Even though I wanted to spend more time with my sister during her Thanksgiving visit, there were still farm things that needed tending to. Namely, we had an appointment for Nugget to be gelded (nice name for relieving a male horse of his family jewels).
Normally, one would have had their male horse (or mini-horse in our case) gelded around a year old. When we first got Nugget, I noticed that he only had one testicle (BTW, the name "Nugget" didn't come up until we found out about this). When we took him to the vet, we were told wait for another six months to see if the other testicle would drop. Well, it never did. So we took him back to the vet this weekend to see if the vet could still manage to castrate him even though the second testicle hadn't dropped.
I've banded our own male goat kids before, and I've seen pictures of other castration processes online (you know, to a non-farm person this really sounds twisted, doesn't it??) but have never seen one in person. Until this weekend.
Normally, castration by cutting is not a difficult thing (for the vet at least). Sedate the horse, clean the area around the scrotum, make an incision, grab the testicle(s) and cord and cut. The incisions are small enough that they aren't even stitched up and there isn't a lot of blood involved so the wounds are sprayed with an anti-fly and antibacterial spray and left to heal as-is.
The vet first sedated Nugget to get him to relax, hoping that he would also relax his groin area enough to get a grip on the retained testicle. There seemed to be a sliver of hope. Nugget then got a general anesthetic to really knock him out. After he was totally out (and was on the ground), we rolled him over and the vet had a chance to really feel around for the "missing" testicle. It was in the inguinal canal (the area between the abdomen and scrotum). He was pretty sure that he could maneuver it into a position where it could be pulled out. After soaping and rinsing the area off, the vet made a small incision, maybe an inch long and tried to pull the testicle out. After several minutes of no luck, he made a second small incision in order to get two fingers inside. Still no luck. After more massaging, maneuvering and pulling, the testicle ruptured. Not good. Not life threatening or anything, but not what we were hoping for.
Here's some more male horse reproductive organ information that you probably didn't want to know:
If one (or both) testicles do not drop into the scrotal sack and stay in the inguinal canal or in the abdomen, they don't function or grow properly. They are usually much smaller than normal and don't produce viable sperm. If the testicles are inside the animal as opposed to "outside" in the scrotal sack, the few degrees of additional heat causes the sperm to die. But the rest of the testicular tissue thrives inside the warmer area and produces even more testosterone than normal. It's not just the testicle that causes stallions to act like pissy-jerk-bastards. So if you don't remove all of the testicular tissue, then you've got a REALLY pissy-jerk-bastard; what's you'd call a "Proud Cut" horse.
Back to the exploding testicle.
Even though Nugget's retained testicle was now dead, the rest of the "stuff" still needed to be removed. And it just wasn't going to happen with just those two small incisions. So we were going to have to have abdominal surgery on Nugget to properly castrate him. Since there was no reason to remove the other testicle (as one is just as bad as two), the vet didn't bother cutting the other one out.
Unfortunately, our vet doesn't have the facilities to do abdominal surgery on large animals.
So he cleaned Nugget up and gave him a shot of Penicillin and a Tetanus shot. The vet apologized for not being able to castrate Nugget, but we knew that it wasn't going to be a sure thing when we brought him in and we thanked him for trying. It would still be about fifteen or twenty minutes before Nugget came around so the vet went back to the office and we sat with Nugget until he came around.
Nugget can be a real jerk. He's going on three years old and is definitely pumped up with testosterone (hence the need for gelding him). But I almost wanted to sob seeing him lying on the grass like that. Poor little bugger.
He woke up, groggy and confused, and eventually managed to pull himself up and just stood there for a few minutes. Then he went to try chomping on some grass and even that was pitiful looking....his bottom lip/chin just flopping around and his head swaying back and forth. We got him back into the trailer and back home to a very relieved Ms. Melman. She is a nervous wreck when we separate them and was happy he was home. I'd even say she mothered him a bit.
So now we've got to make an appointment for the large animal vet. Which is located two and a half hours away. Ugh.