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CASTRATION TECHNIQUES USED IN PERFORMANCE EQUINE
Castration is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on the horse. By removing the source of hormones, castration gives a more docile and manageable horse. Although horses can be castrated at any time the most common age is between 12 and 18 months. Different techniques for horse castration have been developed. It can be done standing or under general anesthesia in the field or in the Surgery Room. The technique chosen will depend on surgeon’s preference, horse docility, time of the year and area where the horse lives.
The advantage of standing castration is the requirement of cheap assistance, quick and risks of general anesthesia are avoided.
Careful selection of the patient is mandatory to perform a safe and quick castration with the animal standing. The animal has to be quiet docile animal, also the testes have to be fully developed and the candidate should be of adequate size to be comfortable during the procedure. Ideally the stallion should not mind the palpation of the testes without sedation.
Preparation of the horse
We usually sedate the horse and inject local anesthesia in the scrotum and in the testicle, this permits a painless and safe procedure. The tail is wrapped and the testes area is surgically prepped.
A competent, skilled handler is needed and lip twitch may be on hand. The handler should be at the same side of the surgeon.
If the castration will be done in the field a clean safe area is needed to induce and recover the horse. Once under anesthesia the position of the horse will be upside down or flat on one side according to the surgeon preference.
For the castrations in the field we usually perform incisions in the scrotum and left open to heal on its own. Routinely the castration is preformed using an emasculator which is an instrument that crushes the spermatic chord and therefore avoids hemorrhage. Currently we are using the Henderson Castration Device which attaches a drill to twist the cord which allows the blood vessels to be occluded. We usually instruct to leave the horses in stall rest and observed for 24 hours followed daily exercise twice a day. After 10-14 days they can return to normal activity. Some hemorrhage in the form of drops no more often than 1 drop per second from the incision could be considered normal for the first 12 hours. In the next 2 or 3 days the incisions will swell and drain until they are closed and healed. Premature closure of the incisions can lead to excessive preputial swelling and infection and has to be addressed accordingly by the veterinarian.
In the following picture you can see the testicles outside the scrotum:
The Henderson Castration Device in action