Castration is a common surgical procedure performed for reasons of ease of handling and management.
The surgery is straight forward unless the animal is a rig (only one testicle descended into the correct position) but not without possible complications.
There are several different ways to castrate a colt. The main decision is whether the procedure should be performed standing or under general anaesthesia. Standing castration is more cost effective and is usually done on a routine visit. For a standing castration two testicles need to be palpable within the scrotum. Possible complications include haemorrhage, infection (difficult to keep procedure completely sterile) and prolapse of omentum or gut(rare). Castration performed under general anaesthesia would usually involve the animal coming into the clinic and the technique virtually eliminates any of the above complications. It is a more expensive procedure and anaesthesia of a horse is not without risk.
In this practice, as a general rule, castrations on colts up to the age of two years are done standing on the clients’ premises. Colts three years of age and older usually come into the clinic for a general anaesthetic. If clients request older colts to be gelded on their premises under standing sedation this can be done but it is important that the owner appreciates the risks.
Most castrations in this practice would be performed on yearlings and two year olds.
Clients need to be aware that yearlings can be fertile (especially ponies) and once gelded should be kept away from any mares for at least one month.
For castrations at clients’ premises it is preferable to have a clean covered area and at least one competent handler. Clean water needs to be available. The colt should be used to being handled and wearing a head collar. Wild unhandled colts are a risk to themselves, the veterinary surgeon and handler and increase the risk of complications.