To Geld or Not to Geld
Is that even the correct question to be asking? Perhaps the question ought to be, “Why should I keep him a stallion?” Does the colt have rare and fantastic blood lines? Does he have amazing conformation and temperament? Do you have the facilities to keep a stallion and to keep him, you and the other animals on your farm safe? Do you have the time, motivation, and finances to train a stallion? Are you going to show him and promote him? Everyone dreams of a proud, beautiful “Black Stallion,” but the fact of the matter is there are few stallions with the resume that makes them stud material. The dilemma is that at times, keeping a colt intact is more detrimental to his long-term welfare than the short-lived discomfort of castration. In general, geldings are easier to handle and have an even temperament than their studly counterparts. This is simply due to the fact that they don’t have all that testosterone coursing through their bodies. Castration tends to reduce aggressive behavior and provide a more focused mind for training.
So, you decided to geld, when is a good time? No time is the wrong time, however if you do castrate before they hit puberty around one year old, you will have fewer sexual behaviors and habits to deal with in the long run. If you can geld your colt when it’s a little cold, ground is frozen and the flies aren’t around, you are less likely to run into infections and cleanliness issues, but there’s no time like the present to “git ’r done.”
What if you still are undecided or have decided to keep your little man intact? You must consider where he will live and manage his behavior, so he learns what is appropriate and what is not as he reaches puberty. Some stallions are just plain unmanageable, and some are quiet as geldings so like anything else, it depends on the individual horse’s behavior. If you have a young colt that you are leaving intact out running around with fillies or mares, separate them NOW! The last thing you and the equine industry needs is more accidental and unwanted foals – prevention is the best medicine.
Currently in the horse barn at Miner Institute in Chazy, NY we are debating this very thing with our 2019 colts. They both have well-respected pedigrees, good conformation and breed type, and nice temperaments. Lately, however, they are starting to feel surges of testosterone leading to a few “boyish” behaviors. We do have the facilities at Miner to keep colts intact, with appropriate stabling, turn out with young geldings, knowledge in stallion handling and a breeding program. So far, they’re being good boys, so this decision has been put on hold for the time being to allow them to grow up a little more to evaluate potential. However, the moment the behavior becomes not-so-much-fun, the decision becomes clear.
Whether you decide to keep your colt a stallion or to geld him is up to you but make an informed and educated decision. Evaluate facilities, time, money, energy and knowledge to keep a stallion if that is your choice. Enlist the help of industry professionals to get an honest opinion on your colt’s prospects. “What is best for this horse?” Do not forget that it is his life you are making the decisions for! We all think our baby is the best, but don’t let “barn-blindness” interfere with the horse’s welfare.