Are You Sure You Want a Gelding?

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At some point my clients get the bug to own a horse.  They ask for my advice, even though they have already done a lot of homework.  They often start with the statement, I only want a gelding.  And for good reason, geldings are usually so dependable!   Once you have made up your mind to own a gelding,  you need to know about a few maintenance issues that geldings present.  These needs are not for the lighthearted.  I warn you some of the photos in this blog may be difficult to view.

Let’s start with BEANS. Within the head of their penis, a gelding can collect what really looks like a large kidney bean.  Usually you will find two beans and they will be lodged along the rim of the opening to the penis, the orifice. This picture shows a typical pair of beans.  Although they are a little larger than most that I extract, note the bottle cap reference, the position of them was very typical.  There were 2 BEANS positioned around the circular space in a single layer.

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This summer I was checking for beans on a new horse, and the horse came with a history of a recent sheath cleaning and bean removal. When I noted that the horse seemed to strain to urinate, I checked on the status of the clean anatomy and found a triple stack of hard growths, completely occluding his penile opening….this is what they looked like!

Most geldings need this service once a year.  In our barn we have a few good guys who need it 3-4 times a year  because they accumulate an excessive amount of the fluid and minerals that form these beans. The job of removing the beans,  is not for everyone and you should really have your veterinarian do this.  Your veterinarian will clean the sheath and extract the beans.  As a nurse, I carefully do my own GELDING care and I have clients who have safely acquired the skills to maintain their geldings in comfort.  The key word here is they must be maintained.

A gelding owner should also note the color of the skin of their horse’s penis.  Pink colored skin is predisposed to cancer of the penis.  If the cancer is caught early it is easily treated.  If the cancer is more advanced a phallectomy may be the recommended treatment.  My personal experience will explain this dilemma the best.

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I have a 17 year old schoolmaster, named Bingo.  He is the delight of many beginners in our barn and he is one of the kindest horses I have ever known.  When he became surly last summer, which was totally out of character for him, I started to check all the possible causes of his discomfort.  When checking for beans I noticed that he had lesions on the penile shaft.  I had removed beans from him before and I had never noticed any lesions.  When talking to my veterinarian she asked me “what color is the skin of his penis?”  I thought to myself, this is a totally chestnut, hardly a white hair on him, colored horse.  I admit I had assumed it was black skin, since he had no white on his body.  WRONG!!! The skin on his penis is pink, and he had an advanced case of cancer.  The good ending to this story is I opted for the surgery, a phallectomy, where they resected,  or cut off, half of the penis.

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This procedure still leaves enough anatomy to allow him the ability to urinate, without difficulty.  After this procedure, he recovered to return to the best horse EVER!

Geldings can be awesome and I strongly recommend if you think you want a gelding, then that is what you should buy.  One point of this story is that many horses have come through my barn with the history that these needs were taken care of.   Some geldings have been given to us after their behavior was problematic, or they were failing to thrive.  After examination of their male anatomy, I found a huge amount of BEANS or other discomfort.  After some thorough maintenance,  we turned these geldings back into the thriving good boys they wanted to be.