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A Stallion and Gelding at Play, Competing, at War

Vikingo, a Paso Fino stallion, and to his right, Danny, a grade Percheron, at play. You can tell they are playing and not angry because their ears are tilted to the sides or straight up. Also they aren't trying to bite or strike each other with their hooves. At the bottom right they end their play fight with a side-by-side gallop.

More play fighting. You can tell this isn't a big deal because their ears aren't pinned back.

Danny and Vikingo playing kissy face.

Viking makes a happy horse sound (that flub-bub-bubber sound) as he sees that Danny isn't getting away with stealing anyone's alfalfa. We had put out five piles for four horses, but Danny keeps on trying to get some away from another horse.

Danny tries again to take Viking or Flair's alfalfa. Finally Mike Bertin, my husband, persuades Danny to eat from one of the free piles.


Viking punishing Danny for rude behavior.

More punishment as Viking insists to Danny that he is the boss.

On the fourth day that Danny shared a pasture with Viking and Flair, Danny went beyond rude. The following videos show hostile behavior as Danny tries to batter his pasture mates into submission.

Danny's ears are pinned back. Flair grunts with rage as he tries to plant his hind hooves in Danny's chest. After Danny and Flair back off from each other, Viking moves around uneasily as he recognizes that Danny is becoming dangerous.

A few moments later, Viking punishes Danny big time for the assault on Flair, but Danny fights back.

Was Danny a Cryptorchid?

Soon after this scene, Danny finally managed to plant a blow on Viking. The injury was minor, just a bruise and scrape. However, because Danny weighs twice as much as Viking, and because Flair is small and old, I became concerned for their safety. I temporarily solved the problem by putting Danny into solitary confinement.

Our vet, Dr. Harold Bobbit, tested his testosterone level and the lab reported that it was consistent with Danny having one or two testicles hidden inside him. And we thought he was a gelding!

The big mystery now was -- why does Danny have scars in his scrotum consistent with removing two testicles? The next step was to contact the man who bred him. He told us that he plumb forgot the name of the vet who gelded Danny, but he did remember the name of the vet who treated him for the infection that followed this operation. We never did learn who was responsible for those scars.

Given this mystery operation, we decided the next step was to have a vet ultrasound Danny. The vet found nothing that he could say with any certainty was a testicle. He ran a second test, a hormone challenge designed to increase testosterone if, indeed, Danny still had a testicle or two. It came back saying Danny had below normal testosterone levels.

One lab sample or the other must have been mixed up Danny's blood samples, because Dr. Bobbit says it is impossible for the same horse to test sky high one day and below normal the next.

We went with a third test to see if Danny's behavior was purely psychological instead of driven by hormones. We dosed him with 12 cc per day of Regumate, a progesterone hormone designed to make him feel like a pregnant mare. Did that ever change his attitude toward other horses. Danny quit calling to mares like a stallion and quit trying to bite his pasture mates. That suggests the first testosterone test is more likely to have been correct.

Our next step was to stop the Regumate. Sure enough, Danny got hyper again and was spending most of his time trying to figure out how to get in with our mares and making that whinny - grunt - grunt - grunt sound that a stallion uses to call his prospective mates.

Next Dr. Bobbit did a new hormone challenge to stimulate any testicular tissue that Danny might have to produce more testosterone. This test showed that he had no testicular tissue. Also, after the vet drew Danny's blood the day after the challenge injection, Danny managed to slightly injure him by running over him.We were lucky the injury wasn't far worse.

Still, this was scary. I had been reinforcing Danny almost every day about the importance of respecting my space. For example, every day when I brought his yummy supplements, the rule was he had to step away from the gate, turn sideways, lower his head and act meek. Only then would I go in his pen. He had to keep on standing meekly until I poured his yummies in his feeder and said "good boy." If he tried moving toward me or the feeder before I said "good boy," I'd slip out through the pipe bars and he'd have to try again until he got it right. By the time we had the vet accident, Danny had been perfect at this for months, not one slipup!

What this told me was that I couldn't trust Danny with strangers. Gulp. We began researching opportunities for Danny to become a police horse. In a riot, a police horse must be willing to crash into and trample dangerous people. I figured his rider could say, "Danny, would ya look at this -- a herd of rioting vets!" and Danny would clean their clocks.

Meanwhile, we put Danny back on the Regumate. This time he didn't mellow out, and behaved so badly we didn't dare leave him with the geldings. By then we had learned that when a previous owner had brought a mare home, even though she was in a separate pen, Danny had nearly killed his gelding pasture mate and tore up his pasture fence trying to get at the mare..

A week after the vet accident, while my husband was leading Danny to the round pen, he reared and pulled the lead rope out of his hands, galloped to the pasture where our pregnant mare was staying and terrified her with bucking and threats. Then Danny charged at me -- a first! I ducked into a juniper grove and he missed. Finally Danny quit bucking and charging around and my husband led him back to his bachelor pasture.

God bless Colleen Novotny of Walkin N Circles Ranch. Just a few days after this, she found a trainer of police horses who adopted Danny to be his personal mount. It probably won't ever be safe to trust Danny with strangers or other horses, but he can be so affectionate, obedient and courageous, we feel hopeful that he will succeed.


© 2007 Carolyn M. Bertin. All rights reserved.