Good Manners: Part 1

Horse-training techniques to set your stallion up for behavioral success.

Horse-training techniques to set your stallion up for behavioral success.

A well-behaved stallion is achievable when you start early. Journal photo.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

There is an art to handling a stallion properly: it takes real horsemanship to earn the right amount of respect from a horse without intimidating him. It also takes a good strategy to set up a stallion for behavioral success throughout his life.

The Journal asked two nationally respected AQHA Professional Horsemen and judges to share their stallion-handling strategies: Gene Parker of Parker Quarter Horses in Orrum, North Carolina, and Gretchen Mathes of Harwinton, Connecticut.

“You can’t be too aggressive with stallions or you get them scared,” Gene says, and that adversely affects showing and breeding performance. “You have to have a certain amount of respect in them, but you can’t abuse them.”

“Don’t pick at studs,” Gretchen adds. “You need to have a fair response to their actions. When they are bad, they need to be corrected, but then be done with it. When they are good or reasonable, stay out of their space and leave them alone.”

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From show pen to breeding shed, here are their tips for a good-manners game plan for your stallion.

Early Handling

People too easily forget that good behavior starts at home when the stallion is a colt.

“A stallion that’s 3, 4 or 5 years old, he’s set in his ways, and if he’s learned too many bad habits, you’re not going to get much done with him,” Gene says.

Gretchen agrees: “People often don’t do a good job of teaching the basics, like standing still while being haltered, right from the beginning as a baby.

“They’ll let colts push or lean or chew on the halter, and I don’t accept any of that. When they get bigger and get fresh, suddenly you can’t get your hand up around their necks to halter them.”

If Gretchen has a weanling or yearling that is tough, she’ll leave a leather halter on him, snap a shank on and then halter him over that halter.

“I don’t put myself in a position where he can push on me. He has to be taught, your space, my space. He doesn’t come into your space, and you’re not going to overdo going into his space.”

Another of Gretchen’s pet peeves is a horse that circles to the left around its handler.

“You must teach a baby to push away from you to the right, and to get off you and out of your space,” she says. “That way, he learns not to push.

“A colt has to be taught – especially for me as a woman – when I put my hand right, it means go right, get off me. And don’t let him drop an ear at me and lean on me; that’s all about dominance, and you cannot allow it to happen.

“If a horse gets a little out of control and you let him circle around to the left, he just gets more and more out of control. It’s dangerous with any horse, but especially with a stud.”

Socialization

Good behavior also comes from a healthy dose of horse socialization, and, again, it starts when they’re young.

“When our colts are weanlings or yearlings, we turn them out together and let them socialize,” Gene says. “They’ll come in the barn at night but go out together during the day.

He adds that it’s not uncommon for one individual to be significantly more aggressive, and in that case, Gene will pull the aggressive one from the others.

“I’ll take an aggressive yearling and turn him out with my two roping geldings; I’ve actually had colts I’ve turned out with broodmares,” Gene says. “It will turn them around, and they will learn to respect other horses.

“You take a chance sometimes of getting one hurt, but that’s a chance you’ve got to take. It’s better than having issues with one being aggressive. If you don’t do something, he’ll never be any good, especially for a show horse.

“You can’t wait until a stallion is 3 or 4 to do that, because then he’s too strong and aggressive. But it will help his disposition in the long run if he learns it young.”

Gene adds that if a horse stays overly aggressive, he’s gelded.

Socialization continues to be important for a stallion as he matures.

“It’s a big mistake to just keep a stallion totally away from all other horses,” Gene says. “In our show barn, when we’re grooming or working stallions, we’ll have other horses around, mares and geldings. We won’t tie a mare right next to him, but she might be where he can see her. We curry and vacuum, and horses are walking by. You’d be surprised how a stallion gets accustomed to it and learns to stand and be quiet.

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“A lot of people will keep stallions separate from everything, and that’s the worst thing to do. You have to let them be horses; they have to learn how to act right around other horses.”

Gene adds that ponying stallions helps, too, to help “settle their minds” and get “quiet around other horses.” He ponies all his show stallions, using his roping horses that are used to being dallied off of, and he does not allow the stallions to be aggressive toward the pony horse.

Solid socialization will pay off in the show ring.

“If you let him around other horses before you’re out in the ring, he’s accustomed to it and knows what you expect from him,” Gene says. “You can’t take a horse out there that has never been around other horses and expect him to show well. He has to know that he can be around the other horses without causing problems.”

At home, the Parker breeding stallions get turned out every day in separate paddocks where they can see other horses and mares in the pastures.

Check back next week to see how Gene and Gretchen maintain good manners in their stallions at shows and in the breeding shed.

11 thoughts on “Good Manners: Part 1”

  1. This is a great aricle. Has Gene put out any other articles or tapes that I can use for my Young Stallion.His Father The Black Cloud was a Stallion that knew when he was to be a stallion and when he wasn’t I could ride him with Mares and other horses and you yhought he was a gelding. I lost him in 2010 and I must say that he was my best friend and he knew everytging about I just love being with and I would talk to like he was my Par.
    Enough Thanks for the great article. I am glad that I am a Life member of AQHA
    C Dale Luttrell
    No Money Yet Horse and Cattle Co of Dadeviille Alabama

  2. Great article! This contained great information about how to work with my young stallion, and helped me realize I am on the right track. Thank you!

  3. I really appreciate this. I kept my QH stallion, Venture Redeemer aka Rusty, with my gelding till he was 3 or 4 years old. Then I had to separate him because my QH gelding, Rebel Ransom, is blind in one eye and would so to speak get blind sided by Rusty. However, they are very attached and have pens and pastures side by side. Rusty gets turn out time where he can see the mares. I worry more about my mares getting out and teasing him across the fence. He also sees all the activity, comings and goings at the front of the ranch. He’s pretty quiet and pretty happy boy. I got him when he was 2 years old and he was wild. He’s very respectful and I have never had to put a chain shank on him. He’s having his first foal this year out of my senior Arab mare (bred for reining). I have QH April Isa Savage to breed to him and a Paint mare to breed to him in the future. I can’t wait to see what my QH mare and him produce. Looking forward to the next article.

  4. Thank you for being real, honest, and real honest about this subject! There is an art to raising and handling a stallion, and I see and hear too much about protecting them. A goid, no nonesense gelding will do for most colts, and a grouchy old broodmare will set the rest oretty straight. I for one can tolerate some bumps and scrapes if the mind is there!

    PROUD owner of a 15 year old with some of the best manners around….his mini-mule buddy gives me 100 times more grief than the old man ever has, lol

  5. Good article… best thing for a stallion is to be kept with other horses and allowed to socialize and play with other horses. My 3 year old stallion’s latest pasture buddy has been a 19 year old stallion. Best medicine for both!

  6. Teach them that they have to respect you and other horses when they are young. I had a QH stud that I used for 15 years for ponying horses that we were breaking. If my stud was saddled he knew it was work time and not breeding time. He would lead a mare around the round pen and never try to act like a stud even if the mare was in heat, work time was work time ONLY. If you use your stallion for breeding, make sure you breed him in the same location at all times, then he’ll understand where he breeds and where he works. I used some bred mares to teach him manners when he was a colt. You turn them out with these mares and they will teach them it is not always breeding time.

  7. How much light is counted as “putting a horse under lights”? My barn has a regular high outside light that you would find anywhere that light is needed at night to make the area safer…Is that considered “light” for this purpose? My 23 year old stallion (World and Congress Champion TNT Fluid Fred) has a stall on the lighted side of the barn and I certainly will move him if that is a breeding deterent. I have two mares pregnant by him at this time, but we weren’t sure after seven years of non-breeding that he would produce, and I plan to breed him more heavily in the 2013 season…every little bit of knowledge here is greatly appreciated, as I obviously want the best opportunity for him that is possible. Many thanks! Ginny Evans

  8. It’s great to hear I’m doing so many things right with my colt; although we do tie mares right next to him. Never had a problem, and he was great at the first show we took him to and every one since. I would definitely recommend following the information in this article, our colt has always had a sound mind, but I’m sure a lot of keeping him that way has been doing all these things!

  9. A question for Rudy or anyone who shows their stallion in west. pl, or riding events: What are some things you can do to “correct” your stallion while you are riding him? For instance years ago I had a 3yr old stallion that I showed in west. pl., he was great but would hang down – there were no other signs of excitement. I hated to get after him because he was behaving otherwise.

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