Horse Breeding: Owning a Manageable Stallion

Don’t let your stallion become a problem child. Give him a job and treat him like a normal horse.

Jim Brinkman, manager of Pitzer Ranch, outlines horse breeding tips to help prevent your stallion from becoming a problem child.

Giving your stallion a job can go a long ways in keeping him manageable and respectful Journal photo
Giving your stallion a job can go a long ways in keeping him manageable and respectful. Journal photo

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Stallions get a bad rap for being stubborn and hard to manage. They’re like the kid in school who everyone assumes is a big bully. Not all stallions are stubborn bullies. You just have to know how to handle them and how to treat them like normal horses.

Trainer Jim Brinkman, manager of the Pitzer Ranch in Ericson, Nebraska, has been breeding horses for more than 30 years. He has learned plenty about how to deal with stallions and all the ins and outs of their sometimes-ornery behavior. Here’s some advice from Brinkman and equine behaviorist Sue McDonnell, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine on the best way to treat your stallion like a normal horse.

A Horse Is a Horse

The first thing to remember is that horses are naturally herd animals. In the wild, they run together and interact all day. There is a process of working differences out, and everyone figures out the pecking order on their own. Staying true to that philosophy, the Pitzer Ranch runs its stallions together from the beginning.

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“We run our horses together as babies and separate the stallions and fillies around March when they are yearlings,” says Brinkman. “Then we’ll let them run together until they are 3 or 4 and bring the stallions in to determine if they should be cut. It’s good for them to run with a group so they learn how to get along with each other.”

If particular stallions can’t seem to get along, they will stay together longer and work it out or be put with the geldings. Of course, Brinkman joked, you have to have good fences to manage stallions together.

McDonnell emphasized the relevance of having plenty of space to run stallions together. If you keep your animals out in social groups, the least risk for injury comes with huge open spaces. Often, a fight ends when the weaker horse gives in and gives up.

“You need to make sure there is enough room for a horse to get away from a fight. Do not put them in a tight spot with a square corner they can easily get stuck in or a number of obstacles they could run into,” McDonnell says.

Stalls

When you confine a stallion to a stall or an area completely by himself, there are bound to be some problems. Solitary confinement isn’t fun for anyone, including stallions. Try to make stalls as open as possible to allow your stallion to see what’s going on around him.

“Stalls that have open sides help a lot, so they can see each other and smell each other,” Brinkman says. “They tend to get pretty cagey and start to kick and bite when they can’t see out.”

A big reason why some stallions are unsocial is because they are locked up most of the time and don’t know how to interact with other horses.

Just like anyone, stallions don’t enjoy being confined in tight spaces. Bigger is better for stall sizes. McDonnell recommends at least a 12-by-12-foot stall for stallions.

“It’s not that you necessarily need all that space, but it puts them more at ease when they know they have room to move,” she says.

Give Him a Job

“A stallion is a lot like an 18-year-old-boy. If he’s got a steady job, and he’s a little tired, he’s a lot easier to get along with,” Brinkman says with a laugh.

From ages 3 to 5, a stallion goes through a puberty stage where he is not settled. However, if you raise him right, and if he has a steady job, he should be settled by the time he’s 6 or 7.

“Taking direction from you on a regular basis helps. It’s not about dominating him but working together as a team toward a common goal,” McDonnell says. “If he’s only brought out for breeding, he has so much energy, and he’s not used to taking direction from people. It’s inevitable he is going to be difficult to manage.”

Brinkman says he has found cattle work to be useful because it gives stallions something to focus on and get their aggression out.

Sometimes a stallion will be a stallion. You can’t pick on every little thing, or it will make things worse.

“When we’re riding, I’m not real big on getting after him if he makes little noises, because there isn’t much you can do about that,” Brinkman says. “But if he gets out of control, make him move his feet. If you jerk on his head, all he does is learn to get away from you. Make him move his feet and do something. Making noise becomes imprinted with the reaction of having to work harder. Pretty soon, they figure out it is less work to stand quiet and be easy to get along with.”

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The More the Merrier

Believe it or not, having several stallions and plenty of other horses around is sometimes easier to manage than just one. It’s fairly tough if you don’t have some numbers to play with and get stallions used to having company.

“If you do just have one stallion, you must remember to be the lead. You can’t let him push you around,” Brinkman says.

Horses understand body position. If you go in to feed your stud horse, he has to back away from you and understand you are in charge. Stand there and look him in the eye and wait him out. Don’t feed him until he gives to you. If he steps over to you and moves you, then in his mind, he has dominated you.

“Don’t ever be scared to go get help from someone who has more experience than you. It’s much easier to fix it in the beginning than try to correct a problem after he thinks his ways are set in stone,” Brinkman says.

25 thoughts on “Horse Breeding: Owning a Manageable Stallion”

  1. Brinkman is correct, have all your horses interact with each other. I have had several stallions. I like to take my young stallions and put them in a pasture with older mares that are already bred, they learn to respect other horses. These mares will teach the young studs that a mare is not always there just to be bred.
    I had one stallion that I used for ponying colts and mares that we were breaking. It didn’t matter if the mare was in heat or not, the stud new if he was saddled he was working and not breeding. He loved to work, and was as easy to handle as a gelding, even when breeding.

  2. As an owner and handler of studs, I agree with most of this article. I do believe it should have come with a stronger note of caution. Even the most manageable stud is very dangerous and should only be handled by very experienced horse people. Studs require significantly more awareness and precaution on a daily basis. Spaces and situations that require very little attention while handling a gelding, or mare, can be disastrous for a stud. Studs have, and will, cause significant harm to people, other horses, and property when not cared for and handled properly.

  3. Our,Stallion (Warpion) is and has always been a wonderful horse to handle.It’s true not all are that way,but I believe It’s all in how you train and handle them from a very young age.You have to stay on top of them at all times.After awhile you will see if you can trust them or not.Warpion is 13 years old, a four time world champion and has never bite or kick anyone.We have raise him from a foal and he is priceless to us.Our two year old grandson love him dearly and rides him often with his papaw.The grandson will feed him his hay and the horse is always kind to our grandson.One in a million and we know that we are bless to have him,Nothing like an American Quarter Horse.

  4. I have stood several stallions each breeding season for many years. I have a bad scar on my arm to prove it! This is a great article, we must work WITH our stallions and even then keep in mind that they are stallions. Even a GOOD stallion isnt in the same mind as a gelding. I always keep in mind that a stallion can look at something accross the barn and react on whats closest to him, like your arm! I have heard of many folks who have that “pet” stallion that one day completely & unexpectedly took a fast big bite out of someone….its just always a possibility and something I dont ignore. In the article a little more emphasis on EXPERIENCE would have been good. I love my stallions and they are puppies to handle, but I dont forget the power of their position in their natural world, I handle them defensively, I always get compliments on how quiet my stallions are, but I dont let my guard down….thats just good advice for anyone!

  5. The article suggested running a stallion with other stallions if possible or with already bred mares to help teach pecking order. I kept my stallion with a gelding until he was about 3 yrs. old and went into training. However, he is bigger than everyone else and has never had his butt whooped by another horse. Therefore, he thinks he’s boss of everyone. That’s all he knows. He doesn’t know another horse could be boss. When in with the mares, he ran them into the ground. When in with the gelding, he was the more dominant one and it made him aggressive so we had to remove him. He was even in with a mule once as some trainers use that technique, and that didn’t even work, but instead was injured when he kicked at the mule and split his foot open on the fence. He had to stay at the vet’s for a month after that.

    He’s just so much bigger than everyone else at over 17 hands tall. So, what do you do to help him to interact with other horses in a way that teaches him he is not always the boss of other horses? Also, how do you find a trainer willing to take in an aged stallion? He was broke, kept in a training barn for a while, around other horses, mares, vacuumed, bathed, ridden, etc. Mind you, he is a good, kind stallion, just doesn’t know how to play with other horses without ALWAYS being the aggressive dictator. Any ideas without getting him severly injured again?

  6. Great article! It is also refreshing to see so many well-informed and dead-on accurate comments from readers about handling today’s stallion. Although I stand and ride a well-mannered stud, and I practice strict and consistent precautions, I’m just thankful that our knowledge of good stallion management practices is now light years ahead of where we were ‘back in the day’ when grandfather would throw me and my teenage cousins on some of East Texas’ rankest studs. With all of the great educational and well-researched information out here — along with a willingness of stallion managers to share their knowledge — today’s best breeding horse is arguably the sanest and most well-mannered in the history of the American Quarter Horse. The expectation that today’s studs be well-trained, well-socialized, well-conformed, and easily-handled is so common that it is becoming almost a prerequisite to ownership, not to mention breeding. Kudos to AQHA and its enlightened members for helping to build and sustain this ‘Body of Knowledge’!

  7. My question is slmost the opposite. I have a stallion that not aggrestive enough when time to breed. He will be four in January. He won’t mount the mares, he is afraid of getting hurt. I quess. My question is how can I get him to be the stud he should be. He been in the pasture with mares all summer and has’nt did nothing. Suggestions welcomed.

  8. My stallion is a gentleman, even though he has been raised by an older woman. He does any job that needs to be done on the farm and does many events at the breed shows. However, as sweet & kind as he is, unless you have a real breeding program, no matter what he can do or how he looks on paper, the old saying is totally true: “A good stallion makes an even better gelding”.

  9. I enjoyed the article and agree with the fact that studs need to learn early who’s the “boss” without being unfair or unduly harsh. I’ve heard several times that stallions can be run together in the same pasture. But I’ve never found anyone that has actually done it. We have two stallions, one the sire of the other. We also have several mares and a couple of geldings. Does anyone know who I can talk to to find out how and if these two studs can actually be kept in the same pasture and what if any size requirement in the field enclosure? Sure would like to accomplish this if it is infact possible.

  10. We have a very dominant Arabian mare that is in her 20’s and will put most horses in their place. When we have a stud on our property she is who we put them with because she wont let them breed and kicks their butt. It has worked great. The stallion learns to be around a mare and so its not that big of a deal to him anymore. Also he learns to be lower in the pecking order.

  11. I have a two year old stud, he’s very smart and has been to one clinic on training colts. He just bit someone for the first time last summer and you can tell he knows he not supposed to, but as soon as you turn your back to him he will go in for the bite, i can pick up all his legs, lead him and trailer him but i’m always looking over my shoulder. I tried putting him in with some bred mares to see if they could hopefully teach him some manners and just found out today that when i went to go and give some oats because of the cold weather he was top horse over these older mares chasing them away from the oats. Help anyone & please don’t tell me to cut him!

  12. My stud stand in the winter together with my other stud and one gelding. On the other side is a mare with all rhe weanlings. He is so nice and smart. I do not have any problem with him. I would never breed a agresive stallion. I am a horsetrainer and I train all kind of horses even 17 years old stud, s. But my offspring is easy to train , smart and perfect in every way. Thanks to my stud.

  13. I believe that the early years in a stallions life paly a huge part in his attitude. I have an AQHA stallion that is now 12 years old and you could not ask for a better behaved stallion. He can be run with mares and foals (he’s nicer to the foals and more willing to share grain than the mares). He has never been aggressive towards people and my children have always been allowed in the stall or the field with him. He can be hand bred or pasture bred and shown and ridden with mares and geldings. I have even run him with geldings (not during breeding season) when no mares were in the pasture next to him. I believe that the fact that he was raised in the pasture with other horses (a bossy gelding and older mares) has had a huge impact on his attitude. He has never been top-dog and it doesn’t occur to him that he can be. I think some people decide when a foal is a weanling that they are going to keep it a stud and then they seperate it from other horses at a young age creating a lot of future social issues.I on the other hand really had no intention of having another stud when my oldest daughter’s show mare gave birth. The foal was such a beautiful palomino colt that I decided we would wait to geld him and if he exhibited any aggressiveness towards people then he would be gelded immediately. My children were small at the time and I could not have risked having an horse on the property that I had to worry about. We bred my stallion to 2 mares as a two & three year old and then sent him to a reining trainer. I realize this is backwards to most people but, the reining trainer had him for two weeks and called me to say that he was extremely impressed with him. He said he had a better disposition and attitude then all of geldings he was training at the time. The fact that he was more mature and had already figured out the breeding end of things helped keep him focused. At any point throughout his life if he had exhibited a bad attitude he would have been gelded.

  14. i have a few horses but have gotten rid of some so i am down to 1 1/2 years old stud two mares and gelding they have all been together since they were born just waundering when to pull the stud colt away so he does not breed and if i can keep him with just the gelding in another pasture where they can all see each other or will he try and fight the gelding when the mares come in heat eeven if there not in the same pasturei had two stalloins had both of them cut they were tareing the place up and fighting all the time because the mares were to close but both had been bred before

  15. the 1 1/2 year old stud colt i have trys to bite all the time and has a habbit of trying to turn and halfway kick and is rareing up at me when he does not want to do what i want him to do like a kid refuseing i am think of geting a stud chain so he quits rareing but both of his parents were prety calm horses i owned both is it just his age will he grow out of being so defiant

  16. I have a six year old miniature stallion who is very well mannered. Until we brought an elder mare into are herd! He attacks her and runs her, and they fight like they are both studs. I’m not sure why, but we now have to keep them seperated. Does anyone no what I could actually do t stop this from happening?

  17. I got my stud colt at 4mos. He has been handled daily, turned out with the other foals and mares and geldings and i do believe it made him what he is today. The mares taught him to be a gentleman and watch his manners. Handling him is so easy now. Hes 2 now and learning to be a stallion. He is so sweet to the mares, he respects the other horses, even when there is a mare in heat. I do keep an eye on him,watching for some stallion behavior to pop out, but hes so laid back,easy going and wants to be with you. i beleive this is my once in a life time stallion that you dream for.

  18. I have just bought myself a miniature stallion pony only 5months old.At this early age do you think I can train him to do what I want,or should I gelded him when it gets time.when he gets old enough to ride he’s going to be my grandaughters help please.

  19. i purchase my stallion about 4 years ago now. he was raised alone for the most part but turned out with bred mares when he was younger. the first 2 years i had him he was awesome in a herd enviroment. we had a stud donkey that torn up the gelded donkey “Skip” was his buddy while he healed. the mean donkey turned into such a problem that we took him out of the pen with the others and they insisted i put him in with skip since skip is big and powerful and can defend himself better than the rest of the animal the donkey was pastured with. i reluctantly agreed. i now regret the decition. he did just what we thought he defended him self when the donkey attacked him. no one was hurt but they figured it out. those 2 also lived with my gelding and my mini who was also a stud but is now gelded. we got rid of the donkey because i could not tolerate him with my boys any more a. for 2 years all was peaceful. one day “skip” seemed to have enough of being pushed around by the gelding and the mini. he took over as boss of the pen. then a we got a yearling colt. who went with them. skip was the big bad bully but all was still ok. the last 2 years skip has been getting increasingly agressive with his heard mates. this fall he ran my gelding into the hay feeder where he got his leg caught and skip continued to chew on him while he was trying to fight to get free. he’s also decided to beat up the mini. both of theses geldings have been removed to avoid further injuries. he is still pastured with a large draft cross mule and the colt who is now 3 (still stud too). he was getting alone fine with them. he would rough house and play with them and even though he had been mean to the other 2 no longer living with them he was still ok with those to. well a case of thush had me pull him up to the barn for 2 day so i could soak it and treat it where it was clean and dry. he is still being treated for the thrush but was returned to his pen where he decided to run them through fences etc. in the past he has been pulled for a day here few days there for me to have easier access to him and was returned to his main pen with his friends with out any issues other than some pinned ears. it seems like his aggression has been getting worse and i do not want to force him to live alone if i don’t have to. i know part of it is my fault that i haven’t had time to work him. as much as working him does help he has never been his bad in the past regaurdless of how much excersise he’s had. he has been getting worse and worse. does any one have some suggestions?

  20. My rescued 6 yr old Quarter horse stallion was owned by a man who trained him for Mexican rodeo.
    He’s a perfect robot horse with a tiny flame of spirit just beginning to grow brighter as he learns not all people are the same.
    He was very abused during training and will tolerate pain to the point you can lay a whip to him and he stands still. His tongue has a scar across where it was almost severed from a bit and the vet said it was never sewn.
    How he survived and ate is beyond me.

    He doesn’t like people (naturally) and tolerates them because he must -do or die.
    He doesn’t like to be touched by humans or coddled.
    I speak to horses as you horse people know we all do in our own ways and my horse has told me he doesn’t like coddling because he doesn’t feel the same way about me. I respect that and hardly pet him any more. Just groom, speak softly with few words. Some stallions are manly men and aloof. I guess that’s all I’ve got to say.

  21. i am planning on getting a three year old Arabian stud today, the man says he is calm and kids can ride him but i keep hearing there aint no way that can be true. how true is it is it possible for him to be that mature?

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