Drought or not, feeding and caring for unwanted horses can pose big financial problems for their owners. Three years ago, 13-year-old 4-H’er Lacey Edge decided to do something about it for her community service project.
After some research, and support from her mother and fellow Silver Saddle 4-H Club members and leaders in Denton, Lacey obtained funds from the Unwanted Horse Coalition in Washington, D.C., and the services of a Pilot Point veterinarian.
The result was the annual Operation Gelding Clinic, now in its third year, which offers essentially free castration of stallions to the public.
Edge, now 15, said the clinic is essentially a way of “taking stallions out of the dating game.”
“And it’s pretty much all free,” said Edge. “Usually we do ask for a $50 donation, which is still pretty cheap compared to what you usually pay. But everything else is covered. The coalition pays for everything else. They pay for the medication and putting them under anesthesia, and the vet donates his time.”
This year’s gelding clinic will be Oct. 27 at Mustang Veterinary Surgical, 10222 Farm-to-Market Road 2931, Pilot Point. The procedure is done by appointment only. Coalition funding allows for no more than 20 animals to be gelded per year, and Edge said they already have 12 appointments made for this year. To make an appointment or for more information, call Edge’s mother, Kaye Garrison, at 214-734-0565.
“The unwanted-horse problem has been growing for two reasons,” said Dr. Paul Dean, the Pilot Point veterinarian who donates his services for the clinic. “One is the fact there is no place to take unwanted or severely injured horses for slaughter anymore. And that situation has been compounded by the drought, which has been on-and-off for at least 10 years.”
The drought has reduced grazing and hay production, which means greatly increased costs to feed and maintain a large animal like a horse, he said.
“So we’re seeing more instances of neglect. Sometimes it’s intentional. Usually it’s not, but it’s still neglect, where horses aren’t fed or watered for whatever reasons,” Dean said.
Edge said that in addition to preventing overbreeding of horses and donkeys, gelding also results in a gentler horse that is “more rideable, more trainable and more salable, allowing it to be used in several careers.”
The service is also available for equine rescue groups or stallion owners who can’t afford the cost of gelding, Garrison said.
Garrison also noted that to be eligible for the clinic, horses must have documentation showing a negative Coggins test for equine infectious anemia has been performed in the last year. If the test hasn’t been performed, Mustang Veterinary Surgical is offering it for those bringing their horses to the gelding clinic for the special price of $15.
The test must be done by appointment only and performed by Oct. 24 at the latest. Edge emphasized the special $15 fee is only for those who have enrolled the horse in the gelding clinic.
Edge said she usually gets more interest than she has slots so wants to set up another gelding clinic this coming spring to accommodate those horse owners who couldn’t get in the October clinic.
“I’m going to try to make it a point this year to get more people from other areas involved,” said Edge, who aspires to become a veterinarian herself. “We now have two 4-H clubs involved, and I want to get another 4-H club set up nearer where other people are who are involved with horses.
“We’ve had some pretty interesting horses come through the program. We’ve gelded thoroughbreds; we’ve done Percherons. We’ve even gelded donkeys.”
Operation Gelding is co-sponsored by the Denton County Veterinary Science 4-H Club, Garrison said.
“The two clubs are closely linked, and many of the girls belong to both clubs,” she said.
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