Castration as a Solution?

Just as a combination of factors have lead to the surplus of unwanted horses, only a wide variety of ideas and programs will begin to solve the problem.
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By Tracy A. Turner, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS and Julia H. Wilson, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM

The plight of the unwanted horse may be the most important horse issue of the 21st century. Estimates suggest that 100,000 horses per year become “unwanted,” leading to saturation of rescue and retirement facilities around the country and a strain on their financial resources. Is overbreeding to blame? Is it because horse processing plants were closed? Just as a combination of factors have lead to the surplus, only a wide variety of ideas and programs will begin to solve the problem.

One solution is stallion castration. Several U.S. programs are making castration more affordable, including a new program in Minnesota. This state has seen more than a 400% increase in horse seizures for humane issues since 2006, and this has overwhelmed rescue groups. In response, a coalition of organizations and individuals formed the Minnesota Horse Welfare Coalition (MHWC), with representatives from the Minnesota Animal Humane Society, University of Minnesota (UM), Minnesota Horse Council (MHC), Minnesota Association of Equine Practitioners (MAEP), and several rescues. Participants agreed that stallions are not adoptable, as one could be responsible for up to 100 foals a year, and behavioral issues are common.

How does a coalition persuade owners to castrate their stallions? Free castration is certainly an incentive, but is it more than just a short-term solution? The national Unwanted Horse Coalition’s theme, “Own Responsibly,” pairs well with castration programs. The MHWC chose to offer free castration as an incentive for education. To qualify, a stallion owner must attend eight different educational seminars offered by the Minnesota Horse Expo, UM’s Horse Owner Education program, or participating veterinarians to foster responsible ownership. The required topics of at least one hour each are general horse care; reproduction; nutrition; facilities/ manure management; behavior; vaccinations/deworming; equine dentistry; and they must either attend a lecture on the unwanted horse or volunteer for two hours at a horse rescue. The MAEP was very supportive, and soon veterinarians statewide agreed to a fixed reimbursement price for castration and immediate pre- and post-surgical care. The MHC provided the money to launch the program and pay for at least the first 25 castrations

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8 Responses

  1. re: Castration as a Solution?

    While I agree rescues and shelters are needed, I am not sure I agree with all of your assertions.

    The author wrote:

    "Estimates suggest that 100,000 horses per year become "unwanted," leading to saturation of rescue and reti

  2. re: Castration as a Solution?

    While I hardily endorse low cost castrations and castrations of the majority of stallions, I can’t agree that responsible breeders have created the problem of unwanted horses.  According to this article "100,000" unwanted horses are prod

  3. re: Castration as a Solution?

    Don’t plan to "cut" my stallion. He was too hard to find with what I consider to be ideal conformation, disposition and pedigree to produce a "using" horse. He hasn’t been stood to the public. Bred my mare to him two years ago. The

  4. re: Castration as a Solution?

    Over breeding is the number one reason for unwanted horses therefore gelding colts is so important.  I just visited Amish country where the pastures were full of mares & babies and I wondered how many of them would end up at the nearby auction

  5. re: Castration as a Solution?

    "If people did things exactly the way I think they should do them, we wouldn’t have this problem."

    That’s the "solution" I hear in most people’s arguments about the unwanted horse problem. Complicated issues can’t be solved b

  6. re: Castration as a Solution?

    I work for a cattle rancher. My boss had a stallion get in with his mares two years ago, crossing several fences. He was with the mares no more than three days when we discovered it. There were 24 "unwanted" foals resulting from this. Before

  7. re: Castration as a Solution?

    If you can’t afford to have a horse gelded or humanely euthanized then you can’t afford a horse.  

    No one should be allowed to breed a horse unless it has been certified as being an improvement to the breed.  Stallion or mare.  An

  8. re: Castration as a Solution?

    I belong to the Georgia Equine Rescue League, and for the past several years, our organization has worked to geld stallions through two programs: A Stallion to Gelding Day in different parts of the state (239 stallions castrated in two years) and now a

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