Michigan TWH owner

Question: Hello Panel,

I have noticed that there seems to be a trend for novice horse owners and casual riders to purchase and stand a stallion at stud.

It was only after MANY years of horse ownership and only after finding a stallion that was exceptional in personality, gentleness, and talent, that we decided to even own a stallion. We also spent many years assisting in a breeding barn before we considered standing a stallion of our own.

What suggestions do you have to assist so many first time stallion owners or those considering purchasing a breeding stallion for the first time?

From Panelist Liz

 What a wonderful question. Actually they should do exactly as you did and for the same reasons. Having a stallion is very serious business and not to be considered if one may feel they want one because it is the IN thing to do. Or do it for satisfying an ego.

We have so many stallions in this country of all breeds that are excellent and should be but we also have way to many that should not be and are not helping to maintain the good qualities of our breeds .

Having a stallion should only come after long honest consideration and it should be for the good of everyone.

One should learn what it is to handle a stallion correctly so he understands the rules but also does not have to be handled harshly all the time to  be kept in control. Having a facility that will hold one that is safe and secure . But also room where he can  exercise.
Keeping a good mental attitude makes for a much happier stallion. I also think people don't realize that the actual process of running a breeding operation and handling outside mares that you do not know, can be very dangerous as well.

I also recommend when working with a stallion one should wear a helmet. Stallions tend to strike more often with their front hooves and mares use their back hooves more and a strike only takes a blink of an eye even the best behaved can surprise you at any time. So
safety is of the ut most importance.

Owning a stallion should never be taken lightly.


From Panelist Lee

Tell them not to do it?  <g>  Seriously, a stallion is a big investment not only in the actual animal, but in safe facilities, consistent handling (time) and in most places, extra insurance.  If a person is going to lay out that sort of money and time, he should have a reasonable hope of recovering at least part of the cost in some way.  The only way this is going to happen with a horse that is not a winning racehorse, a cutter or roper where money can be made from his athletic ability (not too common in the gaited horse world)  is through breeding fees.  The way one makes money through breeding fees is by standing a horse that other people want to breed to.  What do people want to breed to?   Generally, unless the horse is the only representative of his breed available on the continent (and with AI and
shipped semen, perhaps even 2 continents) people want to breed to a  horse with some sort of winning show record, or winning competitive trail or endurance record.   To get such a record, the horse has to be trained, worked, shown or ridden out on the trails, and must show good talent, personality, gait, etc.  This takes time and dedication from the owner, or a trainer (more $$) and natural ability/quality from the horse.

Because of these factors, very few horses are going to make money as stallions, and only some will break even.  Most backyard stallions don't make money, don't break even, and cost a lot to maintain. So, unless you really like riding the horse, for his own sake and because he is a good ride for you,  something that he will also be as a gelding, there is not much economic incentive to keep him entire.  He will have a happier life is he is a gelding and allowed to go out to play with other horses than he will as a stallion, kept to breed a scant handful of mares (if that) with no possibility of safe interraction with other horses.  Unless you don't care what happens to him or your other horses, or have an unlimited area of pasture (several hundred acres) it is the height of folly to run a stallion out with a herd of mares full time.  Accidents happen -- mares kick, foals by their sides get hurt, etc.

Then there is the safety management issue. Stallions are not like geldings or mares.  Despite all the nice fiction and the personal stories you will hear about stallions that are so gentle that they can babysit children, they are male animals with a lot of hormonal urges that can express themselves in less than human- friendly ways.  They can be agressive, they can be dangerous, they can be a liability on your insurance.  Even the calmest
require work, time, and intelligent, appropriate handling.  That means a novice who has never handled or been around a person who handles stallions is at some personal risk when dealing with them.  Even an older "trained" stallion who has been used for breeding for many years may not accept or respect a new person as a handler and can cause trouble. 

So, advice to a potential novice newbie stallion owner -- think long and hard about the realities of the situation.  Learn what you can from those with experience in this field (breeding operations,  vet schools, vets) and go into it with your eyes open.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Stella

People do need to be made aware of the difference between the romance and the reality of stallion ownership. The point of breeding is not to just to make more horses, but better ones, if they plan to be successful breeding. This takes a committment in time, money, and effort, starting with becoming knowledgeable about breed, gait, reproduction, marketing, and safe handling, be it live cover or AI. They will need to talk to prospective clients 
intelligently, and be responsible for the safe handling of their mares. Even if the prospective buyer is looking more so to produce foals for sale than standing a stallion publically, he himself has a vested interest in his mares and breeding program as a whole, and still needs to deal with prospective buyers of his foals, so the same knowledge and consideration of 
aspects is necessary.

The first time owner is likely best off making the investment in purchasing a "proven" stud, one who already has a performance record(be it show or otherwise), training and experience in breeding,a good success rate of getting mares in foal, and above all, has demonstrated consistency in his production of quality foals - puts his "mark" on them.No matter now beautiful, well-gaited, or successful in performance a horse has been, his 
ultimate value as a breeding horse is in how well he is able to pass on his best traits with consistency.

While such stallions tend to be much more expensive, many risks are already removed.A tremendous amount of time and money can be put into promoting a young green stallion, training it to breed safely(for horses and humans alike) as well as perform well, only to find out years down the road - once the first few crops are under saddle and mature - that the stallion is not really reproductively reliable...there is little market for his services or his foals. Many people forget that you also have to get public exposure for his younsters, either yourself or luckily selling them to people that will underwrite such exposure for you, either by showing or otherwise putting the babies in the public eye(organized trailrides, etc).

Needless to say, if people really open their eyes, they will realize they are better off paying stud fees for stallions who have already proven themselves and owned by other persons willing to make the necessary committments involved in keeping and promoting a stallion and his get. Most people dont realize that the stud fee is more than just the service itself, 
but also recouping the "overhead" that goes into proving the stallion's reproductive reliability, past and CONTINUED promotion of him and his get, that will add value to the resulting foal, and the greater likelihood the foal will have the desirable qualities. This is a small-and set- price to pay in relation to what can be a bottomless pit of time,effort and money it takes to "do it yourself!"

Knowing the realities, if someone still insists on owning a stallion, then they are best off initially leaving it to be managed with an experienced barn or trainer a year or two, where both they and the horse can gain practical experience. In choosing a young prospective stallion,provided the person has already formulated their breeding PLAN, the following 
characteristics form a good checklist:

-outstanding conformation; minimal faults(since there are no "perfect" horses) as related to inheritable soundness, gait, and typiness for the breed;
-exceptional and totally natural gait, true to desired breed type;
-exceptional disposition, as disposition is important not only to the stallion's handlability, but also to the trainability of his get thru inheritance;
-solid bloodlines throughout the pedigree, that have proven reliable over time to consistency reproduce positive characteristics in the above categories. In this consideration, it is not only how many Champions are in the pedigree, but to understand the genetics of what(characteristics) those bloodlines tend to reproduce, both positively and negatively..as the saying goes,"blood tells." The prospective stallion should demonstrate such characteristics in his phenotype that match his genotype...be recognizably representative of the lines he is from, making him generally more likely to 
continue to pass positive dominant genes.
- Consider the horse and above characteristics not only for their own personal preferences of what they want to breed for, but also understand the desires of their chosen market, be it for stud fees or foal sales. If you are not in the midst of the show circuit, the desireable characteristics of the showring may very well be different from what the recreational rider is looking for. Nowdays more than ever, it is important to "target your market." The recreational rider wants a quality horse as well, and will pay for  it,but in terms of the desired characteristics of his chosen equine sport, so that nowdays breeders are better off breeding for their specific market, rather than "show characteristics" that may very well be in opposition, which may create some foals that are not particularly best suited for 


From Panelist Theresa

Excellent Question!

I have noticed that trend especially in the walking horse, peruvian paso, and other gentle breed horses. In my opinion, the answer is two fold.

If one chooses to own and stand a stallion, using a stallion station, then it is recommedable that they establish those contacts with stallion stations, understand what their long term goals shall be, and have professional horse people help them execute the plan. (ie: trainers, other breeders who have had a longstanding breeding operation, legal advisors, etc)

On the other hand, if a "novice" chooses to own a stallion, keep it at home, stand it to the public, or  have his operation open to the public, I highly recommend that they choose otherwise. Stallions are dangerous animals,  period! They need someone who has many
years of general horse experience, lots of common sense, and has a breeding plan in line prior to purchasing the stallion.

Novices who are interested in owning stallions need to look at reality. The liablitiy involved with owning, standing, boarding (mares and foals in for breeding) is tremendous.

If one intends on standing a stud there are several steps they need to take.  Prior to owing a stallion they need to evaluate what their goals are. Are they only breeding their own mares? are they standing to outside mares? Are they using Veterinary Assisted Breeding? Do they know the bloodlines, the dispositions, the conformations, and the gaits known to that bloodline? Which bloodlines do and dont cross. (The homework prior to purchasing a stallion is tremendous. We looked for four years to find the stallion we wished to purchase. When we found him, we knew it was the one we wished to use.

We have gelded many, that others said bloodlines were great, we should keep em a stallion.  Our decisions lie in looking at the long term for our specific breed. Not in whats the fad for today.) 

After the paperwork homework is done, a potential stallion owner should go through some classes. Some local colleges offer such classes, as do breeding facilities, or veterinarians who specialize in horse reproduction and management.  (Colorado State offers wonderful wintertime courses in Equine Repro and managment of stallions. Collection and  preparations of shipped semen, semen analysis courses, and embryo transplant courses).
If possibl,  intern at a local breeding facility. Gain not only knowledge, but common sense in breeding. This may sound demeaning, but common sense in horsemanship is not a substitute for common sense with breeding stallions. 

Don't fool yourself.

I highly reccommend that any new stallion owner hook up with a competent breeding manager, or veterinarian to help them go through the training process of a stallion. They(the stallions) need to know how to behave, how to mount gently and kindly.  If you have never bred a stallion, it would be difficult to know whats "acceptable" behaviour.

Last, I would never recommend a novice horseperson to stand their own stallion. Its dangerous to the handlers,  the mare, and the stallion. 

Again, wonderful question.

From Panelist Laura

I've seen this trend in my area also.  I think the gentleness & naturally good dispositions of the various gaited breeds is probably mostly responsible for this phenomenon.  If first time stallion owners were trying to put up with nasty aggressive stallions, I think they would sell the horse & get a nice mare or gelding.  My advice for new stallion owners would be to obtain help from a trainer, stud barn or veterinarian on how to handle their new horse.  Keep in mind that the stallion is hormone/instinct driven and always practice safe handling methods.  Even the sweetest stallion can have a bad day and give you a worse day.

If a person is looking to purchase a stallion, I would recommend they buy an older stallion who already has been proven in the breeding shed along with already having good manners & training.  Number one - look for the best conformation you can find (you don't get good babies out of "poor" parents - also, why breed ugly horses or horses who can't gait??).  Number two - look for a sweet, kind disposition (we don't need to breed aggressive horses).  Number three - look for a stallion that can contribute significantly to the gene pool in your area (get a different blood line than most of the horses in your area - hopefully one that other mare owners will want to breed to).  Number four - buy a horse that you really like (you'll spend a lot of time together...).  Number five  if the stallion doesn't fit all your criteria, look for a nice mare or gelding <G>.



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