Horse Gelding and Aftercare

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Gelding and Aftercare

  2008 Cherry Hill   Copyright Information


    The gelding will get up on his own shortly after he comes out of the anesthesia but it takes about 20-40 minutes for him to fully recover from the drug.  It is important he is in a safe, private place such as a round pen or arena.  Before turning him out, apply petroleum jelly to the insides of his hind legs where sticky fluids will later drip.  Accumulated drainage can result in sloughed hair and chafed skin.  Petroleum jelly will protect the sparsely-haired inside thigh and gaskin area from scalding and makes daily cleaning of the legs easier for the owner and less painful for the horse.

    Drainage is largely comprised of white blood cells mixed with discarded tissue fragments and blood.  Commonly this is referred to as pus.  As long as the odor of the drainage remains inoffensive, it is normal and desirable.  Drainage should continue for 2 to 3 weeks.  If the scrotal incisions close up suddenly before two weeks or if there is a persistent bad smell, call your veterinarian immediately.

Horse Health Care by Cherry HillTo minimize hair loss, skin chafing, and to decrease the chances of the horse rubbing his rear end and tail, clean the hind legs and the area under the horse's tail each day.  Using warm water if possible, hose off the drainage, blot dry with a clean towel, and apply a fresh coat of petroleum jelly.  During the washing, don't spray directly into the wound.  Too much washing and wiping can also be irritating to a horse's skin, so strike a balance.  Bathing training prior to gelding will help make this daily washing just another routine.  To encourage the youngster to stand still, have an assistant hold up a front foot, but be sure the young horse has had prior hoof handling.

    Because of surgical trauma, the gelding's sheath will swell to some degree.  Accumulation of fluids in the area is normal for four to five days.  If the swelling becomes extreme or is accompanied by heat, it may be advisable to notify your veterinarian.  A swollen sheath may make urination uncomfortable.  Be sure to encourage normal urination and bowel movements by offering your horse fresh water at all times and ensuring that he gets adequate exercise.


When the new gelding is coordinated enough to navigate, he can be turned out with his usual pasture-mates, providing they are not too rowdy.  The best prevention and treatment for sheath swelling is a conscientious exercise program.  However, because the gelding will be understandably stiff, don't expect him to exercise adequately on his own.

Making Not Breaking by Cherry Hill    Its best to approach the new gelding's exercise needs formally and follow a schedule such as three 15 minute sessions each day for the first three days after surgery; two 30 minute sessions each day for the next week; then one 60 minute session each day until healing is complete which is usually about two to three weeks after surgery.

    A combination of hand walking, free longeing, ponying and free exercise can be used.  Hand walking is the best method for the very stiff colt on the first day after gelding.  "Free" longeing refers to longeing without a longe line.  The trainer uses body language and voice commands to dictate gaits and direction.  Therefore, it is beneficial to teach a horse to longe before he is gelded.  Otherwise you may make a negative association with learning something new at a time when the horse is not very attentive and may be reluctant to move.

Longeing and Long Lining the Western Horse    Longeing is best done in a large (66 foot diameter) round pen to avoid unnecessary stress on the young horse's legs.  The newly castrated horse will not want to pick up his hind feet very high so may stumble.  Sand (2-4 inches deep) is a good type of footing providing safety and shock absorbency.  Use leg protection to safeguard against uncoordinated or imbalanced moves and for added splint bone protection and tendon support.

101 Longeing and Long Lining Exeercises    Free exercise is the least labor intensive exercise option but doesn't guarantee that a horse will exercise when he needs it the most.  Left to his own devices, the new gelding that is very stiff might choose to stand relatively still all day.  After just five minutes of forced exercise, however, the scrotal incisions usually reopen and drain, relieving the pressure which caused the stiffness.  The horse then seems more comfortable and strides out much more freely.

    Ponying is a very good way to provide vigorous exercise for the new gelding.  The pony horse must be calm and responsive to the rider and assertive toward the yearling without being aggressive.  Although the yearling may try to bite, rear, kick, or balk, the pony horse should just keep moving forward and not attempt to discipline the youngster.  You will need to teach the young horse to stay near your right knee and the pony horse's shoulder.  The best gait for pony work is the long trot.  The walk is not active enough and during the lope, the speed and stride length of a yearling and a mature horse is quite different, so working at the trot will allow you the best chance of keeping the two horses in sync.


    There are some complications that can arise even with a routine castration.  Probably the most common is swelling that spreads down the hind legs.  Although you can provide some temporary relief to the swollen legs by cold water or massage, ultimately the incision will need to be reopened to ensure proper drainage.  Hind leg swelling is the body's sympathetic response to the swelling in the sheath area and more probably, the premature closing of the incisions and inability of the area to drain.  Until closure at about two weeks, there should be a gradual decrease in the amount of drainage: copious at first, scant toward day l4.  If drainage halts abruptly, use a warm compress on the scrotal area to soften the crusted incision area and then exercise the young horse immediately.  This will usually cause the incision to burst open and release the accumulated pus.  If the premature closure is persistent, perhaps your veterinarian needs to enlarge one or both of the incisions.

Horse For Sale by Cherry Hill    If the spermatic cord was not emasculated thoroughly, excess bleeding may result and the cord may need to be clamped.  In other cases, if too much spermatic cord was pulled out of the abdominal cavity during the surgery, after emasculation, the stump may retract into the abdomen.  The subsequent bleeding and infection that would likely follow might require major abdominal surgery.

    Sometimes, after recumbent surgery, horses will exhibit temporary facial paralysis, but it is uncommon.  It can be caused by the halter's hardware pressing on a facial nerve when the horse's head is on the ground during the castration.  That is why is best to adequately pad the horse's head and face with a soft blanket, especially in the area of the nose band hardware and side buckles of the halter.  Temporary paralysis may manifest as a drooping lip, a flaccid nostril on one side, perhaps a floppy ear.  Sometimes the horse's eye will water continually.  It is possible that a horse could have difficulty eating if the paralysis affects both sides of the face.  Generally the side that he was laying on is the one that is affected.  Recovery takes about ten days.


    Two weeks after the horse's surgery, from outward appearances, he is a gelding.  However, past behavior patterns and a low level of androgens make the yearling continue to act somewhat like a stud-colt.  Use caution in turning the new gelding out with a group of mares, for example.  He may learn a lesson the hard way.  Depending at what age he was gelded, the horse may need as long as 4-6 months to mentally and physically forget he was a stallion.

    After castration, the gelding's metabolism is likely to slow down.  Therefore, to maintain optimum condition, a gelding usually requires less feed and more exercise than his stallion counterpart.  Although a gelding and stallion may have similar muscle bulk, a stallion's muscles exhibit more definition because a gelding's muscles tend to be covered with a layer of fat giving him a rounder appearance.

    Horses gelded before puberty usually grow taller than if they were left stallions.  The testosterone rush at puberty triggers the closure of the epiphyseal plates (where bone growth takes place), so the stallion essentially quits adding height at puberty.  The horse gelded at one year of age has a gradual, delayed puberty and the additional time may allow him to add extra height.

Horse Health Care by Cherry HillCherry Hill's Horsekeeping Almanac    Most gelding procedures will occur without incidence.  Preparation, observation, and daily care will help the young horse recover quickly.


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