For many horse owners, the thought of permanently deleting their stallion’s reproductive chances is a dreaded one indeed. For trainers, the idea might not always seem so bad. Quarter Horse News asked two top trainers, Austin Shepard and Andrea Fappani, for their opinions about the pros and cons of deciding to geld a futurity prospect. Cutting and reining have very different market climates and customer proclivities, but the ultimate objectives remain the same – to provide a well-trained horse capable of winning while keeping customers happy in the process.
“I would rather have a really good stud than have any other kind of horse,” Austin Shepard said. “But my least favorite horse is a sorry stud, a horse that doesn’t want to think about what he’s doing, squealing and carrying on and eventually going to hurt somebody.”
The challenge is reconciling the permanency of gelding against the desire to own a future sire.
“Everybody is chasing that dream,” Shepard said. “I don’t guess you can’t totally kill that off – I mean that’s good for the business, that people want to pay money for these horses thinking they’re stud horses. But there’s a time when you have to make the best horse you can make.”
Not all horses, Shepard insists, have the right ingredients to be a stallion, performer and mannered gentleman all at the same time.
“Horses that get mad and don’t want to take training, you end up having to do more to them than you would a gelding that wants to take training,” Shepard said. I feel like a lot of good horses are ruined, trying to keep them as studs.
“It can get too late. You geld them but you’ve already reached a point where it doesn’t make much difference. Horses are smart. You let them get away with enough and before long that’s just going to be the way they’re going to be.”
Shepard notices that a lot of people take their 3-year-old stallions to the early shows and practice cuttings.
“Maybe they’ll get lucky and get them shown at the [NCHA] Futurity and win a bunch of money. Then they’ll have a stud horse,” he explained. “But you see 95 or better percent of them, by the time you get to the Super Stakes, that end up as geldings because they weren’t winning anything as studs. Meanwhile, you’ve cost yourself all that time, money and aggravation.”
For a mediocre stallion, Shepard believes gelding is the best option.
“Our weekend cuttings are strong and there are a lot of weekend, non-pro cutters who want a good, solid gelding to go show. There is so much money to be won on a good gelding now, especially if he’s sound. I won over $350,000 on Widows Intentions. Some of the greatest horses that ever lived have been geldings.”
Shepard does think twice about gelding a young stallion that exhibits a tendency toward soundness issues. A lame gelding has limited prospects while a lame, well-bred stallion could still breed and perhaps be attractive to a buyer. Even then, Shepard voices caution.
“Not everybody can get along with a stud, and not every stud is meant to be a stud,” he said. “You could probably count on two hands the number of studs you’d breed a real nice mare to.”
Customers, Shepard explained, are usually open and trusting of his advice to geld a futurity prospect. But he’s careful to sympathize with their disappointment for the loss of future breeding potential. As for questions of gelding decreasing a horse’s value, Shepard is straightforward in his reasoning.
“People might say, ‘My horse is worth a lot more as a stud.’ But I think a stud horse that hasn’t won anything isn’t worth as much as a gelding that has.”
“I love riding geldings,” said NRHA Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani. “I think they’re the best show horses. But for me, as a trainer, it’s still hard to convince owners to geld.”
Fappani prefers a gelding, but that doesn’t mean he believes the operation is best for all stallions that fall short of expectations. Naturally, he’d leave a great, cooperative-minded stallion a stallion. Likewise, Fappani would suggest gelding the very talented stallion that can’t seem to keep his mind on business. But for the stallion with average ability and a wandering mind, Fappani does not believe gelding is always the right step to take.
“When we have a stallion where we’re not sure if he’ll turn out, we always leave it a stud because if we need to sell him, he’s going to be easier to market as a stud,” he said. “A great gelding, you’re going to get great money for him. A good gelding, it’s going to bring way less than a good stud.”
Fappani pointed out that there is a strong foreign market for reining horses, and many of those potential buyers won’t consider geldings.
“They want studs,” Fappani said. “The countries where they’re just starting out, they’re looking for studs because they’re trying to start a breeding business.”
The key, Fappani concluded, is to not get in a hurry and to think about the future marketability of the horse. Ask yourself if the stallion would make a great gelding or an average gelding, then make your decision accordingly.
“I try to always look at it with an eye to the future,” Fappani said. “You can’t look at just for today. If gelding makes the horse a better show horse today but then you can’t sell it, then it’s not good for the customer.”