Article

Stallion care

LOOKING AFTER A STALLION

"What a beauty, you can't ever geld him!".
Some breeders inadvertently find themselves with a stallion on their hands when a particularly beautiful colt is born. Others buy a sweet little foal and until the age of two they wonder what all the fuss is about. Call it spring fever, but whatever the season, from one day to the next your gentle colt becomes a handful. Some colts running with their young buddies will remain calm even up to the age of three but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Fencing is all important.
Ideally all horses especially stallions should be kept in a paddock with a post and rail fence. In South Africa so many farmers have huge camps and as the horses survive on the veld, replacing all the barbed wire is very costly. With the right handling even flighty thoroughbreds can get used to barbed wire, the secret is to minimise confrontations between horses. Rounding off corners is a good idea so that a horse that is low in the peck order cannot be chased into a corner and attacked. A new mare should be put in a ring with a friend and once they have settled they are let out in a smaller camp with a thin top rail of wood to indicate where the fences are. I have even walked a horse up to the wire at this stage and let them feel the barbs gently on the nose.At weaning time we separate the colts from the fillies and from then onwards we keep the males in a camp which does not border with a camp containing other horses. A double parallel fence can be put up with a 'no man's land' of at least 4 metres wide between the two fences. An empty paddock also works well and this can be rotated to make sure no horses can come up to the fence to tease the colts. Thievery least that can happen is that the colt challenges another horse at the fence and strikes out with a front foot catching it in the wire. Such wire cuts can scar the horse for life, causing repeated lameness and in the worst case scenario the horse attacks the other horse and injures himself badly. A horse can bleed to death even from a simple bulb of heel cut, ifan artery has been severed. Prevention is better than cure. Also make sure all gates are secure and if there is traffic through the camp locking the gate would make good sense.

Handling a young stallion.
If your colt has been properly imprinted and halter trained, he should walk calmly next to your shoulder. I recommend using a chain slipped though the halter, or a bit, at all times when handling a young stallion to make sure he NEVER gets the upper hand. An anti rearing bit is useful as it cannot slip through the mouth even when the horse rears, and you will always be in control. I like to use a lunging rein so that he cannot pull out of your hands. Never take your eyes off a stallion even for a second. The handler must lay down the law :no colt must be allowed to nip, try to kick or strike with a fore foot. They can also be taught not to scream and dance sideways when approaching other horses. A firm tug on the lead rein and a harsh command 'no' or'ssshhhh' gets the message across. The person handling the stallion must be consistent in applying the ground rules. I have each of my stallions in a stable adjoining their camp so that staff do not need to catch the stallion on a daily basis. The stallion follows the groom ( and the feed bucket) into the stable and then the door is closed. If for any reason a colt has begun to nip a small pair of scissors come in very useful. Hold the scissors slightly open near the colt's nose and when he tries to bite he will actually prick himself as he gets too close.If he makes you angry resist the temptation to prick him deliberately. He must realise that he is hurting himself by his actions.

Starting to breed
If you want to start using a colt for breeding there are two options. He can be taken out of the camp and taught to serve the mare in hand. He can then be returned to his camp with his buddies if each of the colts in his camp has Vicks rubbed on his nose to stop them from smelling the mare's scent on the stallion. The second option is to make sure the mare is well on heat and put the young stallion in with her in a circular post and rail ring. Some breeders prefer to teach the colt how to serve before letting him out, but most of them have no trouble with the first mare as long as she is well in season and cooperative. Once the mare and stallion have settled down together they can go out into a bigger camp again remembering the 'noman's land' rule. Occasionally a stallion will dislike a certain mare and attack her, chasing her with ears flat all around the paddock. The best solution for this is to bring a second mare into camp to distract the stallion while you catch him and the victimised mare. With hand serving you can quickly separate the two when this problem arises.

Hand serving.
There are many advantages to hand serving, as the sperm count can build up between mares, two mares can be served in a day and injuries to the stallion will be kept to a minimum. Mares running with a stallion will kick him as often as they please and likewise end up with plenty of bite marks or worse.When hand serving I prefer to use one of my old stallions as a teaser to establish if a mare is on heat. The stallion's camp should have an extra thick rail, for this process, with no wire whatsoever, it can even be covered by an old carpet to minimise injury. If you are trying her daily she should be ovulating around the third day after first showing signs of oestrus. She will lift her tail and 'wink' her vulva and usually when she is fully in season she will 'squat' and urinate. If she looks ready I bandage the tail to prevent the tail hairs from cutting the stallions penis, and if she looks at all inclined to kick she will be twitched. With a young stallion it is a good idea to twitch her anyway as he could be frightened and lose confidence if he gets a bad kick.Always serve mares within the stallion's enclosure with the gate closed, in case things go wrong and the stallion gets free. Put the halter with it's anti rearing bit on the stallion, who should still be calm if he was not used as the teaser. If he is your only stallion catch him before the teasing and let him come up to the rail. It is more difficult to catch an excited stallion. It is a good idea to have a chain at the end of the lunge rein as the stallion could bite through a webbing rein in his excitement. Watch very carefully that he does not get the chain in his teeth as you will have much less control, and could damage a tooth by jerking. Walk him in a circle - no barging- away from the gate where the mare will be entering. Be ready for the stallion to rear and kick out in any direction at any time, do your best to keep the lunge rein high so that he does not put a leg over it. Keep both of them well away from the fences or low branches at all times. Once she is in the right place get her handler to twitch her and keep her hindquarters always at a slight angle away from the stallion, so that if she kicks he is not in the line of fire. Wait for him to be fully erect before he is allowed to mount the mare and try to teach him to mount from the side, again to keep him out of trouble. Once it is established that she is not going to kick he can swing into the correct position for penetration. Some colts have to be helped at this stage, the helper must be careful not to dig his nails into the delicate skin of the penis. The mare must stand still although she can move slightly forward at this stage, she must not move backwards which would cause the stallion to loose his balance. He will twitch his tail to indicate that he is ejaculating and then he will dismount. Some stallions will for some unknown reason now kick out at the mare, so keep him well under control until the mare is safely out of his camp. Give him a pat for a job well done and start praying for a spotted foal !!! The mare should now be walked for five minutes to stop her urinating and finally remove the tail bandage before letting her out in her paddock.

Riding a stallion.
Whether a stallion is used for breeding or not the same ground rules must apply when he is ridden.When saddled there is no messing around and preferably school him in a different enclosure to the one that was used for serving. On out rides take him out with a gelding on the first ride and keep a safe distance until he settles down. Once mares are added to the equation make sure that they are not in season until he is totally schooled and responding to discipline Once he is in hard work a stallion should not give much more trouble than a gelding, in the endurance world most of the stallions get on with the work at hand. They are more likely to fret in the stable the night before a competition, especially if there are strange mares in the stable next door. They will then be more tired on the morning they have to compete, but after a few competitions they realise that it is wiser to settle down. Competing on your stud stallion is the best advertisement, handsome is as handsome does, and the Appaloosa can do it!!