Castration is a routine procedure commonly performed in young colts to prevent unwanted breeding and aid in behaviour.
The procedure can be carried out in one of two ways:
Open castration is the most commonly performed method of castration and can be performed standing under heavy sedation with the use of local anaesthetic or under a short anaesthetic. In most cases two incisions are made, one over each testicle. The sites are left open after the procedure to allow free drainage of the blood and serum that forms at the surgery site. This method can be carried out either at your yard or at our clinic.
This involves a general anaesthetic and the procedure can only be performed under sterile conditions in our operating theatre. The skin incisions are closed following surgery, this method is normally recommended in older horses whose testicles and cords are more mature/larger. The closed method reduces the risk of haemorrhage, however, as the incisions are closed they are unable to drain as well as open castrations and as a result these horses often develop swelling at the castration site.
We are happy to discuss with you the pros and cons of both methods to decide on the best option for your horse.
Gentle exercise should be encouraged to promote drainage and prevent swelling of the scrotum. Ideally, this should be achieved by turning the horse/pony out into a small dry paddock where he can move around quietly for at least a week. If your horse/pony is stabled then he should be walked out at least 3-4 times daily for 10-15 minutes to decrease swelling and improve drainage.
If your horse is stabled, ideally, it is best if all straw and bedding is removed and your horse is left on clean rubber matting for the first 24-48hrs to help minimise the risk of wound contamination. A small patch of clean straw can be left if your horse needs this to encourage urination. Please ensure any bedding is as clean as possible to prevent infection from entering the wound.
With open castrations, the wound will be left open to allow drainage. Dripping of blood from the wound is normal, and this may continue for several hours after surgery. Rates of dripping can be upto one drop of blood a second and this is perfectly normal. If blood is seen streaming from the wound in a continual flow or if bleeding persists for greater than 24 hours please contact us. The legs should be washed or hosed down as necessary. It is generally not advisable to cold hose the wound directly but by aiming the water at the top of the inside of your horse's hindleg the area will be sufficiently cooled to assist in reducing swelling. The scrotum may remain swollen for up to a week; again this is normal and the swelling should start to decrease after this time.
Antibiotics and pain relief will be provided at the time of the procedure to prevent infection, improve comfort and assist in reducing swelling. An anti-tetanus injection is also given to minimise the risk of infection which can occur if the wound becomes contaminated.
It is helpful if you have your horse’s passport or breeding papers available at the time of castration, so that they can be modified to confirm that he has been gelded.