Friday, October 03, 2008

Docile Stallion, Aggressive Gelding: Is My Horse a Freak?

It is understood that when you castrate (geld) a stallion they become more docile and much more pleasant to be around. Stallions are very dominant and full of energy by nature. A stallion's extra testosterone enables him to perform with more muscle definition, energy, and flashiness, it also tends to distract him from tasks at hand with mating and defense impulses. However, all those hormones may cause a stallion to be aggressive and disruptive and must be handled carefully and managed closely. In most cases you cannot turn a stallion out into a field of other horses, especially mares without fear of unwanted breeding and fighting with other members of the herd. Stallions tend to be very vocal, nip, rear, and prance and these behaviors can sometimes be dangerous. It appears that these behaviors subside when a stallion is gelded.

Geldings are generally more placid, predictable, and much easier to handle. They can be housed and turned out with mares and other geldings and even stallions without fear of accidental breeding or much aggression towards herd mates. Castration, and the elimination of hormonally-driven behavior associated with a stallion, allows a male horse to be calmer and better-behaved, making the animal quieter, gentler and potentially more suitable as an everyday working animal.

Now here is my problem.....My friend has a stallion that has been turned out in a herd of pony geldings since he was 2 years old and has been pastured and stabled next to my gelding for the last three years. He and my gelding are best friends, they travel together, whinny when the other leaves the property...they are inseparable. That is until September 18. My friend bought a mare and with the addition of her to the farm, she decided to geld the stallion. Although "Dually" was generally well-behaved around mares at shows and outside of the farm, she thought it a little unfair to ask him to be on his best behavior all the time, especially with the mare teasing him from across the fence. Since he was gelded, "Dually" has been aggressive and unable to be around other horses. He is chasing the ponies he has lived with for 7 years, he has bitten and kicked my gelding and at one point chased him right out of the pasture. My horse had to jump the fence to get away from him. He charges the fences when there are horses he deems too close, even though he is in a pasture by himself now. We are at a loss for an explanation to what is causing his aggression. He was perfectly pleasant before and now he must be kept alone so the other horses do not get injured. He is definitely not behaving how you typically see a stallion who has been gelded. They are supposed to become less aggressive, not more so. Why is "Dually" he a freak? Thoughts???

posted by Allison Gamelli


At 12:42 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is an interesting problem. At what age do you usually geld a stallion? Are they usualy gelded at an earlier age? Maybe if this particular stallion was used to being in control with his hormones at the pre-gelded level, the change in hormones just threw him off and made him crazy.

Kaitlin O'Donnell

At 12:43 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 6:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow this is very interesting. Is there another source of testosterone in a horse? Did the mare trigger something in his physiological system to cause this change in behavior?

Duy Nguyen

At 8:42 PM, Anonymous Allison Cornell said...

This situation is puzzling. At first glance, I was thinking that since it was gelded after the age where mating and territorial behaviors have already been developed, the new stimulus, despite just being gelded, was enough for him to act in the way he has previously known to be acceptable, though didn’t necessarily show it. You said he was previously well behaved, but he hadn't had such a long standing stimulus as a resident mare. I suppose this could have sent him over the edge to be the dominant male and fight for the new female. However, I don’t know how much sense that would make, seeing as though his testosterone levels have been severely cut down. In horses, the adrenal glands can also produce testosterone and can be hyper active. This can make the behavioral changes in some stallions much less apparent after being gelded. I was wondering, though, if the sudden loss of testosterone production from the testicles could trigger hyperactivity in the adrenal glands, especially with such an introduction of a strong stimulus.

Allison Cornell (3)

At 5:34 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Well, "Dually" was generally well-behaved before the gelding, meaning that even with the testosterone, he was able to be naturally settled horse. Maybe it is a sudden change due to the sudden changes in the hormonal levels?

-Helen Thi

At 6:56 PM, Blogger PWH said...

That really is a unique situation. I don't know much about horses, but this even seems weird to me. I know their are different types of testosterone that the body produces. I'm not sure if all of them are produced by the testes and if all of them are reduced when gelded. The only explanation I can think of is the same as Kaitlin. Maybe the horse was used to feeling a certain way and then when he was gelded the different hormone levels could have thrown him off.

Patrick Salome

At 9:26 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I spent some time out in Utah, working with horses. My horse Tye, was a gelding and yet was also very aggressive. He would kick and try to bite. He was also a small quarter horse. The others and I hypothesized that in the dominance hierarchy within the fields of horses, Tye was the aspiring alpha male. It was also funny to think that Tye was a victim of Napoleon Complex, but not completely out of the question. Perhaps the a similar phenomenon is occurring with Dually. Perhaps he was regarded as the alpha male or was higher up in the pecking order while he was a stallion. Then once he was gelded, the production of testosterone would have been cut off. Perhaps the other horses can pick up on this chemical cue. Do you think that horses can sense the amount of testosterone or base the order of the dominance hierarchy on it?
It was nice to know others have had similar experiences to mine. Thank you!

Amanda Sceusa

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I really don't know anything about horses, but this seems to go against everything I know about castration in other animals. Is it possible that maybe the stress and trauma of surgery is at least partially to blame for his change of behavior? Like I said, I don't know much about horses, but at other animals at least it's reccomended that you castrate at a young age to decrease the stress and trauma it may cause.

-Corinne Delisle (3)

At 9:59 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Thats a weird situation, my guess is that since his body has become so used to having an abundant source of testosterone and now that this feeling has left him, maybe he is scared and the only way he knows how to respond to this situation is to become more aggressive. But I'm really not sure.

-Joe Alonzo

At 2:45 PM, Blogger PWH said...

it would help if your font was larger. I can barely see it. :(

Jennifer Smith (3)


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