When To Geld Colt

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Ask Julie Goodnight:
When Should You Geld a Colt?

Hi Julie,
I am planning on buying a yearling stallion. I do want to geld him, but I’m not sure at what age is it ok to geld. Also, is it ok to put a yearling stallion in a field with older horses? Is it true the longer you wait to geld the “prettier” he’ll be (a longer mane, more muscular)? What’s the best practice to help him on his way to being the best horse? Thank you for your time,
Karli

Answer: Karli,
Great questions! And one of the few topics I haven’t already written about in my Training Library. This is a good time to talk about gelding colts since many people are dealing with youngsters this time of year.
First, it is important to recognize that almost all colts should be gelded. Few horses have the breeding, temperament and conformation to warrant becoming a breeding stallion, especially in these days of growing numbers of unwanted horses, a glut of horses on the market and the lack of owners interested in breeding. And since it is rarely if ever feasible to have a stallion, it is wise to geld your colt.

I have worked many years throughout my career on breeding farms and raised quite a few colts myself. Many breeders will geld at a young age, as soon as the testicles descend or around the six month mark. It is my personal preference to geld as a yearling, after weaning and after his first year of growth, which is the year he grows the most. This will generally be before the fly season, thus reducing the chance for infection. At the same time, we will remove his wolf teeth if he has them and we’ll generally follow-up the surgery with lots of groundwork and exercise to help in the healing and begin his training for ground manners.

No matter when I gelded him, I would want my young colt to be out with other horses for the socialization that will take place—there is an article in my Training Library about this, http://juliegoodnight.com/questionsNew.php?id=37. Even if you left him a stallion, you’d want him to stay with other geldings and learn how to get along. Preferably with a more dominant, older “uncle” gelding who will keep him in his place. When I geld the colt, I will keep him by himself for a week or so until he is healed from the surgery—too much frolicking and sparring could be dangerous for him right after the surgery.

Research does not indicate that a colt will grow bigger, stronger or prettier if he is left in-tact. However, it is true that a stallion will have certain “stallion characteristics” that are a result of more hormones floating around his system if he is left in-tact. These characteristics are more obvious in a mature horse and include bulging muscles around the jowl, over the eyes and in the neck and body. A mature stallion will have a certain presence that geldings rarely have. But these characteristics do not appear until the colt is a few years old; it is not worth the extra headaches of having a young stallion and they will disappear as soon as he is gelded. I have not noticed that the mane or tail will grow longer in a stallion.

My husband’s horse was a mature breeding stallion when we bought him. He does have an exceptionally thick mane and tail and the stallion characteristics were very prevalent. The day after we gelded him I could see the bulging jowl and eyebrow muscles deflating but his mane and tail have remained fuller than ever. He is still a gorgeous well-muscled horse, just not as extremely muscled as before we gelded him.

And he is much happier to be living with other geldings without a big fight. There’s no real benefit to keeping a colt in-tact when you know you are going to geld him eventually and I would suggest between 6 months and a year is a good time, depending on your weaning schedule and the seasons. Like dogs and cats, once a horse develops breeding behaviors (like teasing and mounting mares) he doesn’t forget them just because he is gelded. That’s why we have lots of “randy” geldings that will act like stallions when mares come into heat. I have written about this subject too- http://juliegoodnight.com/questionsNew.php?id=148.

Good luck with your colt and thanks for asking these important questions!
Julie

Correction Bit Needed?

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Correction Bit?

Question:

We purchased a 6 year old mare approx. 6 months ago. She was previously bridled with a D Ring Snaffle. We have tried transitioning her with other Snaffles and a Touch Plus. She seems to really fight the bit (tossing her head, etc.). I feel part of this is a maturity and confidence issue, but wonder what would be a good bit to move her to? I have had her teeth checked and there seems to be no problems there. Currently we are doing lots & lots of trail riding and just getting her confidence up. Thanks! Kathy

Answer:

Kathy, The first thing always to do in situations like this is to check for physical causes. Check her teeth to see if she has wolf teeth (very sharp little teeth on the front of the back sets of teeth), which can cause your horse a lot of pain with a bit in their mouth. Not all horses have wolf teeth but the ones that do generally have them removed at a young age. Another thing to check for is scarring in the mouth or on the tongue that may also be causing her pain. Once a physical cause is ruled out, you can assume it’s a training issue. The only reason a horse throws its head and resists the bit’s because the rider is hurting your horse’s mouth and/or the pressure confuses your horse. Therefore, another bit’s unlikely to solve the problem, unless you’re going to a much milder bit. In my experience, about 98% of the time, when a horse has a bitting problem, the rider, not the bit, is causing the problem. Changing bits, strapping your horse’s mouth shut or tying his head down will not resolve the problem, it simply puts a band-aid over the symptom. Most people put relentless pressure on their horse’s mouths, rarely giving an adequate release to your horse. The more pressure on the bit, the more pain in your horse’s mouth, the more your horse becomes anxious and fractious. Often these horses will speed up in an effort to run away from the pressure, which ends up getting them more pressure because the rider gets more tense, and the downward spiral continues.

In this scenario, the rider typically wants to put more bit in your horse’s mouth to control the speed and that generally makes the problem worse. Changing bits will never fix a training problem, only training will. In fact, going to a stronger bit will almost always make a training problem worse, because your horse will have even more anxiety. Taking a fractious, anxious horse to a milder bit and putting a rider up that has good hands and lots of release, will almost always help your horse. To resolve bitting problems, two things have to happen. First, your horse must be taught how he is supposed to respond to pressure: give to pressure and when you give you will find a release. He must learn to give both laterally (to the side) and vertically (dropping his nose down and in). When you put light pressure on the reins, your horse must be taught that as soon as he gives, the pressure goes away. For most people, when your horse gives, they are unaware of it or being greedy and they continue to pull, so your horse loses his incentive to give. Secondly, your horse must be given an escape from the pressure. The release must come within a second of the desired response of your horse; never hold continuous pressure on the reins. So often in clinics I see people applying relentless and meaningless pressure on your horse’s mouth for no reason whatsoever. The rider is oblivious to the pressure, but your horse is not. In fact, there’s a metal bar in your horse’s mouth and he has nerves in his lips, tongue, gums and palate just like we do. No horse anywhere wants pressure on his mouth and he will always look for a way out of it. If giving to the pressure or doing what you asked doesn’t relieve the pressure, he will try something else like gaping his mouth open, tossing his head or running through the bridle. Your horse does not have a bitting problem, he has a rider problem and he will almost always respond immediately to a rider with good hands. I have no idea what a ‘Touch Plus’ bit is, but it sounds like a gadget to me. There are no shortage horse training gadgets on the market because there’s no shortage of people looking to buy a solution to their horse’s problems, rather than consider that the problem is them. If I were you, I would take this horse back to a D-ring snaffle, have her mouth checked for physical causes, and keep her on a lose rein until she learns to trust your hands.

Julie Goodnight, Trainer and Clinician
www.juliegoodnight.com