A gelding is a castrated male of the equine family. Most commonly, gelding refers to a horse but applies to a pony, donkey or mule as well. The term can also be used to refer to the procedure itself, as in “the horse was gelded and now is a gelding.”
The procedure is a simple one but it is recommended that a Veterinarian perform it in the event of complications. First an anesthetic is administered in the form of an injection which puts the horse into a twilight sleep. This state will last approximately 20 minutes. It is important to be aware that the horse may need assistance going down as the medication is quite fast acting. Once the horse is unconscious, a small incision is made and the testicle sack is cut and removed. No sutures are required and the area will heal easily, usually within a week or two.
Stall rest is advised for at least 24 hours to ensure there is no bleeding. It is recommended that your horse be given a NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) such as phenylbutazone for the first 24 to 48 hours. Bute, as it is commonly referred to, will relieve any discomfort and help prevent any swelling.
A gelding’s testosterone levels will begin dropping within the first few months and within one to two years, his stallion behavior will significantly diminish. Some older horses never completely lose that behavior and will have to remain isolated from other horses.
The advantages of gelding your horse are many, the most important being that your horse will not be sentenced to a life of solitude, as in the case of stallions. Secondly, because your gelding will not have the hormonal fluctuations that a mare or stallion have, he will be far less challenging to train and work. Geldings socialize well with their pasture mates, whether they be mares and other geldings. Also, if you are showing your horse, geldings are generally welcomed far more readily than their unaltered competition.
A final consideration for gelding is the continuing rise in the population of horses around the world. It is important to note that any horse that does not have the desired characteristics you are looking for should be gelded. This consideration will give you peace of mind and prevent a situation where you may not be able to find a good home for the offspring.
Ideally, male equines are gelded soon after both testicles have dropped. This is usually between 12 and 18 months. Gelding can take place any time throughout their lives but it is suggested that the procedure be done at least before the age of 10 to 12 years. Horses past the age of 18 years have successfully been gelded but it is a much more difficult procedure and complications vary from excessive bleeding, swelling and infection.
Geldings are considered good citizens and well mannered. If you are not planning to use your horse for breeding, you would be well advised to geld him.