Choosing a stallion for your mare
Even before the excitement of searching for the right stallion, two major decisions need to be made.
First, do you have adequate facilities to breed a foal – the room, the finances, the time? It will be another four or five years before you can back the offspring and have cost a good deal more than buying an already mature horse! A foal is better off with company its own age – can you team up with another breeder?
And secondly, what are you trying to breed? For speed, endurance, dressage, jumping ability, pleasure, companionship?
The stallion can’t do all the work, no matter how successful he has been, and how brilliant some of his progeny are. So look first to your mare and identify any shortcomings in her conformation, movement, temperament or ability.
Photo: Anne Brown, Gadebrook Stud
Then choose a stallion that compensate for any shortcomings in the mare by finding those strengths in the stallion. If possible, visit him at stud, to examine him in the flesh and check his personality. If he is overseas, ask for videos, not just photos, which can hide a multitude of sins.
If you are looking for a top-class sports horse to take you into high level competition, you may well opt for the artificial insemination (AI) route. However, if your mare has never bred a foal before, this could be a costly failure as there is no proof she is a breeder and you have to pay for the semen in advance. You also need a vet who is experienced and successful with AI who can co-ordinate your mare’s optimum insemination date with the availability of the semen. Usually, fresh semen can be inseminated at your stables. Frozen semen will require your mare to stay at the practice for regular ultrasound checking of her maturing egg.
If you prefer the traditional route of natural covering, visit the stud to make sure you are happy with the cleanliness, efficiency and safety of the place, and the care they take of the animals.
If your mare is maiden, you may want to avoid a particularly aggressive stallion, no matter how fertile he is or how good his performance results are. If you are a one-mare owner, breeding for the pleasure of continuing the line, temperament will be high on your list of requirements. Avoid a nervous or neurotic stallion, even though these traits may be human-induced. There are plenty of sane, sound horses out there without risking one with questionable behaviour.
Photo: Anne Brown, Gadebrook Stud
As in dogs, horses of different breeds carry mutant genes – just ask the Quarter Horse fraternity in the USA! So investigate any problems in the breed you have chosen and ask the stallion owner if the horse has them. If so, have your mare tested to ensure she doesn’t carry the same gene. Otherwise you risk producing a foal which will die or be born with a disabling condition.
Many breed societies produce Stallion Directories to help you find a suitable stallion close to you, but don’t let distance decide your choice. You are planning for an animal that could well live for 25 years, so investment at the creation end is well worth it. Visit their breed shows to see which horses catch your eye and tug at your heart and ask their owners about the sire.
Some breeds, such as the Arab Horse Society, identify top-producing stallions and offer Premiums to mare owners who use these stallions, with awards to the resulting progeny once they compete successfully under saddle.
Take advice from experienced breeders, or attend an intensive workshop like the “Breeding for Gold” symposium at the Royal Agricultural University on Wednesday 9 March (details: [email protected]).
Written by Anne Brown, Gadebrook Stud, for Horsemart.
Main image: Shaarif, Arab colt, late-Aug 2015, Gadebrook Stud. Photo : Anne Brown, Gatebrook stud.