Thursday, October 11, 2012

Snip



by Francesca Prescott

When I went looking for a dressage horse early last year, I wasn’t planning on buying a stallion. I’d initially planned on buying a German or Dutch Warmblood, but when I realised that the majority of the horses I liked were way out of my price range, I started looking at Iberian breeds. Not that Iberians were a whole lot cheaper; come to think of it, many of the Iberian horses I viewed on video were even more expensive than many of the German or Dutch Warmbloods. Owning an Iberian horse seems to have become trendy, so a horse with minimal schooling and decent movement can go for a pretty insane price, especially if he’s got a long, thick, flashy mane to boot.

I say “he” as most ridden Iberian horses are uncut males; I don’t think I saw one Iberian mare for sale other than for breeding purposes. Of course, I know there are ridden Iberian mares, but I’m pretty sure they’re in a minority. Anyway, when I bought Qrac, my Lusitano, he came with the full perky package. Dark bay (almost black), he’s gorgeous and rather oohlala.

Iberian stallions are said to be different from other breeds: not as hyper, not as hot under the collar, not as complicated to handle. This is certainly true for most them; when I bought him, seven-year-old Qrac was gentle and sweet and pretty straightforward in his attitude towards life. However, he’d already sired a couple of youngsters so whenever a sexy lady walked by he had a tendency to get a little distracted. Sometimes he got pretty seriously distracted; I remember having to ride past a field full of voluptuous blondes a couple of months after I bought him and goodness gracious me did he get himself wound up! We bounced past, with me taking deep yoga breaths, trying not to stay in control without getting all tensed up. It was ok, but it’s not my favourite memory of a trail ride. Qrac also got pretty full of himself when I trailered him to my farrier, backing out of the van, realising he was in a harem full of hotties (brood mares galore!), putting his tail in the air, his back up, tossing his neck and prancing around like a Latino sex god. I was glad to have my farrier and his assistant take him off my hands within seconds. He soon settled down; as I said, he’s a sweet, well-behaved horse, but testosterone sometimes messes with his head. Boys will be boys.

I love my boy to bits. Every morning, when I arrive at the stables and see him, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have to own such a beautiful, affectionate horse. If I stop and talk to someone outside the stable before going to say hello to him, he gets all jealous and stomps his feet. Okay, so he wants a sweetie as well as a face rub, but that’s ok with me. His neighbour, a Spanish stallion, also gets impatient when he sees me as he knows he’ll get a sweetie too. I’m the sweetie lady; I can’t help myself.

Qrac isn’t quite as stallion-ish as he was in the first few months after I bought him, because I soon had him chemically gelded. The vaccination lasts between six to twelve months and works pretty well; I could take him to the farrier and pass other horses in a field without him morphing into Zebedee. My vet gave him a booster shot back in March as spring seemed to be springing at the same time as my horse’s libido. I’d actually considered gelding him surgically late last year, as it looked like I needed to have an operation on my ankle, but when it turned out I didn’t need one, and that Qrac and I were really beginning to find each other’s buttons, I backed out. I didn’t want to stop riding, if only for a few weeks. But deep down I already knew I was only postponing the most sensible decision for me when it comes to where I am in my equestrian life. I’m almost fifty-one, I’m a decent rider, but I’m not a professional, and even though Qrac is an approved stallion from a very good breeder, I didn’t buy him to make money from his manliness. I bought him to enjoy riding dressage. I don’t need the complications that come with all that testosterone. And a few months ago, when Qrac went totally nuts when I went to get him out of the field after he was provoked by another stallion (the people at my yard made the mistake of putting them in adjacent paddocks), rearing, boxing and biting me (he got my thumb pretty badly; it’s still a bit sensitive. I blogged about it here at the time), any waverings subsisting in my mind were wiped out. I’d wait for the summer to wind down and for the flies to die off and I’d make the veterinary appointment.

So Qrac is scheduled to be gelded at a good equine clinic in ten days. Although I know it’s the right thing to do, I’m still worried. I mean, it’s an operation, he’s going to be put under for a while, and although it’s a routine procedure that rarely goes wrong, there are always risks, the main one being the horse panicking when he comes to, struggling, falling over and fracturing something. The vet reassured me that they have a special padded room for the horse to wake up in, that they have a team of specialists on hand to administer sedatives and calm the horse down, but…well, crap happens. Then there are the other lovely things to worry about: infections, choking during the operation, and I don’t even remember or want to remember the other scary things the vet had to make me aware of. As I said, it’s a good clinic, so I’m sure everything will be fine. I’m also aware that some stallions never lose their stallion behaviour, but judging from the way the chemical castration calmed his libido (there’s been no showing-off in front of ladies, or fire-breathing since the shots) I figure Qrac will be chilled.

I know some people (usually men) tell me I shouldn’t geld him because he’s fine the way he is, that I should just learn to be firmer with him when he plays me up. Believe me, I’ve toughened up a lot (my trainer says she can’t believe how much good Qrac has done me as far as assertiveness goes) but at the end of the day I’m not a bolshy, pushy person. Assertiveness doesn’t come easy to me.

Also, I tell myself that it mustn’t be fun for a stallion who’s already enjoyed a fair share of rumpy-pumpys to watch the ladies go by day after day, and never be able to have his way with them. I think that as a gelding, his social life will be more pleasant, and that many years from now, when he retires, he’ll be able to live in a herd, like my other horse, Kwintus, who will be 21 next year and is relaxing in the lush grass and rolling hills of Burgundy. 

More importantly, I think that gelding Qrac is the right decision for his life with me.

What do you think? Have you owned stallions? Have you gelded stallions late? What is your experience? I’d appreciate your thoughts, but right now, with Qrac’s operation (it will be an inguinal castration procedure, which is more expensive but safer for an older horse as there will  be no open wound) only a few days away, I’d rather not hear any gory, upsetting stories of gelding operations going horribly wrong. Be gentle! Thank you :)


17 comments:

Laura Crum said...

Cesca--I totally think you are doing the right thing for the right reasons, and that you have thought it through and proceeded in a very logical way. I would do exactly as you are doing, and, as you say, be aware that a mature stallion will often retain stallion behaviors even if gelded. I'll cross my fingers the whole thing goes very smoothly for you and your handsome guy, and that he will just be a tad more relaxed handsome guy afterwards.

Terri Rocovich said...

Cesca, I think what it comes down to is quality of life for both you and Qrac. How much more will you enjoy each other when you don't have to be on guard so much and he is not being driven carzy by raging testosterone. I have even read about studies that say that, similar to castrated dogs, geldings tend to live longer and have less health issues. I have known several horses to be gelded as older horses and they do just fine. When I was a kid we had a stallion race horse that had to be gelded due to a twisted testical and he became so much happier and was even a better race horse afterward.

Uiver was either 7 or 8 when he was gelded and imported from Germany. I have heard many stories from people who knew Uiver right after he was imported, probably still under the influence of raging testosterone, and they say he was very difficult, aggressive, tense and just not happy. This is nothing like the Uiver I know who is full of personality and very eager to please.

Don't worry about it, you give Qrac a great life and your partnership with him should not be divided by hormones. I have a T-Shirt that has a saying "Mares are from Venus, Stallions are from Mars and Geldings are from Heaven". That is how I feel about it. I will think positive thoughts, and let us all know how he does.

CG said...

I think geldings have a much better "horse life" than most stallions get to have. I would not hesitate to geld.
Although I do remember feeling a little wierd when my last foal was gelded (at 6 months)- it seems so final. But that feeling lasted about a minute- he is a wonderful1 gelding and gets to go out with the whole herd.
Best wishes for a smooth surgery and quick recovery!

Francesca Prescott said...

Thank you, Laura. I've really thought about it a lot and think it's the best thing to do. Another stallion at my stables, a ten year old, was gelded the other day and he's doing really well, which is nice to know. Thanks for the support:)

Francesca Prescott said...

Terri: thanks for the feedback, it's definately reasurring! Interesting about Uiver, too. Was he gelded in the US? And I want the same t-shirt as you!! I'll let you know how it goes...and I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress with Uiver!

Francesca Prescott said...

CG; I think you're right about geldings having a better nice than many stallions. Many people are scared of stallions and get agressive with them for no reason at all.Also, many stallions are isolated from other horses and really suffer. I'm lucky that Qrac is surrounded by other horses and gets to socialise. He also goes out in the paddocks regularly, usually keeping one empty paddock between him and another horse just to be safe. But he's often been out next to another gelding and been just fine.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Laura Crum said...

Oh, Terri--I want that T-shirt, too. ALL my horses are geldings--I am a huge fan of geldings and couldn't agree more--geldings are from heaven.

I've known a few horses that were gelded late in life that still had some "studdy" behaviors, but they were difficult when they were stallions. I think a horse that is a well-behaved stallion is likely to be a wonderful gelding. So interesting how much Uiver improved.

Sarah Bishop said...

I knew a TB stallion who was into double digit age by the time he was gelded.

The worst issue we had was swelling as he was not inclined to move unless strongly encouraged.

Temperament wise he was fairly laid back to begin with. Inclined to be nippy, but when he was given the chance he would play over the fence games with the gelding near him.

After gelding he was turned out next to the herd to start learning them that way. Two days later someone knocked the gate down and he was in with the herd. Never had any problems after that related to him relating to horses. The nippiness decreased, but given the chance he would still do it.

White Horse Pilgrim said...

Writing as someone who has owned, ridden and driven stallions for over a decade - geldings are a whole more straightforward. However laid back, a stallion has the potential to be distracted by testosterone. My lovely old stallion, such a pleasure to work with, would drag me across the field when it was breeding time. (At least that was defined by man-made circumstances, not whenever he saw a mare.) And if I got in the way, I'd be walked over as if I simply wasn't there. Reflecting from experience, once gelded a stallion will gain far more from being able to socialise than any loss from not being entire (which actually he will cease to be aware of because horses aren't reasoning creatures - mostly the 'loss' is in peoples' minds). I didn't geld Doru because he did some breeding, plus he could be turned out with geldings and didn't try to get through electric fence to be with mares, but then he was a draught type.

In conclusion, Francesca, the course you have chosen makes perfect sense. I do hope that everything works out well, and I am sure that it will.

Val said...

One of my all time favorite pony's was gelded late at 7 or 8. He transitioned from pasture stud to working lesson pony in no time at all and earned his weight in gold many times over.

I think that it very to kind to geld a horse who is not going to breed. Besides the the benefits to his rider and handlers, he will be able socialize without being frustrated or lonely.

Alison said...

Thoughtful post, Francesca, and I don't need to say anything more than what is said. But I do remember a dog trainer saying that unless you regularly breed your male dog, it is basically cruel to keep him intact. So I think Qrac may thank you!

Francesca Prescott said...

I'm feeling even more certain and far more calm about my decision after reading all your comments. Thank you so much, everyone. I will let you know how it goes.

jenj said...

I don't have a lot of experience with stallions, but I do remember having to keep absolutely vigilant 110% of the time when working with them or riding them. It was quite wearing, really.

I have a barn full of geldings. They are sweet, calm, and you never have to second-guess them. Sure, you have to be aware around them - just like with any other horse - but not hyper-vigilant. And as others have mentioned, they get to go out in a herd together. They get to play, and groom, and touch each other. That seems to be super-important for their state of mind, and I think they really prefer it.

I'm sure that once Qrac recovers and the hormones die down a bit, he's going to love his life as a gelding - and you are going to love HIM as a gelding!

Francesca Prescott said...

Thank you, Jenj, I'm sure Qrac will be much happier as a gelding, and I won't have to be quite so vigilant about all the stalliony aspects.

Orville Hahn said...

A gilded horse will have a much better life. It'll make your life much better also,Qrac can be let out into the pasture with the horses and you will not have to worry if there is a mayor on the other side of the fence.

cece said...

I have owned a few colts, preferring boys over girl horses. I have owned a few alpha geldings too,who beleive they still are stallions. I firmly beleive that every 500.00 stallion is a 5000.00 gelding waiting to be unleashed.I would castrate him without a thought. no matter how well behaved he is, there is always some jerk with a less mannered horse who will wreck your day.

cece said...

I have owned a few colts, preferring boys over girl horses. I have owned a few alpha geldings too,who beleive they still are stallions. I firmly beleive that every 500.00 stallion is a 5000.00 gelding waiting to be unleashed.I would castrate him without a thought. no matter how well behaved he is, there is always some jerk with a less mannered horse who will wreck your day.