Monday, July 18, 2011

Blasted Hot and Cryptorchid Tests

At 6 a.m. it's already 80 degrees F, relative humidity over 80% and a heat index of 87, and we're heading to a high in the mid 90s with a heat index over 105.  Since our pastures have not a shred of shade, that means horses are out at night and in during the day under their fans.  I've been taking my horses out about 9 p.m. and then going over around 5 a.m. to bring them in and feed them breakfast and then turn then back out again with some fresh fly spray for a few more hours of grazing.  Then I bring them in between 9 and 10 a.m.  This heat will be going on until at least the weekend.  Tomorrow's supposed to be a bit cooler, so I'm hoping to get a ride in on Pie tomorrow morning.

This morning the vet is coming to do some blood tests on Drift to once and for all determine if he's a cryptorchid or not.  As many of you probably already know, a cryptorchid is a male horse with either one or two testicles retained in the body.  These retained testicles produce testosterone, leading to stallion-like behaviors, but such horses are usually not fertile because of the temperatures inside the body being too high for viable sperm.  Apparently this condition does occur with some frequency in QHs, and it also tends to run in certain lines so there's probably a genetic component.  Here is a good article on the condition.

We're doing two separate hormone tests.  The first is two blood draws for testosterone.  The first one is for baseline testosterone - cryptorchids usually have a higher baseline testosterone than geldings although there's a wide range.  Then the vet administers some human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), waits a period of time and then does another blood draw for testosterone - if the horse has retained testicular tissue, the testosterone levels will rise whereas they will not go up if the horse is a true gelding.  This test has about a 95% accuracy.  Since the vet's doing blood draws anyway, we're also testing for conjugated estrogens, which are also higher in horses with testicular tissue - this test also has about a 95% accuracy.

I'm still inclined to think that he isn't a cryptorchid, but rather just a studly gelding, but the tests will give us better information for a fairly minimal cost.  He does exhibit a lot of stallion-like behaviors, which intensify when the mares are in heat.  He makes stud piles of manure to mark his territory on the fence lines near the mares, he herds the other geldings away from the mares, and he's obsessively interested in the mares - nickering, calling to them if they're nearby and screaming for them if they aren't.  He's also quite the alpha with the other geldings although he's by far the littlest horse in the herd.  His behavior with a newly introduced gelding can be quite aggressive.  But then once past the introduction stage, he's quite accepting of the other geldings if they're not near the mares - standing and grazing together with them and engaging in mutual grooming.  He's never shown much if any overtly sexual behavior even when the mares are in heat and I'm able to ride and handle him near mares, although it does take some care to keep his attention on me.  He's also not aggressive with people and isn't mouthy or nippy with people at all - this picture captures his basically very sweet and curious personality:


If he turns out to be a cryptorchid, we'll have the offending object(s) surgically removed, both to improve his behavior and also because cryptorchids are at higher risk for testicular cancer.  There is now a laparoscopic surgery for this which has a much shorter recovery time, and I expect one or both of the vet clinics within an hour or two of us will have this available.  If he's not a cryptorchid, then we'll just continue on with our training - I've been working with him as if he were a stallion - that's to say working with him just as I would any other horse and expecting the same from him as from any other horse.

I don't know which outcome I'd prefer - if he's a cryptorchid and we do the surgery, he will be even easier to work with and he's already a fine little horse - if he's not then we just keep on with our training and save the cost of the surgery . . .

21 comments:

  1. We had Blue tested for this many years ago when he was much younger and exhibited some stallion tendencies. He was very studly toward the mares and couldn't keep his mind on his job. Turns out he wasn't hiding anything from us and just needed to pay attention to the job at hand.

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  2. I agree on this heat - it's horrible. The blood tests are good idea - at least you'll know either way and be able to create a good plan.

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  3. That is really interesting. I wonder how much stallion-like behavior warrants a test. The surgery looks expensive and invasive. I hope that Drift is just an exceptionally personable gelding. ;)

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  4. It will be interesting to see what the test results indicate - and yes, I can see how you might wish for either outcome.
    Wouldn't it be nice if horses came with a complete profile of everything: training info, medical issues, experiences, etc. There should be some sort of computer chip built into our anImals (dogs and cats, too) so we don't have to guess all of the time!

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  5. Grey Horse - I think Drift will prove to be like Blue - but we'll see what the tests show.

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  6. Dreaming - I think this was part of the reason his prior owner couldn't deal with him - he's a pretty dominant horse plus the stallion-like behaviors - he's not that hard to deal with but he takes a lot of attention and very clear rules and boundaries. When he's got clear rules and boundaries, he's a lot happier.

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  7. Good for you for getting this test done, I'm sure it will answer the question. I googled proud-cut, and came up with this little tidbit of info from Cherry Hill:

    Some horses retain sexual behaviors after gelding and are often called "proud cut". In the past this was said to be due to some testicular tissue being missed during the gelding procedure allowing testosterone production (but not sperm production) to continue. In some cases, this may have been true, especially considering the variety of crude methods of castration practiced over the last 2000 years. However, today, with the availability of restraining drugs and the level of knowledge and surgical techniques, it is unlikely that missed testicular tissue is the cause for the estimated 25 percent of geldings that are said to exhibit some type of stallion behaviors. Since the adrenal glands (located near the kidneys) also produce testosterone, it is thought that the cause of so-called "proud cut" behavior may be due to the (hyper)activity of a particular horse's adrenal glands. Other stallion-like behaviors may simply be poor manners due to inadequate training.

    So it's possible that adrenal glands may be the culprit if everything else checks out.

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  8. Shirley - that is a possibility if it turns out he doesn't have retained testicles. We did try him for a while on some cyproheptadine, which can suppress adrenal functions - that's why it's used to treat Cushings - the treatment for adrenal over function uses less cypro than for Cushings. We discontinued it because it had no effect on his behavior at all and he really isn't that hard to manage.

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  9. I had an aggressive gelding that was a pain in the arse in that he would charge/chase anything in his pasture - cats, kids, dogs, birds, people - he was obedient if you knew your stuff and were firm with him. He would even have a nice day :-) now & then, though I don't know if I would ever call him loving. I had for over 10 years. Was never able to break him of nipping. Trust me, I tried everything. Finally read somewhere that some stallions and cypro's or proud cut geldings were unbreakable of nipping.
    When Junior mounted my mare,In a rare afternoon that I put them together in the same pasture, uh- "successfully," shall we say . . . my Vet noted that he was most likely "Proud Cut." He suggested that I not go to the cost of testing him since Junior & I had a good working relationship as it was and it would just get costly. In hindsight- I wish I had tested him just to know for sure. Because before I bought him as a 4 year old, the owner told me that she was selling him because he had been pastured with a herd complete with a stallion who was beating the crap out of Junior. So one could argue that Junior "learned" the studly behavior. Now I'll never know which it was. And if he had been cypro - I would have had the surgery done for health reason. (Cancer more likely in cypros)
    Keep us posted on how it goes with you & your gelding! I'm so curious how this will turn out.

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  10. It will be interesting to hear the results. Question: is frequent "dropping" considered a studly behavior?

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  11. My Toby can be very "studdy" at times but he is fully castrated, so it does happen sometimes. On the other hand, I have a friend who had a horse that acted "studdy" and sure enough, the tests proved he was not fully gelded. Considering how dangerous he ended up being, you are very wise in taking the precaution of having the tests done.

    I will be very interested in finding out the results. Drift is a lovely fellow, regardless. I am sure no matter what, it will all have a positive outcome.

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  12. It will be interesting at least t o find out.I sorta figure he was just a bit of a "proud gelding " he certainly seems manageable

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  13. Calm, Forward, Straight - From what I know, there's a wide range of "normal" gelding behaviors, including dropping and even mounting mares. My old gelding Noble was also very interested in mares and we actually caught him and Charisma doing the act, even though he was definitely a gelding.

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  14. Interesting reading your paragraph about Drift's behavior. Panama drops a lot, as CFS asked about, and is extremely interested in mares, and has even mounted one before. However, he's not at all dominant or possessive about it -- he's friendly and interested in all horses, just a little more so with the girls. Occasionally I have people ask me if he's proud cut, but I highly doubt he is. Other than his liking for the ladies, he exhibits no stallion behavior whatsoever.

    Even so, I'm very interested in what the test reveals about Drift. I've considered having Panama tested, mainly so that I get rid of any doubts and give people a definitive "No" when they ask about it.

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  15. It is very hot pretty much all around the country, does this effect the horse in a neg way. And do you folks try not to do any riding during all this heat. Richard from Amish Stories.

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  16. Could it be that geldings that are "cut" later in life 'maintain' more of the memories/behaviors of a stud? We all know how long horse memories seem to last, and I wonder if geldings who have been cut later on continue on with the stud behavior even if there isn't a hormonal incentive for it. I'm glad you're having him tested, too--the more information you have, the better plans you can make.

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  17. Richard - horses, being large animals, tend to do much better in the cold than when it's very hot, although this varies by breed and also by horse. There's a link in a post a couple of days ago on how to tell when conditions are safe or not so safe to ride your horse.

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  18. Very interesting! My gelding has been known to mount mares, but the act didn't progress much more than that and he only did it after a lot of begging from the girls!

    I'll be anxious to see what the tests show. Oh, and try to stay cool in this crazy heat!

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  19. Good for you moving forward with the tests. Either way, it will be a relief to finally move forward and put the issues to rest.

    Try to stay cool and hydrated. :)

    ~Lisa

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  20. We got our edumacation on this topic compliments of Mad Max (one of our accidental rescues). I believe it is prevalent in Doc Bar lines and one or two others. He had one that was retained. It is a big fat no-no for a veterinarian to remove one testicle (lest the horse be incorrectly labeled and marketed as a gelding) so I wouldn't think that would be the problem, but you never know.

    One of the things I remember reading was that if any colt was bred (even once) prior to being gelded, he often retained that studdish behavior even after the *ahem* problem was resolved. This was the case with Max, who literally dove over a fence head first and bred a mare right before we had the surgery done (the little snot). He still pees on everyone's piles among other things, but thankfully he's not doing anything scary (just obnoxious ;o)

    Hopefully your man's issue will be found and fixed (ha) fairly easily.

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  21. I had a gelding I suspected of that. He'd actually mount the mares. Of course, they'd kick him, and he was always being injured...sometimes severely.

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