Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Geld or Not to Geld - Part of Raising Arabian Horses

Raising Arabian horses, I have to make decisions about which colts stay intact and which become geldings. The easiest decisions to make in this circumstance are those based on manners or quality.

I don't have any problem gelding a top notch colt if he's behaving badly. Safety is an important issue on any breeding farm. My helpers are my husband, Dave, and my daughter, Lindsay. Both love horses but neither are very adept at handling them, so the behavior of all of my horses, let alone the colts and stallions is very important. In my opnion, there is no excuse for a horse being pushy, least of all a colt or stallion. That kind of behavior is not tolerated.

To date I haven't gelded a colt yet because of bad manners. I work hard with my foals from the time they're born to insure they know their place and Dave and Lindsay can easily deal with them. Lindsay doesn't handle (as in lead or turnout) the mature stallions and Dave would just as soon not but does if I am gone.

To help determine quality, I have a friend, Jean, with a lot of experience in the Arabian horse industry. She helps me go through my herd and make breeding decisions as well as decisions about geldings. She helps keep me on the straight and narrow. If I don't see flaws in my horses, I know she will point them out to me.

For the most part, she agrees with me about my horses. I'm pretty hard on judging my Arabian horses. There's nothing that scares me more as a breeder than becoming barn blind. I work hard to see that that does not happen. I believe the thing that will put you out of business the fastest in the Arabian horse industry is not seeing what your animals really are.

The only time that Jean and I have disagreed about a horse, I wanted to geld a colt that she thought was exquisite. Not hearing those words from her often, I acquiesced to her judgement. Today I'm glad that I did. That colt has grown into a remarkable individual.

Sometimes the decision to geld a horse must be based on medical circumstances. Last year I gelded a stallion who had a testicle that began to shrink. We never did figure out whether it was an illness or an injury that caused this. . While the stallion was still capable of breeding, the shrunken testicle was pinching the horse when he was being worked and interfered with his performance. After giving the horse some time to heal, the horse was gelded when the testicle did not return to normal size

Sometimes for me the decision to geld a horse is based solely on logistics. I live on a small piece of property for the number of horses I own. Trying to get all of the horses turnout is difficult enough without the constraints of having a large number of stallions.

Stallions require their own turnout (which they trash by running the fence line). Many people do not even turn them out next to other horses. Colts I turn out together until the time they get too competitive and it looks like one might get hurt. Once that happens, they, too, must be separated and the turnout situations gets even more complicated.

What that means is even though a colt is the quality it takes to be a stallion, it's still just so much easier to live with them as geldings than as stallions. There is less liability with them as geldings. I can put them out safely together and they get more time out. Dealing with them as geldings is much easier on Lindsay and Dave especially when I am gone to horse shows.

I would prefer to not have anymore than two mature stallions on my farm. Currently, I have three. To take a top notch colt and geld it just because our lives (and probably its) will be easier is still a difficult decision to make. But it's a decision I have to make.


  1. Your relationship with your horses is splendid. You are doing what you love and that ain't work. LOL Though you are making decisions that some think cruel, I don't because I have lived around farms and ranches and was even a cowboy when I was young and able to hitch hike across the US. Those were the days.

    Now, I am almost 73 and my wife of 52 years is almost 71 and she just finished her last radiation treatment yesterday--for her breast cancer. A second bout. We celebrated in our own way yesterday and it also involved a small herd of horses and President Bush.

    Abraham Lincoln

  2. That is one cute baby at the top of this post! Boy? Gelded?
    You have an amazing herd of Arabians. I'll have to make my way up to Washington someday and see these babies in real life.

  3. Yes, molly, I did geld the horse who's pic is the top of this post. He was the first colt by my stallion. He is a beautiful horse but his neck was like his mother's and needed a liitle more length. That was enough to make the decision. He grew into a beautiful 16H horse who's going to be doing endurance. Can you imagine that beautiful face running around up in the hills instead of a show ring? At least there'll be no doubt that he's an Arabian.

  4. Good stallions make great geldings.

  5. I have the same dilemma at the moment. With two mature stallions and three yearling colts it is something I have to do and soon. Now I also have the newest addition who is a boy. I think I just have to put my foot down and tell my husband that they need to be gelded and soon. The bay yearling is starting to show definite signs of knowing what is what with the fillies coming into season. That is all I need to deal with right now. People aren't falling over themselves to buy our horses so it will be for the best. Geldings are more sought after than stallions.

    Great post again MiKael