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Equine Health Resource

Castration or Gelding, Cryptorchid



Normal colts are routinely castrated (gelded), meaning that their two testes (that have descended into the scrotum) are removed during a routine castration.

However, when one or both testicles have not descended normally into the scrotum, the colt is termed cryptorchid (flanker, ridgeling) and a different “cryptorchid castration” aka “cryptorchidectomy” surgical procedure must be performed to remove the internal testicle.

This procedure is more complicated and costly than a routine castration, as it is usually performed at a surgical facility. The horse is placed under general anesthesia and placed on its back on a surgical table, the inguinal (groin) area over the scrotum is surgically prepared, the skin and deeper tissues incised and bluntly separated and carefully explored, in an attempt to locate the small ligament that leads to the testicle. Once found, this is pulled up out of the incision, and the sac (tunic) housing the testicle is incised and the testicle is drawn up out of the inguinal canal or abdomen. Once the testicle is pulled up, the testicular vessels and spermatic cord are then crushed with an emasculator to prevent hemorrhage. Some clinicians may also tie off the vessels for more security.

Once the cryptorchid testicle is removed, we emasculate and remove the normal testicle.

In many cases, the skin of one or both incisions will be left open, but in most cases the internal inguinal ring will be sutured with heavy absorbable suture to prevent evisceration of intestine and other contents from the abdomen.

This is usually a fairly straightforward surgery, but it can be tricky in some cases.

It is considered unethical for vets to remove only the external testicle in a cryptorchid horse, because the horse will continue to behave like a stallion and yet will appear externally to be a gelding.

An alternative approach to cryptorchidectomy is laparoscopic removal of the internal testicle. This procedure is done in the standing, sedated horse through several small incisions in the body wall and under the visualization of a camera. It is minimally invasive but requires specialized equipment and expertise.


This procedure takes practice and can be difficult. Only vets with experience performing it should undertake it on client horses.


Following surgery, your vet will provide specific aftercare instructions. In most cases, there will be a period of controlled exercise prior to turnout or return to training or riding.

Whenever surgery is performed, it is very important that you communicate with the veterinarian immediately if you have any questions about the horse following surgery

This Treatment Might be used for a horse exhibiting these signsRelated Observations

Related DiagnosesThis Treatment Might Be Used for these Diagnoses

Know Related Treatments

Consider Potential Side Effects & Complications

The conventional surgical approach is performed under general anethesia, which always carries a risk. The standard of practice is that it is performed in a clean surgical facility, not in the field. Post-operatively, drainage from the incision will likely occur. Possible complications include incisional breakdown and infection.

Consider Reasons Not To Use This Treatment

This procedure should not be performed without some evidence that there still is retained testicular tissue. This usually involves testosterone blood levels and other lab blood tests.

Is It working? Timeframe for effect

Your horse should have an excellent appetite and attitude following surgery. Swelling should be minimal or within the limits described by your vet.

A recently castrated gelding can still impregnate a mare with the sperm remaining in the conducting system. It also takes several weeks for testosterone levels to drop after the testicles have been removed.

This means that a gelding should be expected to continue to exhibit stallion-like behavior for several weeks after castration. After 30 days, the horse should behave more like a gelding. It may take longer for stallion-like behavior to fade in older, experienced breeding stallions.

Questions To Ask My Vet

  • Do you have a post-castration or post-surgery care handout for me to review and follow?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of conventional surgery versus laparosopic removal?
  • How can I try to prevent or lessen infection in the incision site?
  • What sort of exercise routine do you recommend post- operatively?
  • Do you routinely give antibiotics as part of the procedure?

Helpful Outside ResourcesCredible Equine Health Information on the Internet

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP


Hartman R,Hawkins JF, Adams SB, Moore GE, Fessler JF. Cryptorchidectomy in Equids: 604 Cases (1977-2010) JAVMA, Vol 246, No. 7, April 1, 2015


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