Equine science class goes hands-on
by Sharlene Irete
Cryptorchid sounds like a name of an exotic flower, but in reality the term is taken from Latin, “crypto” meaning hidden and “orchis” meaning testicle.
The word describes a mammal in which one or both testicles have failed to descend into the scrotum.
Flash, the orphaned year-old colt adopted by Allyson Lammiman and her Douglas High School equine science class, was found to be a cryptorchid – which means more money spent when it came time to have him gelded.
“It’s a $500-1,000 operation,” said Lammiman. “The students wrote letters and were going to have a fundraiser but the operation was completely donated by Great Basin Equine Medicine.”
Not only was the operation donated by Dr. Reese Hand and his staff at the equine hospital, the students were invited to view the operation Tuesday.
The reason for getting Flash fixed will help with hormone changes and make his frequent trips to school safer for others. One of the students said Flash recently tried to bite her.
“One testicle didn’t come out of the abdomen at birth,” Hand told the students. “The incidence involving one testicle affects 10 to 15 percent of horses nationwide.
“If only the one exposed testicle is taken during gelding, he won’t be viable for breeding but will still retain enough hormones to show stallion tendencies like screaming and mounting.”
Flash was led into the room outside the operating room by his student caretakers and given a disassociative drug so he wouldn’t know what was going on. Very soon the small horse got a glazed look in his eyes, his tongue lolled out and it was off to la-la land.
Flash was hog-tied with an overhead lift, placed gently on the operating table, vised and shimmed with inflatable pillows and wheeled into the operating room. His front legs remained bound from the ceiling but his back legs hung relaxed on either side of his exposed abdomen.
There was enough space in the operating room for the dozen capped and masked equine science students to be on the business end of the operation, explained by Hand as it was performed by Dr. James McKasson and assisted by Sandy Harville.
While a local anesthetic was administered to Flash’s abdomen, Harville extracted his wolf teeth, which Hand said were a throw-back to the days when horses were carnivores. The two teeth in the upper jaw are removed to prevent future problems with a bit.
Hand said there’s a very low incidence of complications in the approximately 150 castration operations they do at the veterinary hospital each year.
“There’s a small percentage that have complications even if the operation is done 100 percent correctly,” said Hand. “The most common problem is that their intestines fall out of the incision.”
The emasculation operation took about 10 minutes, and after they made sure there was no bleeding, McKasson closed the incision. Flash was moved to a recovery stall and his breathing tube would be removed as soon as he started swallowing.
“When he starts waking up, he’ll roll and sit for a few minutes and then get on his feet,” said Hand.
After a short recovery, Flash will go home – about 3 miles north on Highway 88 to Cutter Ridge Ranch where his board has been donated.
Two of the equine students have done internships at Great Basin Equine Medicine.
“I just finished my internship and now I’m working here as a veterinary assistant,” said Jessie Kolbus. “I’ll go to UNR next year majoring in veterinary medicine.”
Kayla Watschke has five horses at home in Fish Springs and said she’s been riding since before she could walk. She has been an assistant for almost a year and will take veterinary science in college.
“When I was a kid I used to say I wanted to be a ‘vegetarian,'” said Watschke. “I’d like to be a vet specializing in large animals.”
Watschke said she’s already assisted in operations, many a lot more serious than Flash’s. Her fellow students suffered no fainting spells during the operation – afterall, the class dissected a donated mule last December.
Lammiman said most of her students have plans to go into veterinary medicine and are used witnessing operations.
“We have no problems with this group fainting,” said Lammiman. “They like to cut stuff open.”