Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gelding my stallion: four weeks later

When I finally took Qrac, my eight-year-old Lusitano, to be gelded four weeks ago, I’d spent months worrying about it. I worried about what might go wrong during the operation, whether he might injure himself when they put him under, or when he came around afterwards. I worried about how he might react afterwards. I worried about whether he might take a long time to recover, whether he might get an infection or an inflammation. I worried that maybe he might hurt his back during the procedure (which took about an hour and a half) lying upside down on a special squishy mattress). I worried that he might get depressed after being gelded and turn into a sad big black blob with no engine.  

If you’ve read most of my posts over the past few years, I guess you’ll have worked out that I’m a serial worrier.

The last time I posted, I’d just been to collect Qrac from the equine clinic. He’d gone in on Monday, been operated on Tuesday, and I’d picked him up on Thursday. Qrac was gelded through the inguinal canals, so there were no open wounds to keep clean (incidentally, according to my vet, unless they are very young, Iberian horses, should always be gelded via the inguinal canals as these are apparently wider than in other breeds, and “regular” gelding often leads to increased risk of serious complications). To my relief, there was very little swelling even when I picked him up, and this totally disappeared over the next two or three days. We reduced his food, and I walked him in hand for an hour for two days, than under the saddle for an hour for a further week. 

I followed the vet’s protocol exactly, and eleven days after his operation, after walking Qrac for about twenty minutes to warm him up, I pushed him into a trot. Initially a tad stiff, he was clearly happy to be going forwards again, so once he’d loosened up I even cantered him for a round or two. I worked him gently for about ten or fifteen minutes, then walked him again for another twenty.  I did the same the following day, gradually increasing the intensity of the work and gradually upping his food.  Qrac never showed any sign of discomfort, distress or depression. We have now resumed our twice weekly lessons, and he’s also worked once a week by a professional. He’s forwards, happy to work, happy to be fussed over in his stable and in the grooming area. If anything about him has changed, I’d say he’s becoming more of a cuddle-bug than ever. 

Regarding stallion behaviour, I can’t say there’s been a dramatic difference as I’d had Qrac chemically gelded a few months after I bought him a year and a half ago, because he’d been at stud before I bought him and could be a bit of a handful in certain circumstances. The chemical gelding soon calmed his ardours, and apart from one particularly unpleasant incident when another stallion provoked him in an adjacent field, he’s been pretty relaxed, especially with the ladies. However, I didn’t want to keep on having to renew the anti-testosterone vaccination due to a lack of hindsight on its potential adverse effects (I’ve heard that if you use it too many times it can damage the kidneys or the liver or something), and besides, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I bought Qrac to enjoy riding, and not as a stud. I also feel that, as a gelding, his quality of life will improve, especially socially.

Since I have no prior experience with gelding a stallion, I don’t know whether I have been especially lucky with the way things have gone for Qrac. I’m definitely happy to have gone for the inguinal procedure as another person in my yard had her ten-year-old Swiss Warmblood gelded by the more simple procedure a week before I had Qrac cut, and he still has some swelling, as well as a little pus, meaning he’s still not been able to be ridden properly and has lost considerable muscle and condition. Someone else had their four-year-old German Warmblood gelded two months ago in the “simple” manner. Over the weeks that followed the swelling gradually increased, the vet was called out numerous times, and still the swelling increased. Two weeks ago, they finally realized that the horse had developed a massive infection, and had to take him to one of the main Swiss equine hospitals to undergo emergency surgery. Scary.
So if you’re contemplating gelding a stallion, particularly an older stallion, I’d definitely advise you to go for the inguinal procedure. Yes, it’s slightly more expensive and may be a little more stressful on the day, but from what I’ve seen and heard, could save you a lot of worry and extra expense in the weeks that follow.

Xx Francesca

PS: On a totally disconnected, far more yippedy-skippedy note, I had a fabulous lesson on Qrac this morning with my second trainer, Celine Michaud, who is a Grand Prix rider and who rides Qrac for me once a week. I’ve been frustrated this week, not being able to get my horse to come through his back, and feeling like we were regressing. Qrac is very sensitive, freaks out easily, and has a tendency to come behind the vertical and hollow his back, and there are days when, no matter what I do, I can’t get him thoroughly connected. Celine is ultra-calm, super patient, and always manages to get us back into a fluid, flowing harmony that puts a smile on my face for the rest of the day. 

I’m having a smiley afternoon! How about you?


Martine said...

Thanks for the follow up - I've been wondering how Qrac was doing. I've had several yearlings gelded the "simple" way. with varying degrees of swelling afterwards, and in one case with marked behavioural changes afterwards - for the better, I have to say! I suppose if I had an older horse, especially one who is competition fit, I'd look at the intra-inguinal option too.
Very glad to hear he has recovered well :)

Dreaming said...

It sounds like Qrac's experience was just what the vet would like to hear. Of course, having an owner who follows the vet's instructions to a "T" is also probably very important in the healing. I'm thinking some people may not be as willing to walk in hand, and keep it slow in the beginning.
I'm so glad you had a great 'smiley' ride!

Laura Crum said...

So glad to hear Qrac is doing wonderfully well, and that is great info on gelding an older horse. And I agree with Dreaming--you followed instructions and I bet that helped. When Henry was healing up from colic surgery I followed our instructions to the letter and Henry made a good recovery. But the vet told me some sad stories of others that didn't...the comment was "of course, they didn't receive the best of after care." So I think you may have helped with Qrac's healing.

Francesca Prescott said...

Hi Martine, thanks for wondering about how Qrac was doing :)

Just wondering: do you live in France? Your name is clearly French, so I'm curious :)


Francesca Prescott said...

Dreaming: I don't know how anyone could not follow the vet's instructions precisely!! I'd probably drive the vet crazy, calling him up to make sure I was doing things exactly right. I was lucky that instructions were pretty basic here!

Francesca Prescott said...

Laura: Hmmmm...maybe I'm naive (err, forget the "maybe"!), and that there are people with less patience and concern.I'm also pretty sure luck has something to do with how well a recovery goes (along with care and patience, of course).

Sometimes I think I'm over cautious. I systematically check Qrac's feet and legs for heat every morning; it's just a habit. Sometimes his feet are warm simply because it's warmer that day, or one of his feet is warm because he's been standing putting more weight on it. But I always think about it, double check, shower his legs if in doubt. I'll fuss over little tiny things (yeah, the worry-wart), desinfect even the teeniest little cut. Everyone admires my horsey first-aid box, it's super well equipped!Then again, my medicine cabinet at home is pretty complete too!

Anonymous said...

You made a good decision, although not an easy one. I'm glad he's doing so well.

whitehorsepilgrim said...

I'm glad that it went well. I'm sure that following the instructions helped.

I had several stallions gelded the simple way because that was all that was available. Swelling was a problem each time however we avoided serious infection by getting the job done at a cool time of year with no flies.

The worst casualty was a stablehand who fainted when the vet made the cut. It was his birthday too, and his girlfriend saw him faint. Definately a bad moment for that young man. He wasn't allowed to forget it for years!

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