so the skin incision can be sutured, thereby reducing the risk of ascending infection from environmental bacteria and flies. The horse is anesthetized which allows the practitioner better visualization and access to the surgery site. Post-operative management, including cold hosing and exercise, is dramatically reduced using this technique due to the decreased degree of swelling that is likely compared to using other common techniques. The Henderson Castration method is recommended for horses above one year of age. For younger horses, we still recommend either down closed castration or the standing emasculation castration. The Henderson Castration technique does not eliminate the risk factors of equine castration, but it does considerably reduce them. Therefore, we recommend considering this type of castration especially for the adult horse and for castrations done during the fly season.

If you have any questions regarding this or any other aspect of castrating your horse, please feel free to call the clinic or to schedule an appointment for your horse to be seen by one of our veterinarians.