June 25, 2010
Considering your stallion’s social needs when you handle and house him pays you back with a happier horse.
This is the second of a three-part series. Need to review Part 1?
Socializing a Mature Stallion
Not everyone raises stallions the same. Ignoring their social needs often results in stallions that are difficult to handle or don’t know how to interact with other horses. If you’ve acquired a stallion like this, it isn’t too late. You can still socialize him, although it might take some time and planning.
If your stallion doesn’t respect people, fixing that needs to be a priority, and you might need to skip a breeding season to reform him. The loss of income from the missed breeding season might prevent bigger losses down the road, because stallions that don’t respect their human handlers create a liability for your farm. If you aren’t an experienced stallion handler, seek professional help from someone who is.
If you have stallion handling experience, start retraining your stallion now. Establish good behavior on the ground through re-teaching him to lead, stand tied, give to pressure and longe. Keep training sessions short in the beginning to keep his attention, and start with small goals so you can succeed. Turning him out in a paddock when you aren’t training helps him burn off excess energy so he’ll pay more attention during training sessions.
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Although many owners like the idea of letting their stallions live with other horses, they worry that the stallions won’t adjust to herd life and will end up injured. Sue McDonnell has spent much of her career as an equine behaviorist working with stallions. When asked how to integrate a stallion into a herd, Sue says, “In my experience, most spontaneously adapt within hours if simply turned out with other horses.”
Initially, your horse might squeal, run or kick at other horses. Mares may kick at him if he tries to mount them when they’re not in heat. But if you give him time, he’ll adjust.
Housing To Provide Social Contact
Traditionally, many stallion owners house their stallions together in barns. Lucky stallions also have runs off their stalls or paddocks next to other stallions, separated by an alley to reduce fighting.
However, research conducted on feral horses by Wayne Linklater, a professor and researcher at the University of Wellington in New Zealand, suggests this method of housing stallions might be counter-productive. Wayne observed groups of feral stallions and found that the dominant stallion in the herd kept the submissive stallions from mating with the mares. Sue has also observed that stallions breed more willingly and successfully the more they’re around mares.
The most natural way to house your stallion is in a herd with his mares. When a stallion lives with mares, he watches out for them and their foals, and he gets plenty of exercise. However he can become very protective of mares, making it hard for you to remove a mare from his herd.
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Craig Haythorn of Haythorn Land and Cattle Co. in Arthur, Nebraska, prefers stallions on pasture, but he also houses them with other stallions. Craig says he keeps aged show stallions in pastures when they’re not on the show trail. Craig often keeps the stallions in groups of two or three, but he has had as many as eight in a group. He says it all depends on which ones get along.
“We have stallions who are nice, happy and easy to handle. I think that’s because the way they live is more natural,” he adds. “I’m not saying the way we do things is right or the way someone else does it is wrong, but what we do works for us.”
Every stallion owner needs to do what works for that owner and his or her stallions. If you aren’t able to house your stallion on pasture but still want him to interact with other horses, you have a few options:
- You can keep your stallion in a paddock by himself alongside your mare pasture. This way, he can see and interact with the mares over the fence.
- House your stallion in a paddock alongside a paddock with a mare or gelding he gets along with.
- House your stallion in a barn away from other stallions along with some of the mares he’ll be breeding.
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Eight time AQHA Sooner Trailer All-Around Amateur Champion Karen Evans Mundy keeps her stallion, The Article, next to a gelding companion who also travels with him. The two get along and provide each other companionship, and it helps The Article adjust to life at shows.
Stay tuned for the last part of this series.
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