Your Guide to Equine Health Care

Castration: The When and How

Science trumps tradition when it comes to gelding male horses.

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Castration: The When and How
Advantages to standing sedation castrations include avoiding potential issues associated with putting a horse under anesthesia. | Photo: Bruce Connally

Science trumps tradition when it comes to gelding male horses.

Most horse industry circles agree: Geld male horses young, unless they are gifted with athletic or genetic greatness and destined for breeding careers. Regarding when and how to do this, however, you’ll find many differences of opinion. Anthony Blikslager, DVM, PhD, professor of equine surgery at North Carolina State University, in Raleigh, says horse owners often base castration approaches on tradition, but he suggests they are are better served by working with their veterinarians to choose the right time and method for each horse. 

When to Do It?

Blikslager prefers to castrate young stallions when they are about 1 year old because he says the surgery is usually simpler and poses less risk for complications than when the horse is older. Mature stallions have larger testicles and blood vessels, which can make the procedure problematic.

Some owners prefer to castrate horses as foals, which can mean fewer stabling, training, and behavioral issues. Gelded youngsters can be managed together, instead of in separate groups, and are easier to handle than young stallions. Foals also bounce back more quickly after surgery than adults, and their dams help exercise them as they move around the pasture. This eliminates the need to keep the horse active post-castration, as you must do with an older horse. The main disadvantage to castrating horses as foals is they tend to be more prone to developing scrotal

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Written by:

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses and Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

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