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There's been a few questions come through lately regarding badly behaved stallions and whether gelding will fix the problems. So below is a summary of what the research on gelding and behavior has turned up.

Stallions are very dominant by nature, and full of energy. Nipping, rearing, prancing, calling and other high jinx and horsing around are normal behavior. Geldings are generally more placid & predictable and much easier to handle and this is why many male horses are gelded. The gelding tends to be more suitable for a wider range of today's equine activities than the stallion. Although the stallion's extra testosterone enables him to perform with more muscle definition, energy and flashiness, it also tends to distract him from the task at hand with mating and defence impulses. In times past, only stallions were considered suitable for real riders. That is, riders that went to war on horseback, where it was important that the horse would join in the battle with hoofs and teeth. Enough said!

While your colt is little and cute, it can be tempting to want to keep him entire. It's when he has turned into a full blown display of horse testosterone with special handling and housing requirements that castration looks attractive. The reality is that only the very best horses should be kept entire for breeding. If you are worried about the procedure, be reassured that gelding is the most common surgical procedure performed on horses.

So how will castration affect your colts behavior? That depends on how old he is and what he has already learned. Gelding a colt will remove the underlying drives for unwanted behaviors but it will probably not stop these behaviors if these undesirable habits have already formed. Once bad manners have become established, it is a matter of re-training. Clearly it is much easier to geld before your colt starts acting out than after.

A horse goes through puberty between 18 and 24 months. There is a difference in how your colt will develop which depends on when he is gelded. A colt gelded before puberty is much less likely to develop the mating related behaviors of the stallion. He will end up taller by up to 10cm or 4 inches than if he were left entire. The younger a colt is gelded the more likely he is to end up with finer features, less muscle mass and a thinner neck than as a stallion. Furthermore, the younger a colt is gelded, the easier he may be to handle and if gelded very young the incision required is very small and can be sutured closed and very little scarring results.

For horses gelded late, or after puberty, there is no way to 'turn back time' and remove any stallion-like body shape or mating related behavior. And if he has learned he can get his way with people by being aggressive, gelding will not cause him to unlearn this, only retraining will.
When to geld depends on the horse in question. Young colts that become obsessed with mares or their privates, or who start to develop the cresty, thick stallion neck are better to be gelded sooner. Some colts will show very little interest in mares and no muscular thickening and can be left (behavior notwithstanding) until older if so wished.

After the operation, it will take some time for your colt to forget what he was. It can take a month. It can even take 6 months. When his testosterone levels drop, so will his stallion-like behavior. His metabolism will slow down and he will require less food and more exercise to maintain condition.

After gelding, some horses will retain all of the mating behaviors. These are known as 'proud cut'. While it used to be thought that this was due to a failed surgery, todays surgical skill level suggests that other factors are at work. It may be that the adrenal gland (near the kidney) is producing excess testosterone. It may be that gelding happened well after the mating behaviors became established. Other bad horse-human manners are the result of bad training.

.........And brilliantly written by Temple Grandin of the Department of Animal Science at Colorado State University
explaining how herd dynamics in grazing animals are learned:
Castration will reduce aggression in adult animals and, if done at a young age, mostly eliminate it. In grazing animals, an orphan male raised away from its own species may be imprinted to people and think he is a person. The resulting behavior is cute in a young animal, but when the male becomes fully mature he can be dangerous. At full maturity lie may turn on his caretakers to prove that lie is now the dominant male in the herd. Raising young bull calves in a social group helps prevent aggression toward people. Young bulls and stallions must learn they are not people. Orphaned male grazing animals should be either castrated or placed in a social group with their own kind by 6 weeks of age. When they grow up with their own kind they learn who they are, and any aggression is more likely to be directed toward their own kind. The male aggression problem is not due to the animal being tame. It is due to mistaken identity. Social behavior in grazing animals has to be learned. Grazing animals must learn the normal give and take of social behavior. Horses or cattle that are reared alone will often be vicious fighters when mixed with other animals. A young stud colt reared alone may constantly fight other horses because he has never learned that once he has become dominant he doesn't need to keep fighting. Stallions will be easier to manage when they mature, if they are reared as young colts in a pasture full of other adult horses.

The [behavioral] complications increase as stallions are kept in confined and unnatural conditions of isolation. Isolation tends to produce psychological aberrations in the stallion, with an associated reduction in the degree to which behavior can be predicted. At this point other horses, animals or people may be wrongly perceived as a threat, with the result being that they are driven forcibly from the area - through or over gates and fences if necessary. Confinement by itself can have a powerful effect, with some stallions showing a degree of tolerance and others far less so.


Hi Phil,
Would love to link to you. I've started a blog for people who own and love horses whether they follow a discipline or just enjoy their company.
Let me know if you're interested.
Thanks, Callie

4:42 PM  

Hi Phil

I have a 16 month old pure morgan who I had gelded 5 weeks ago. He was picked up from the stud at 13 months having had no handling or training at all. He was professionally trained and athough my trainer said he was a very well-behaved as a colt, he started to become very nippy, distracted, pushy and reared up twice. I became quite fearful and nervous around him. I also found it hard to find an agistment place for him. I am not experienced and knew that if he wasn't gelded I'd have to sell him. I discussed it with many experienced people and took my time before making the decision. As his parents and grandparents are still producing there was really no reason for his DNA - and this was the final deciding factor.

The behaviours have disappeared and I am very pleased with the result. He is easier to train, can be agisted easily and does not react when he sees other horses. He had not had any close contact with mares etc in the 3 months prior to being gelded which would have helped. His condition suffered a bit as a result and I am told that this is quite common (there isn't much feed on the ground where we are). If I'd known I would have increased his hard feed straight after the procedure. His condition is now improving.

It took me some time and help/lessons to regain my confidence in handling him but I achieved my goal and successfully showed him for the first time last week at the annual Morgan Horse Show. He was very well-behaved and he did everything asked of him perfectly.

We still have many challenges ahead as he is a young horse who will still challenge me. I will be continuing with lessons and lots of ground work until he's old enough to start.

Simone Dalton

1:39 PM  

hi phil

stallions do settle down and become quiet after being gelded, but if they are cut proud they still have the testosterone in them and they do play up.. as i know from experience..

5:10 PM  

I have seen six Andalusian stallions in an arena with mares and foals and ALL have behaved perfectly.

Sure some stallions will be very dominant and aggressive, but not every one. And one episode of nipping (not biting) or rearing doesn't make for a wild stallion necessarily.

I'm confused about this whole Gelding topic. I have read/been told so many conflicting things:

Gelding increases neck/muscle mass
Gelding decreases neck/muscle mass
Gelding increases height
Gelding decreases height
Gelding increases passiveness
Gelding has no impact on passiveness and it is all in the training.
Gelding is a simple procedure (regardless of age)
Gelding is a major procedure (regardless of age)
The results of gelding are the same no matter the age of the horse
Gelding must take place when the horse is young to have impact

Etc, Etc,.

I think in the end it is how the colt is brought up/raised (pasture with other colts, etc.) and also the level of experience of and what the owner/trainer is comfortable with. I don't think that all stallions are rearing, uncontrollable maniacs that need to be gelded.

Just my thoughts.

4:36 AM  

Hello Phil,
Most of what is mentioned here I find very true, however, I know many people that own quite a number of stallions, ( including myself) that have absolutely no trouble with them. These 'boys' are always kept with a 'buddie' so they don't fret for mares or other horses. They don't kick or bite, and are ridden in shows.
Like dogs, horses only become to how they are raised. Firm but fair, but they must see the owner as the pack leader or dominant one. However, I have known some badly behaved geldings in my time!

10:21 AM  

Fabulous Article, I have a welsh section A who on reading your article i would say is a proud cut, he is amazingly impressive and i get comments on him being an entire, i know he was gelded correctly as i was there when it was being done, but i had him gelded at 19months old and due to the weather he had been an entire for 6months, he dropped on in the nov 2005, but it was april 2006 before his 2nd came down, he was never coltish though, and i did toy with the idea of keeping him an entire to be honest.
But just wanted to say thanks for such a great article

2:01 AM  

this is the best article I've seen about gelding an older stallion. My stud is rising 6, has not been bred, and since my recent move to a show barn, where he is much more confined than his pasture with run in at home, he has got increasingly more aggressive towards me. charges me in the round pen, and lunges towards me and rears with ears pinned and teeth bared on the crossties. I have to lead him down the aisle with a lip chain, or he just drags me to the nearest stall with a mare in it. I can't take him home because we moved 1200 miles away, and in the past he was trained with non aggressive [John Lyons] type methods, and the trainer here is heavy on the chain shank and the lunge whip. so now I am going to have to geld him before his show career even starts, because I can't handle him anymore. [I bred and raised and started him under saddle, and have been riding him at home for 3 years.] But if I can't handle him in public, what's the use? I'm just petrified to do it, because I've heard the horror stories of the older stallions innards falling out, and bleeding to death. I am planning on taking him to a surgical clinic, with recovery days, and hoping for the best.

3:55 AM  

Gelding requires a right decision. I’ve read an article regarding gelding and she said that it took 3 months before she decided that her horse should be gelded. On that full article, I realized the advantages of gelding.

2:19 AM  

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