Raising A Breeding Stallion

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Question: I am buying a 3 month old colt that I would like to remain/turn into a stallion. I would like to teach him to be well mannered and to give specific commands for breeding, so he does not associate breeding with every mare he comes into contact with. He may anyway, but if there is a way or a system that you know of, please let me know. I know of a couple stallions that are crazy and I don’t want to regret leaving him au natural! I also want a recommendation on whether to keep him totally separate from all horses, or if being around his own little herd will help.

Answer: There are several things you can do with your colt to make sure he remains a well-mannered stallion. First of all, let me say that in my opinion, there is no excuse for a poorly behaved stallion, other than poor training and handling. There are many breeding stallions that are just as well behaved, if not better, than the average gelding. It is simple a matter of training and discipline. Socializing a young colt with other horses is VERY important. He should be turned out or housed with other geldings as much as possible. You cannot allow him to hang out with fillies or mares, from the time he is a yearling on, because he can and will breed mares. But if he is stabled with other geldings from the time he is a yearling on, he will be much happier and better socialized to herd behavior. I would highly recommend this plan if it is an option.

Some older breeding stallions may not tolerate geldings well, but many will remain “gelding friendly” throughout their lives. As for breeding, first off, I would recommend NOT breeding him until he is 3 or 4. Sometimes breeders will do “test” breedings of a young stallion as a 2 or 3 year old and breed to one or two mares. Just remember that he is still a youngster and needs to focus on his performance training during this time. Once he goes to the breeding barn, his priorities will change. Breeding takes a lot out of a horse physically and it will be tough to focus on his training. It has also been researched and proven that the foals produced from very young or very old stallions (and mares) are not their best get.
When you do start breeding him, it is critical that everything associated with breeding is completely different and separate from the other parts of his life. For example, you use a totally different halter, have a separate area for breeding and teasing and have a different set of rules for handling him when he is breeding (behaviors that you would otherwise disallow, like hollering and squealing, nipping and strutting, sniffing and fondling mares are acceptable when courting a mare). When he is going out of his pen for training purposes, he should not even be allowed to turn his head to look in the direction of a mare without receiving a correction from you. Breeding stallions learn very quickly that putting on the one halter means we are going to work at the training barn now, while the other halter means, yee-haw! We’re headed for the breeding shed! Many breeders use a halter bit in their breeding halter, which not only gives you a better handle on the horse, but makes it even more clear to the horse that this is the breeding halter, not the training one. As your colt matures into a stallion, he will naturally become more dominant and possibly aggressive (if this is tolerated).

It is important to maintain strict discipline and make sure that the person handling him is dominant. Behaviors such as biting are very common in breeding stallions, but this vice will only develop if his handler tolerates it. It is best to “nip in the bud” any such behaviors as a youngster. Be very firm and very disciplined with him and give him lots of training early on, so that you can fall back on this training as he matures into a stud-muffin. Lots of round-pen work and lead-line work will be beneficial in developing a relationship with your colt in which you are clearly the dominant one. Be very consistent in enforcing your behavioral rules for the colt and he will learn from an early age to follow the rules. I can tell already that your colt will turn into a very nice and well-behaved stallion. By addressing these concerns early in his life, you will give him a great start and he will turn out to be the charming young horse you want him to be. Good luck and I hope these answers have helped.

Julie Goodnight, Clinician and Trainer, Horse Master with Julie Goodnight TV Host
http://www.juliegoodnight.com

My Horse Is Herd-Bound And Barn Sour

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My horse is herd-bound and barn-sour–calling to others constantly

Would your horse rather stay with his buddies? Is he letting his voice be known? Follow Julie Goodnight’s behavior and training advice to help your horse willingly leave the herd and be focused on you as the center of his universe.

Does your horse refuse to respond to your aids and throw a wall-eyed fit if you try to ride him out of the barnyard alone? Does he scream in your ear, calling to his herd mates every time you take him out of the pen? Is he unruly in-hand when you take him away from his buddies, stomping his feet and ramming into you?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above questions, it’s time to make a change. Here, we’ll discuss why your horse may act out this annoying behavior then give you steps to take to make your horse want to be part of your herd–willing to go with you anywhere.

The Reason
Horses are herd-bound animals. The behavior known as gregarious—defining animals who live in groups and have a specific social order. A herd-bound tendency is one of seven instinctive behaviors a horse acts out—the others center around flight, reproduction, combat, investigation, ingestion and elimination. Being herd bound is a survival skill for horses. They need the protection of the herd for comfort and security–which they want more than anything else in life.

The whinny, one of four audible communications a horse makes, is a high-pitched scream, sometimes ending in a nicker. It’s the loudest and longest audible a horse makes and can be ear-splitting, carrying over long distances. Like all four audible communications, it has specific meaning. The whinny is a social call; a searching call. It means, “Where are my friends,” or “Is anyone out there willing to be my friend?” When a horse is separated from his herd and feels vulnerable and exposed, he will whinny and search frantically until he finds it or a suitable replacement.

The leader of the herd–the alpha individual–is responsible for maintaining the safety and comfort of the herd. As long as the leader is in charge, her subordinates can relax, live in peace, munch grass, roll in the mud and commune with their buddies. Life doesn’t get any better.

You and your horse comprise a herd. At least that’s what you’d like your horse to believe. Due to the hierarchy of the horse herd, within your herd of two, you have two choices: you can be the leader or the follower. There’s no option for equality. Just wanting to be the leader of your herd of two doesn’t make it so; your horse is very adept at detecting leadership skills–or lack there of. In his mind, his very survival depends upon good leadership.

Unless and until your horse can look up to you as his leader, trust that you’re in charge of the universe and able to make him feel safe and comfortable, he’ll not be willing to go anywhere with you and will always be drawn back to the herd he knows.
The Solution

You’ll have to convince your horse that you’re in charge, that you’re a worthy leader. He’ll need to know you can be trusted to enforce rules, keep order in the herd and that you direct all his actions. You’ll tell him when to eat, when to sleep, when to work, when to rest, when to be alarmed, when to be relaxed. You’ll teach him that when he is quiet, obedient and focused on you, you’ll make him comfortable; when he is not, you’ll put him to work. He won’t have to make any decisions because you’re the leader, the Captain of the ship, and you make all decisions. That’s a tall order to fill!

Horses establish dominance in the herd with swift and certain actions, by controlling space and resources. The alpha individual of the herd owns the space of all the subordinate herd members; she can enter their space at any time—and the herd will move judiciously out of her way. A subordinate can never enter her space. Horses are very spatially oriented (unlike us humans) and highly respect the space of their leader. In natural horsemanship, we do groundwork with horses to control their space and actions, gain their respect and focus, until the horse is hooked-on, following with admiration because he feels safe and comfortable in your presence.
Resources include anything the herd values, like food, water, shelter or other horses, and the dominant horse always controls the resources. The quickest way to determine the pecking order of any herd is to watch when they are fed; the alpha always eats first, followed by the beta horse; the last to eat is the omega, if he gets anything at all. Be careful when you feed horses, that you do not reward rude or bullying behavior, even when there is a fence between you and the horse; if he comes to believe he is taking the food away from you and controlling your actions, he believes he is dominant. For this reason, I’m not an advocate of hand-feeding treats to horses; it doesn’t take long before he’s calling you to him by nickering (the second of the horse’s four audible communications), controlling your actions and your resources (keep in mind he doesn’t know it’s horse food and humans won’t eat it).

Do groundwork exercises with your horse every time you get him out, so that he is in the habit of listening to you. There are many excellent exercises outlined in my groundwork DVDs, Lead Line Leadership and Round Pen Reasoning (available at JulieGoodnight.com or 800-225-8827).
If you invest some time in groundwork, your horse will learn to accept you as a suitable leader. Once he begins to accept your authority, do your groundwork further and further away from the barn so it becomes habitual behavior for him.
When you’re riding, be aware of barn gravity and be diligent for any disobedience from your horse, no matter how small. If he cuts corners, slows down going away and speeds up coming back, breaks gait or deviates from the path and speed you have dictated and gets away with it, you’re telling the horse you’re not in charge; not a worthy leader. If you’re in charge, you’re the Captain, there should never be any negotiation, compromise or turning a blind eye to his bad behavior– no matter how minor the infraction.
I ride literally hundreds of different horses each year; between clinics and expos, I sometimes ride or work with as many as 10-15 different horses a week on a one-time basis. In five minutes or less, what I call “the golden moments,” I can convince the horse that I’m in charge by simply controlling 100 percent of his actions and demonstrating my leadership ability. Horses figure this stuff out quickly.
When people come to look at one of my horses for sale, I want to make sure they start off in the Captain’s seat. I tell them to take the horse directly to the rail and go all the way around keeping the horse right next to the fence and controlling every step he takes; then thy can start telling him to do something: stop, go, turn, etc. A well-trained and obedient horse (the only kind I sell) knows immediately that you’re a worthy leader and falls happily into the role of your first mate, eager to carry out your orders without challenge.
When your horse accepts your authority without question, and feels safe and comfortable in your presence, he will no longer be herd bound and you’ll b able to take him anywhere you want to go without so much as a whinny or nicker.

To learn more about teaching your horse to respect your authority and accept you as his leader, check out Goodnight’s groundwork training package with the DVD series, Round Pen Reasoning, and Lead Line Leadership and other training tools at www.JulieGoodnight.com.

Horses In Confinement

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Question: Dear Julie,

I just moved to a home on 40 acres (with a live creek) in Missouri. I’ve never owned a horse (of course, always wanted to) and haven’t been around them for a number of years now. In order to get them the care they need, I have to catch them first. I watched the episode of your TV show on [the hard to catch horse] and was thrilled to see my instincts were correct. I’ll be putting up a round pen to start working with them. My question is this: The former owner had allowed them to roam the entire 40 acres; I want to section off an acre for them to stay in. I’d love to have three sectioned off, but just can’t afford it right now. I have cleaned out a section of the barn for them to get protection, but they must have a favorite spot “out there” because they don’t use what I made them. They’ll also be getting more of a stall set-up. Can I change them from “free roam” to confined? I love animals so much and just want to be sure these horses get the best care I can provide. Thanks for any help you are willing to give. By the way, I have two mares and two colts (yearlings) quarter horses.

Sincerely,
Mary

Answer: Mary,

Your horses should not need to be confined in order to catch them. As you saw on Horse Master, training a horse to be easy to catch is not too hard. The method demonstrated on the show is very effective and I call it “walking a horse off.” It is explained in an article on this site.

You can also easily train your horses to come when you call by using a grain reward. Start at feed time by yelling or whistling a unique call. Then shake the grain can to get their attention. If they get a small bite of grain every time you call, in no time, you’ll be able to call them in at any time day or night. If you establish a routine of when you call them in, they’ll be waiting for you every time.

As for your horses not coming in the nice protected barn you made for them—that is the oldest joke that horses play on humans. Countless people before you have spent time and money on what they thought were ideal, cozy shelter for their horse, only to find him standing out in the pouring rain, through gales, blizzards and heat. Many a horse owners have made this frustrating realization, but it should really come as no surprise—horses are flight animals—confinement is not their thing. Plus, they are well-equipped to survive in adverse conditions.

Research has shown that run-in sheds are more favored by horses if they are not fully enclosed and there is ventilation at the bottom and tops of the walls. Being able to see the horizon is a key factor in how comfortable a horse is when he is confined. The better he can see his environment, the safer he feels.

Horses can become habituated to a shelter, particularly if you feed them in there. Horses do like to have shade and a wind break in extreme weather conditions, but they have to feel comfortable and safe in there. If you spend quality time with your horses in the barn, they’ll come to feel safe in there and seek out its comfort more often.

While I am sure you can get your horses habituated to confinement, it may not be necessary. Your horses will be happier if they can run around and be horses. I would bring my horses in the barn for feeding and grooming and get the youngsters used to being tied up in there, etc. But then let them be turned out the rest of the time.

If you wanted your horses to get used to being in stalls—which is not a bad thing for a horse to be comfortable with, especially if you plan to show him or go to events—you could bring them in at night then turn them out for the day (or visa versa). Horses get used to this routine easily and seem to enjoy it.

You will probably need to figure out ways to separate the youngsters from the mares at some point so they do not become too herd bound. In fact, you’ll probably want to find opportunities to separate the all horses at various times so that they learn to be calm and independent away from the herd and are easier ride out.

Good luck with your new herd!
Julie

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