Saturday, January 31, 2015

Jack's Lobotomy

It's freezing and I'm holed up inside with my trusty sidekick, Wine. Since I've got nothing better to do, I figured I'd write a blog post, and then I realized I never shared the story of Jack's gelding process , or as I like to call it, his "rear lobotomy".

I got Jack as a 2 (soon to be 3) year old stallion. Yes, I am slightly nuts.... Why do you ask?  Actually, Jack had no clue he was a stallion, so it wasn't really a problem.  I figured I'd just have him gelded come spring.  Easy peasy, problem solved. Until spring came and I couldn't find a vet to do it.

It seems Sport Horse vets are kind of weenies when it comes to gelding 16.3h, 3 yr old stallions. Which is understandable, there can be complications with gelding older stallions, especially big ones.  General anesthesia in horses is tricky as it is, trickier with big ones who can injure themselves while going down. Plus, fully matured testicles have a tendency to bleed more and cause all kinds of problems. So, none of the local Sport Horse vets would do it. They all said, "Take him to New Bolton."

New Bolton, for those not living in NJ, is the equine hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. It's also the closest equine hospital to me. It's a great facility, but it's about an hour and a half away.  It also costs an arm and a leg. I was looking at around 1500 bucks to get this horse gelded, more if he had to stay up there.  Not that I'm cheap, but they geld adult horses at the track all the time without taking them to New Bolton.  What I needed was a track vet.

Of course, track vets are usually busy at the track, so I had to get a semi-retired track vet. We'll call him Dr. Bill. I call Dr. Bill up, explain the situation, give him Jack's size and age and he agrees to come out and do it that week.  Nice!

Dr. Bill shows up in the uniform of retirement, sweat pants and sneakers. Not the new style sweat pants, either, the old style with the elastic on the legs. He also has two younger (and better dressed) vets in tow. He explains that the two younger vets are there to watch, because they've never seen this procedure done before.  At this point I'm a bit puzzled, because how the heck do you get out of vet school without ever seeing a horse gelded?  Luckily, Dr. Bill explained.

Because of Jack's size, he was going to be gelded while fully awake and standing. I was a little horrified at this news, but Dr. Bill was already here and I really didn't want to take Jack to New Bolton. Dr. Bill handed me a twitch and off we went to get Jack.

It was a nice and sunny day, so Dr. Bill elected to do the job outside in the pasture. Apparently, natural light is better for these types of procedures. Jack was given a light sedative, twitched, and then Dr. Bill pulled out a giant syringe of lidocaine and proceeded to inject the, ahem, "surgical area". It was at this point that my husband, who had come out to see what was going on, booked it back into the house as fast as he could go.

We sat for a minute as we waited for the lidocaine and sedatives to kick in. I was holding Jack and the twitch, while the vets congregated at the other end of the horse discussing the procedure. I hoped Jack wasn't listening....

It ended up being quite interesting, since Dr. Bill was explaining everything to the young vets as he went.  According to Dr. Bill, doing it this way helps prevent excessive bleeding and swelling on older horses, as gravity helps flush everything out. It's also easier to be certain that you've got all the glandular tissue. Mature horses have more testosterone producing glandular tissue than immature ones, and if you miss any of that tissue the horse may still act like a stud. As an added bonus, Dr. Bill trimmed up Jack's scrotum so that, in his words, "It doesn't flap around when you ride him."  I had never thought about that, but yes, it would be rather embarrassing to go down centerline with a flapping scrotum.  To Dr. Bill's credit, Jack's surgical site stopped bleeding in less than 24 hours, never swelled and does not flap around.

It was all over fairly quickly, and Jack didn't seem to mind at all. The vets all patted him and complimented him on what a good boy he had been. And then Dr. Bill asked what I wanted to do with the testicles...

I don't know how it is in other places, but in this area there's a rather odd ritual of throwing the newly removed testicles onto the roof of the barn after a gelding. Dr. Bill, holding the organs in question, asked me if I wanted him to throw them up on the barn roof. Horrified, I replied "He's standing right here! Awake! He can see them!" Dr. Bill shrugged, said "OK", and then nonchalantly handed me the testicles.

So, now I'm standing there holding my totally awake gelding and his testicles. I looked at Jack. Jack looked at me. I asked him, "Are we still friends?". He bumped me with his head to get me to scratch his ears. I took that as a "yes".

I buried the testicles next to the arena and planted a nice iris over them. When it blooms, I point it out to Jack as we ride past.

"Look, Jack. There's your balls."


  1. omg. My husband would have DIED. Just died. I love that you planted a plant over his balls. That's awesome.

  2. Very cool - glad Jack got "tutored" successfully!

  3. This post made my day! "but yes, it would be rather embarrassing to go down centerline with a flapping scrotum." .... LOL!! I seriously love stories like this. Can't make it up.

  4. omg I'm laughing so hard! Around here we throw one in front of the horse for speed and one behind for power!

  5. Best gelding story ever!!! Hahaha...I love that you planted flowers over his balls!

    I hadn't realized that gelding mature horses in the field was an issue until moving to the continental US. In PR the equine vets didn't think twice about it: either horses got gelded with a sedative and a local, or they didn't get gelded at all. My 11-year old (at the time) Paso stallion was gelded at the barn by my vet and it was also a non-event.

    The testicles on the roof tradition is also present in South America and the Caribbean. I have no idea where that comes from. I think it just proves yet again how weird us horse people are. Lol ;)

  6. Hahahaha oh my goodness. I like the idea of the planted flowers more than throwing them on the roof, I've never heard the roof throwing thing before.

  7. Ah, yes, the testicles on the roof...been there, done that....just because that's what you do.

    Trying to find an "old school" vet is not always easy. Glad it all worked out for you as that technique of gelding used to be very common. Track vets very often have a very practical approach to all kinds of problems that might inspire other vets to send you to New Bolton. We do have Midlantic and New Jersey Equine up this way, both of which have surgical units.

    I've done the New Bolton route a couple times and it is expensive. It's always a good option to have, though.

  8. We got standing geldings done at the track all the time and threw the testicles on the roof. But planting a flower over them might be my new favorite way to treat them ever!

  9. I'm glad you found someone to do this and that Jack is just fine! This was quite a post!!!

  10. That seems much safer than putting a horse under. The post-event ritual is so bizarre.

    Good boy, Jack.

  11. Jack's balls make wonderful fertilizer - those flowers are beautiful! ;)

  12. OMG - this is educational -- and hysterically funny.

  13. Really dont understand (other then making money) why go the general anesthesia route over local and sedation. Flapping scrotum while centerline has to be one of the best visuals ever!

  14. i am laughing out loud reading this at work - too funny!! and between the somewhat 'fight club'-ish vibe of the post's title and the vet's colorful descriptions, now all i can think is 'i am jack's flapping scrotum' hahahaha


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