Gelding has often been a touchy subject in racing and a topic of debate between owners and trainers of colts since racing began. The hopes that the newly purchased colt that earns a huge fortune on the track, can then be sold or syndicated for telephone number figures, are front of mind for many owners.
This however hinges on great wins at the track and this becomes the first and foremost goal of trainers and owners when they have a colt that has potential to be a very successful racehorse.
Respected trainer David Hayes sees the role of gelding as twofold: firstly to improve the temperament and attitude of the horse and secondly, to reduce the heaviness and consequent pressure on the forelegs.
“Some colts get ‘piggy’ and unenthusiastic in their training,” he explains. “Their minds are on things other than racing which of course makes them uncompetitive. Gelding certainly can improve their behaviour and attitude.”
You can ask any trainer and they will quickly tell you that geldings are much more focused on the job of racing, and they’re much easier to handle on a daily basis. And geldings tend to lead a much more sociable and stress free life than a colt. He can be walked to the track with other geldings and mares without fear of confrontation, can be tethered and yarded within touch of other horses and worked much more closely and indiscriminately with other horses.
From the trainer’s and the veterinarian’s point of view, they are much easier to work with and when you consider just how much hands-on attention a racehorse in work receives, this can make a major difference in the effectiveness and amount of treatment and handling.
Modern logic behind the gelding is that by taking away the organs that supply the hormones for sexual motivation, the gelding will be left without the undesirable behaviour. Traits which are commonly linked with equine masculinity, such as aggression, sexual response to the presence of mares (especially those in season), calling out and inattention, are considered at best antisocial and at worst, a nightmare for a racing colt’s connections.
Colts often suffer self inflicted injuries brought about by aggression and frustration. There are several tragic examples of talented colts that have had to be retired or destroyed as a result of stable and paddock injuries caused by aggressive behaviour.
Would Takeover Target, Veandercross, Rough Habit, Schillaci, Bonecrusher, Mahogany, Kingston Town, Placid Ark, Thesio and countless other good racehorses have raced as well under the effects of testosterone? In the tradition of all things racing, gelding is yet another choice, however chronic postoperative regret is not the norm in either the horse nor his owners.