Gelding is Grrrreat!

Gelding is Grrrreat!

Tuesdays with Tony

This week I’m going to open up to you about a topic that is a little personal for me: castration. Now I was as anxious as any tomcat would be about my own castration. All I could think about was the pain and the finality of it all. But I am here to tell you that it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. My vets put me completely under so I didn’t feel a thing; I didn’t even remember what had happened when I woke up! The pain was a non-issue; I was back to my usual routine later the same day. And best of all, now I never have to worry about those pesky hormones again.

I would imagine your spring colts are getting bigger now, and their nipping, striking, mounting behaviors that were so cute when they were first born are becoming a little less cute as they grow. Well, you are in luck because now is the perfect time to sign up for my 2018 Operation Gelding Clinic! The event, sponsored by the Unwanted Horse Coalition, will be held on December 8th. You will enjoy a greatly discounted rate of $50 for the castration, while offering veterinary students a wonderful chance to gain additional experience before they get out into the real world. I know December seems far away, but these highly sought-after spots are filling up fast, so call now!
For your entertainment, here are the answers to our top 3 most frequently asked questions about castrations.

Why don’t you do standing castrations?

The first and most obvious answer is because our docs like their heads! Their brains, with those 4 years of vet school knowledge crammed inside, are their most valuable assets. A vet’s head needs to get pretty close to those hind legs during a  standing castration, and we would hate to have it kicked off by a naughty stallion trying to protect his special area.

Another thing we love is our anesthesia protocol. Our docs have just the right magic cocktail of drugs that allows for the perfect amount of time to castrate a horse, maybe pull a pair of wolf teeth, and let them recover smoothly. One of the drugs in their combo even has an effect on memory, so your horse likely won’t remember what happened to him when he wakes up.

Laying a horse down for castrations also affords the doctors a MUCH better view and improved access. Rather than bending at the waist and ducking under the horse’s abdomen, the vet can squat behind the horse’s tail, or lean over one of the horse’s tied hind legs. Everybody, right now, stand up and bend at the waist to almost 90 degrees, then stretch your arms out in front of you. Now imagine holding this pose for 20 minutes. Harder than you thought, right? If you’re planning on doing standing castrations, you better hope you have some tall stallions!


Is that a drill?!

Yes, as a matter of fact, the tool we use at Springhill Equine is called a Henderson, and it attaches and is powered by a hand-held drill! The twisting action of the drill spins the spermatic cord so tightly that bleeding is almost never a problem. In addition, the testicle is removed super fast, which cuts down on surgery time. Other castration methods involve clamping and holding, which translates to a long time while your horse is burning through his sedation and thinking about waking up. Most emasculators, as the tool is called, also require cutting the cord just above the clamp. Sharp transection with a blade is a great way to make a horse bleed. With the twisting action of the Henderson, no clamping or cutting is necessary.

In place of the Henderson, you may see our docs using a hand-held modification called an EquiTwister. This tool uses the same twisting motion to prevent bleeding, without the need for battery power that comes with the Henderson. In general, remember that twisting is good, cutting is bad. Plus, I think the docs secretly enjoy the feeling of castrating a 1000lb animal using hand-held power tools!


Wait doc, aren’t you going to stitch him up?

Nope! Equine castrations are typically left “open” for the best outcome. You may have noticed that these castrations are usually performed in a field, on the ground, outside…not exactly a sterile environment. And when you take your horse home, he is probably going to lay down in the dirt, in his manure, in the sand, and in his urine. Add on the fact that a horse’s scrotum hangs down where it will inevitably come in contact with whatever is on the ground when he lays down, and you have a perfect recipe for contamination.

For these reasons, we basically assume that a castration incision will get “contaminated”. Keep in mind, contamination is not the same as infection. Even though our docs utilize sterile technique and do their best to keep the site clean during surgery, it is virtually impossible to avoid any contamination from start to finish. By leaving the incision open to the environment, we allow all the contaminated discharge to drain back out before it has a chance to cause infection.

At our practice, we don’t typically give horses antibiotics with a routine castration either. Our rates of post-castration complications are very low. Using antibiotics as a preventative measure is irresponsible, and only contributes to widespread antibiotic resistance. In the unlikely event that your horse develops an infection after castration, the docs can always start antibiotics at that time if warranted.


So, all of you human parents of rowdy colts, or even older stallions that you just never got around to gelding, don’t miss this year’s Operation Gelding Clinic. The Unwanted Horse Coalition is generous enough to allow us to castrate 14 horses each year, but these spots are being claimed at a rapid rate, so don’t wait to reserve your place! Take it from me, castrating your animal is one of the best things you can do to give him a happy, healthy long life.

Until next week,

~ Tony

P.S. While I have your attention, let me remind you to A) subscribe to this magnificent blog down at the bottom, B) check out our podcast, Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth, and C) add our 12th Annual Open House on September 29th to your calendar. There, that’s the recipe for a perfect horse owner!

gelding Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic Newberry FL

Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at, or follow us on Facebook!

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Tuesdays with Tony – The Castration Clinic

Castration Clinic 2015
Dear intact, neutered, and spayed followers,
This past Saturday I supervised our annual castration clinic, and it was a huge success! 12 former stallions left here as happy geldings (well, the happy part is subjective, but I know their owners will thank us later). The vet students did an awesome job, and hopefully gained a lot of useful experience for their future careers.
I’m not clear on all the scienc-ey details, but here’s the Springhill Equine castration protocol as I could tell from my distant vantage point:

Step 1- catheter placement: Wary vet student attempts to hold untrained weanling still, while other vet student stabs a 2-inch needle in weanling’s neck with trembling hands.

Step 2- inducing anesthesia: 90lb vet student attempts to guide 800lb horse to the ground gracefully. It usually isn’t all that pretty. Students tie lots of knots around horse’s legs because they don’t remember exactly how to do that neat rope trick that Dr. Lacher or Dr. Vurgason taught them.

Step 3- surgical prep: senior vet student suddenly forgets how to don sterile gloves, and how to put a scalpel blade on a handle. Junior vet student scrubs surgical site way more thoroughly than necessary. Meanwhile, half of anesthesia time has passed, and horse already needs another dose.

Step 4- castration: All I heard was Dr. Vurgason and Dr. Lacher saying over and over, “cut deeper, push harder, make your incision longer…” Bless their hearts, they are just learning. I tried chanting “Be aggressive! B-E-aggressive!” to help them along.

Step 5- power tools: Tomcats, you may not want to read this part. Basically they attach a scary-looking clamp, it makes a sickening crunching noise, and an excited vet student runs a DRILL which more or less twists the testicle off. Job done!

After watching one or two of these, I thought it best to take a nap in Dr. Vurgason’s truck for the rest of the day. Of course the best part was all the pets and treats I received from 30 eager vet students! Made all the blood and gore worthwhile.

If you have a stallion who yearns to become a gelding, be sure to keep an eye out for next year’s castration clinic! It’s always a good time (don’t ask the horses).


Tuesdays with Tony

Tuesdays with Tony


Tuesdays with Tony

As you can see, I’m having to rest up from the past week. Not only did I have to supervise the doctors this week but I spent a lot of time watching the phones. I don’t answer them. I only watch them, from behind closed eyes. I’m not really in to helping people when they call so I just don’t answer. Besides managing the front desk, I assisted with quite a few fecal parasite egg counts this week. I enjoy sitting on the counter assisting in any way I can while Beth, Nancy, or Charly perform these really import tests. Basically they take a bit of poop, mix it with some stuff, centrifuge it, let it sit for a while, then count how many worm eggs they see. Apparently this tells them how often horses should get dewormed. They tell me most people deworm too often and their counts are generally very low indicating twice yearly deworming. I pretend to listen while they tell me this. It makes the humans feel more important than they actually are.

I have really enjoyed the crypt-orchid (testicle stayed too high and had to be dug out) surgeries we seem to be making a habit of on Mondays. The doctors said the last two had both their testicles in the abdomen which seemed to make them excited. They said it’s relatively rare to have this happen. I felt they should scratch behind my ears while they told me all this. Luckily both horses had great owners since these horses could easily have been passed on as geldings to some unsuspecting person.

Coby has required a lot of intense management from the cat. Last week Dr. Lacher and Dr. Vurgason put amnion on his wounds. This is a specific part of the placenta which is resistant to infection, has anti-pain properties, and helps the wound heal with growth promoters. I must admit even the cat is impressed. We did this last week and again yesterday. I have attached some pictures so you guys can see what a little cat supervision gets done. I am pretty darn impressive. By simply watching I have really gotten this wound healing well.

One final word of wisdom from the cat: vaccinate your horses. We have Eastern Encephalitis in the area. The vaccine is about the cheapest thing you can do and is nearly 100% effective. When Springhill Equine gives it you have a guarantee from the manufacturer. If your horse gets encephalitis they will cover treatment costs. Vaccinating for encephalitis is about as sure a thing as finding me taking a nap in a sunbeam.

Tuesdays With Tony – Waiting for RJ to Wake Up

Tuesdays With Tony – Waiting for RJ to Wake Up

Tony Laying with RJ

Waiting for RJ to wake up

They sure do require a lot of supervision around here. The doctors have been busy with all kinds of stuff this week. There have been lameness exams, dentals, ultrasounds of tendons and ligaments, necks, and backs. Dr. Vurgason ultra-sounded a 14 day pregnancy which was pretty cool. Monday I supervised a rare bilateral crypt-orchid surgery. That is fancy doctor speak for both testicles were in the abdomen instead of down where they are supposed to be. According to Dr. Lacher it’s usually only one that stays where it’s not supposed to and the other is normal. That is him in the background sleeping like a baby after surgery.

We have also seen some routine care this week at the office. I enjoy these visits since it gives me a chance to really connect with my fans. I get to spend some quality time visiting with them, chatting about what they are up to with their horses, getting my ears scratched, talking about how great I am, marveling at my beautiful yellow eyes, shiny black coat, and wonderful athletic physique. Dentals are my favorite routine appointment since this is often when I get the best ear and chin scratches while the docs and techs are busy with the horses in the stocks. I also feel that I do my best supervising with dentals. I watch as the doctors examine the horse, then administer sedation, place the big thing in their mouth that holds it open, and put a funny looking light on their heads. From there they carefully examine every tooth before performing the dental float.

There has been lots of discussion around the office about management of Coby’s wounds. In case you haven’t been checking in with me regularly, Coby has some very serious wounds to his hind legs that the docs are intensively managing. I am learning that these wounds go through many different phases and require different things at different times. Right now they are figuring out which pieces of skin aren’t going to make it and how best to cover the wounds as they heal. Coby’s body is beginning to move from the clean up phase to the wound healing phase. The start of that is called contracture. The tissue around the edges will slowly constrict around the wound as it grows until the wound is covered. Out in front of that contracture is granulation tissue. Little baby skin cells will then start migrating across the granulation tissue. Skin cells are very particular about how and where they travel. They like flat, moist areas. So the docs have to work on keep the wound wet but not too wet, covered but not too tight, clean but not scrubbed too hard, all while keeping infection in the surrounding tissue under control. In a wound like this the docs also have to make sure the bone stays wet or it will dry out and be VERY unhappy. Tomorrow we are going to do a lot of work on Coby so I’m off to rest up for a long, tough day of supervising Springhill Equine.