Clinic turns 8 stallions into geldings

Elizabeth Anderson carried a dream for the past seven years that she'd be able to breed Ander Bay Sir Bentley, the stallion she raised from a foal.

A tight economy and a couple of recent injuries made that dream appear out of reach for the Lynnwood woman. She decided it would be better to have the horse castrated, a procedure that would make him more gentle and easier to ride. But she’s had trouble pulling together money for the $400 operation while juggling her own medical bills on her salary from two part-time jobs.

On Friday, Anderson had an opportunity to have Bentley castrated at no charge during a clinic at the Tacoma Equine Hospital. The hospital won a grant to host the clinic from the Unwanted Horse Coalition, which set aside money in 2010 to help financially strapped horse owners take steps to reduce overpopulation.

Anderson paid close attention to Bentley, a Morgan horse with a deep brown body and shaggy black tail, as he staggered to wake up after the surgery. He’d occasionally neigh when he made eye contact with other stallions in the queue.

Anderson has owned two other horses in Bentley’s bloodline, his mother and grandmother.

“I’ve always had a horse. In the two months I didn’t, it just felt wrong, empty,” said Anderson, 51. “I’m looking at him and my heart just swells with pride.”

Another of the eight stallions at the castration clinic was a rescue horse bound for a meat market until Nina Russell of Buckley stepped in 10 months ago to give him time to find a permanent home.

“There’s nothing wrong with him,” she said. “He deserves a second chance.”

Like Anderson, Russell had a hard 2010.

She was involved in a car accident in June and lost her job as a loan officer for a mortgage company. She wanted to have the rescue horse, Murphy, castrated to make him more adoptable and guarantee that he wouldn’t reproduce.

“You don’t want to contribute to the problem” of creating unwanted horses that wind up in meat pens, said Russell, 36.

Linda Hagerman and Meg deGravelles, veterinarians at the equine hospital, have noticed some horse owners delaying procedures because of the economy. They also work at the Pierce County animal shelter and occasionally find undernourished, neglected horses.

“When it comes to the mortgage or the horse, the mortgage usually wins,” Hagerman said.

Other horse owners are sensitive to the tight economy and are eager to help. About 20 people volunteered to help out at the castration clinic. The veterinarians could use only six. The volunteers delivered tools and helped position the horses during surgeries.

“We want to be a part of reducing the number of unwanted horses in the world,” Hagerman said.

Anderson will have an easier time taking Bentley out for a ride now that he’s castrated. She hasn’t ridden with him in a year, since she started having trouble with her knees and shoulder. He’s shown a little aggressiveness in that time, puffing up his chest when he saw other horses.

Because of the surgery, she’ll no longer be reluctant to take him out.

“Now he’ll be a docile boy,” Anderson said.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@thenewstribune.com