July 2, 2010
Considering your stallion’s social needs when you handle and house him pays you back with a happier horse.
Breeding and Showing: Mutually Exclusive?
Many people don’t think breeding stallions are good in the show ring. Sue McDonnell, an equine behaviorist who has spent much of her career working with stallions, disagrees with this theory. In Sue’s experience, younger stallions especially benefit from a dual breeding and show schedule, as long as it is balanced. She has noticed that younger stallions who haven’t begun their breeding career are more on edge in the show ring and often spend more time looking around at other horses than paying attention to their handler.
Craig Haythorn of Haythorn Land and Cattle Co. in Arthur, Nebraska, echoes this: “We breed our 2-year-old colts to a few mares. Then we start showing them at 3. They seem to have more respect for both their handlers and the mares, and they perform better.”
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AQHA Featherlite Trailer All-Around Amateur Karen Evans Mundy says her stallion, The Article, successfully maintains a breeding and show schedule. He spends the breeding season with Rick and Heidi Cecil and then moves to Karen’s barn for shows. This arrangement gives him a natural distinction: When he’s with Karen, it’s time to go to work, but when he’s at the Cecils, he can think about breeding. This added a challenge, Karen says.
“We had to carefully schedule breedings around his show schedule, but the mare owners have always been very understanding.”
Karen says showing a breeding stallion does offer some difficulties, even with one as well-behaved as The Article.
“You always have to be aware of your surroundings and who is stalled next to your stallion. The Article travels with his gelding companion, so I often put him on the end stall with the gelding next to him. But there have been a few times I had to ask mare owners if they would mind switching stalls to put a gelding behind him. Everyone at shows is pretty accommodating, and I haven’t had any trouble.”
Karen adds that knowing the show grounds helps.
“When I know the facility, I can ask the organizers for a stall at the end that backs up to a wall, and they’re happy to work with us. If the show stalls don’t have solid walls, then I know to bring plywood to tack up so he cannot see the horses next to him.”
Karen says one of the most important things to remember when showing a stallion is to pay attention to what’s around you.
“The entire time I’m on him, I have to be aware I’m riding a stallion. I pay attention to what’s going on, and I stay away from other horses. I never sit back and relax on him and chit-chat with others, and if his attention strays and he starts talking to mares, I have to discipline him right away. You just cannot tolerate him focusing on the mares. I also make sure others know I’m riding a stallion.”
Karen says it’s important to know your stallion’s triggers. The Article is really interested in the reining and cutting mares, as they look different from the pleasure mares: they have full manes, don’t wear fake tails and often aren’t clipped like pleasure mares. So Karen avoids them at shows.
Dealing With Aggressive Stallions
Even the best stallions can have bad days, and some stallions have more than their fair share. Craig has a solution for misbehaving stallions.
“If I have a horse up in the barn to show or train and he starts getting grouchy or hard to handle, I just put him out with a bunch of geldings who won’t take anything from him. They remind him he’s not so great, and he calms down and starts behaving.”
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This method might not work for everyone, but Craig finds that it sorts out his stallions quickly so they can focus on their work.
Owning a stallion is a huge responsibility. You are taking an active role in creating the next generations of American Quarter Horses. You owe it to your partner – your stallion — to provide for his mental and physical well-being. When you do that, he’ll pay you back by being easier to handle and with better performance. You create a situation where everyone wins.