I was recently reminded why I did not pursue medical or veterinary school. Let’s just say that I don’t do well with needles, knives, and blood. So, when I decided to attend an Operation Gelding clinic last month, it didn’t take long to realize I could only view the most graphic tasks from behind the lens of my camera. Thankfully, Dr. Freeny didn’t have to treat me from collapsing after a vasovagal response. But, I digress.
After nine months at the office, it was definitely time to visit a clinic and see the process first-hand. There was no better opportunity than to be in Flower Mound, Texas, to celebrate 100 castrations for long-time Operation Gelding participants Lacey Edge and Kaye Garrison.
Crash and Lacey pose with the volunteer team before surgery. Photo by: Cathy Threadgill
Lacey hosted her first clinic in 2010. She had learned about the UHC and the Operation Gelding program through the AQHA while doing research for a school project. At the tender age of 13, Lacey decided that she needed to help fill a need in her area by hosting a no-cost clinic. After gelding 20 horses (the UHC’s limit for funding) that first year, she couldn’t be stopped. Now in college, Lacey returned home for last month’s clinic and has plans to offer one nearer her school in the spring.
Although Lacey was the driving force behind the clinics, it takes a village to make them successful. Her mom, Kaye Garrison, has the registration tasks down to a science. She says that advertising is easy at this point – they almost always have a waiting list – and the rest of the process includes good communication and follow up with participants.
Many organizers say that finding a vet is often the challenging part, but Lacey and Kaye have been lucky to find two amazing vets over the years! For their first four clinics, 4-H Veterinary Science Club parent and local vet, Dr. Shepard volunteered his time. After the girls completed 4-H, Kaye was again on the search for a vet and was referred to Dr. Freeny, a local vet who had participated in an Operation Gelding clinic during her junior year at Texas A&M University. Once Dr. Freeny was on board, she found another vet willing to donate clinic space and convinced her medical supply company to provide syringes, gauze, and other necessary supplies. This is her third year as lead vet with Operation Gelding, and she is truly committed to the cause, not only donating her services, but creating a dynamic learning experience for students who volunteer.
The weather couldn’t have been better the day of the clinic… sunny with a high of 72 degrees, not normal for mid-December. Kaye picked me up at the hotel and we drove to the site. Dr. Freeny outlined how the day would proceed and we were ready for the first patient. I watched and photographed the procedure (taking upwards of 300 photos), but as fascinating as it was, it was just as interesting to talk with the owners and hear stories about their horses.
The 100th stallion, Crash, was aptly named after busting through several fences to be with the herd even though he was just a few weeks old. The nurse mare foal, now two, also survived a bout of strangles, but has experienced a full recovery. Because of his calm demeanor and standing only 12.3hh, he will grow up to be the grandkids’ pony.
We also met a mini whose owners chuckled when they claimed he was there for “brain surgery.” True to form, he was a little spitfire both before and after the procedure. The little guy had been through a lot, being rescued only a few months ago after being attacked viciously by a pack of dogs.
Both owners realized the importance of gelding and were grateful to participate in the program.
Ten volunteers participated on the day of the event: Lacey, Kaye, Dr. Freeney, her husband, three veterinary students, a college sophomore, the supply company rep, and a professional photographer. Total volunteer time, including pre- and post-event tasks… 116 hours.
I’ve always felt a sense of fulfillment when fundraising and writing grants so that the UHC can support no- and low-cost clinics. It feels good to do good. But even more so, I feel an extreme sense of gratitude for the amazing people who make these clinics happen…the organizers, the veterinarians, the facility owners, the husbands, the horse owners, the students, and everyone else who donates their time and expertise.
These volunteers are the village that makes a gelding!
P.S. We’re also excited to announce that Hope in the Valley Equine Rescue will hit 100 stallions gelded at their clinic this month!