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 :)