Wednesday, June 23, 2010

To geld or not to geld: Who deserves to be a stallion?

Should I geld my young prospect? Well, for most horse owners, the answer to the above question is YES. When Riley was judged to be top colt at his inspection in 2006, I idly considered the possibility he might be stallion-worthy. Looking back What a goofy notion this was! Riley is a sweet horse, but a stallion prospect he isn't. A friend of mine was advised by another breeders that her young horse, only a few weeks older than Riley, might be a stallion prospect. He really wasn't one either, and as he became more aggressive and difficult, she was finally persuaded to geld him.

I'm no expert but...
Even aside from the qualities of the actual animal, there are many reasons to geld a horse ...
  • First and foremost, there are too darn many horses in the world already! Just read Fugly Horse of the Day to find out more about the sad state of horsel welfare and rescue.
  • It's unlikely you'll make any money, if that is your goal. As costs of keeping a horse increase, fewer people can afford it. Read what Ingrid Andrews of Equinnovation Equine Marketing has to say about a statistic that the average number of horses per horse owner is on the rise:
"Observing that the average number of horses per owner has risen from 3.6 to 4.6, an increase of almost 28%. Over the last decade spent working with clients I have observed increases in the number of new breeding farms and in the number of unsold horses that breeders are maintaining. In many cases supply is exceeding demand. I believe that this a primary reason for the increase in the average number of horses per owner reflected in the study.”
  • Due to advances in breeding technology, mare owners have a bewildering number of stallion choices. Artificial insemination, shipped semen, embryo transfer, cryopreserved semen, and other techniques give breeders nearly unlimited options for what stallion to use -- meaning that competition for breeding dollars is intense.

"Any good stallion will make a great gelding"
Like I said, I'm not an expert on this subject, but here are a few things to consider...
  • John Lyons says that if you don't breed at least 4 mares/year, your stallion is probably better off as a gelding.
  • Most boarding barns do not usually take stallions. Stallions may require different housing than geldings.
  • Stallions generally do not lead a good life, measured by their freedom, decreased and more isolated pasture time, and other restrictions.
  • Stallion dietary needs increase 25% during breeding season -- bigger feed bills! Vet bills will also be bigger.
  • Gelding later in life is far more risky than in a young horse.
  • Marketing a stallion is expensive.
  • Handling a stallion is dangerous, and not just for you. You could be liable for any injury incurred by people who interact with your stallion.
  • Breeding associations are fairly political animals, and new breeders are the odd man out.
If you still think you want to own a stallion, read what some of the experts DO say...


To geld or not to geld from Thoroughbred Times

Stallions: Why Geld? From
 Should I keep my colt entire?  from Paula Sainthouse

Stallion to gelding support organization (offers free gelding services)

Should I geld my stallion? Jessica Jahiel at

Should you geld your colt? From Lost World Farm warmbloods

Hormones and horse behavior


  1. Great post with some very good points!

  2. I kind of love that the first thing done with Ravel after his purchase and shipping to the US was gelding. He was talented but mediocre due to hormones, and now with Steffen Peters he's one of the best horses in the world. As a gelding. It's impossible to say if he would be had he not been gelded, but I think it's unlikely from what I've heard about him!

  3. When in doubt, geld. Some smart person said you can judge the quality of a breed farm by the number of geldings they have. I was browsing through fugly this afternoon and came across this stallion:

  4. Years ago a coworker was thinking of breeding her male pekinese for a little extra money. He had some champions in his pedigree but she obtained him as a pet and was clueless about showing the dog to earn points. I came down on her a little hard, but based my arguments on the horse world.

    If you are going to breed your dog/horse, then you'd better darned well know the breed standard and be realistic about where your dog/horse meets, exceeds or falls short of the standard. If you intend to contribute your animal's DNA to the breed, then you should have a clear idea how he will improve it. And know which bitches/mares will best offset his shortcomings.

    A competent breeder has a vision of the ideal representative of the breed and selects stallions and mares that will produce offspring closer to that ideal.

    We shouldn't let our hearts rule our heads when we already have more horses than there are good homes for them.

    I'll get off the soapbox now. :-)

  5. I would never want a stallion myself. All the reasons mentioned hold true. I simply would not want to deal with the potential danger.

  6. A couple of your links are busted and two of them point to the same article.

    For most people, I'm not even sure why there's a question. Owning a stallion is a pain, and unless you're running a world class breeding operation, there's no good reason to do it. Some years ago my folks ran a modestly successful breeding operation, but at that time AI and shipping weren't nearly as common as they are today. Today, with world class studs within the price range of the average person, there's REALLY no reason for the average horse person to own a stud.

    We kept only one of our foals ungelded, for several reasons: his dad, who was a successful sire, was old and arthritic and probably not long for the world. The colt was a beauty, and a sweetheart, out of a mare who was a successful eventer. We had basically a local word-of-mouth fan club of people who had seen his half-brother do Grand Prix and wanted a Grand Prix prospect. We had people wanting to breed to this colt before he even hit the ground, and we knew we could sell his offspring for a reasonable sum even as weanlings, much less as started 3 year olds. It worked, at the time, the time being early 90's. He was a good boy and never a problem, but a stud is a stud and should be treated with respect at all times.

    Today, with so many good horses looking for homes, the economy what it is, and the difference in access to stallions (not just because of AI and shipping but also because of the internet, which makes the INFORMATION readily available to anyone) I don't think it would make sense to have kept that colt entire.

  7. What I want to know is how people expect to put manners into their young stallions. My yearling is such a bundle of hormones that I am now literally counting the hours until his cryptorchid surgery.

    Not only am I sure that this one never deserved to be kept a stallion, I'm also questioning whether the little monster even deserved to be born in the first place!

    No wonder stallions get such a bad rap. It must take an extraordinary person to raise one properly. Brain Surgery here we come!!!

  8. Ah, I went through the to geld or not to geld dilemma a couple of years ago...mostly it was a question of whether or not to keep him intact until his breed inspection as a 3 year old. Also, I was holding out hope that his right testicle would eventually drop, and I could opt for the less expensive procedure.

    In the end, he had the cryptorchid surgery as a 2 year old, when he started acting studdish with the other horses: I was concerned for his safety after he tried to mount his 18 hand Belgian pasture mate >_< He was never aggressive with humans, but definitely took your full attention to handle. As a gelding, he might test my authority once a week: as a stud, he was testing the waters every day. Finding ANY boarding for him within driving distance of my home was a nightmare. In the summer, he would refuse to be caught if he smelled a mare in heat out in the pasture. He was fully able and willing to jump the stock gate of his paddock to go touring the farm. Basically, he was a big pita, even though he was a lovable guy and a farm favorite.

    In the end, it wasn't really a question: I bought him as a riding horse. As an AA with no property and a middle-class salary, approving and owning a stallion was not an option. I was (and am) totally smitten with him, so selling him was not an option. Gelding him has made both our lives easier.

  9. It takes a lot of special care and handling to train and manage a stallion. There shouldn't be many stallions for the same reason most mares shouldn't be bred - if they aren't absolutely outstanding specimens, with no (or virtually no) defects of conformation, soundness or mind, there's absolutely no reason to breed. There are plenty of good horses out there already. I would never breed any one of my 3 mares for these reasons - they're good horses but not outstanding and each has at least one conformation or soundness issue.

    I've seen a couple of weird cases of people (women in three cases which made it even more creepy) who seem to think it's cool to have stallions - "look at me, I have a STALLION!". Even if they're great riders/handlers (and at least 2 of them weren't), this is just plain weird to me.

    But then people are always having backyard puppies and kittens too and not neutering their animals, so it's not just a problem in the horse world.

  10. Excellent post - one of our rescues was a cryptorchid and required major surgery to be gelded. It boggles the mind that even though the Doc Bar line (Quarter Horses) is notorious for producing cryps, people continue to breed them anyway.
    For every brilliant and talented stud in the horse world, there are literally thousands of wannabees that are gelding oughtabees (and in the words of Forrest Gump, that's all I have to say about that :o)

  11. I never once considered keeping my boy intact. The farm I bought him from as a coming yearling hadn't wanted to geld him themselves, "in case somebody is interested in him as a breeding prospect." I was quite surprised to hear that, especially considering what he looked like at 10 months old ... He's turned out to be a very nice gelding, but would still make a mediocre-at-best stallion.
    hah. I can't even imagine what he'd be like if we hadn't had his gelding done promptly. He's such a handful now, as a 4-y/o gelding; I have to think he'd be rather difficult to manage, if not entirely out of control, as a stallion.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.