Stallion-Like Behavior

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Hi Julie –
This is an unusual question that I haven’t seen addressed thus far. My friends recently bought an 8 y/o paint gelding from a ranch in Okla. Both their trainer and veterinarian observed & evaluated the horse before purchase. He was deemed sound and well-suited to trail riding. His single fault was that he hadn’t been ridden much in the last year. My friends elected to take him directly to their trainer’s facility for a month’s tune-up.

The gelding responded beautifully by quickly recovering his former abilities as well as learning several new skills. However, a major problem arose when they brought him home. In addition to the paint, they have two 20+ geldings and two 6-7 y/o mares.

They confined the new boy in their large cattle pen for a week to provide safe socialization from a distance. But even at a distance, he was very reactive & vocal with the mares. He paced, snorted, & whinnied the entire time. The mares were also very interested in him and they showed their interest by coming into heat.

Suspecting the paint might be “proud cut,” my friends released him, and then stood back & held their breath. Ignoring the other geldings, the paint immediately herded the mares into a corner of the pasture. After some initial kicking, biting & posturing, the mares presented to him. He mounted each, one after another, achieving full penetration. Although they didn’t observe any ejaculate, the posturing & mounting behavior continued for several hours until my friends managed to catch the gelding & separate him from the herd.

Is this behavior proof that a horse is actually proud cut? I’ve seen geldings exhibit stud-like behavior around mares in heat but certainly not to this extent. I also don’t know of any medical solutions to this problem, do you? Your opinion would be very much appreciated.
Disgusted with Lust

Dear Disgusted,
Yes, I’ve seen this behavior before, several times and although it is not common, it is certainly not that unusual. It is more likely a behavioral problem, not an issue of being ‘proud cut’ and it is likely that this horse was gelded later in life and learned how to breed mares before he was cut. Just like in dogs, gelding a horse does not unlearn behavior that has already been established.

Often when people see geldings display stallion-like behavior, they refer to him as being proud cut, and assume that something went wrong in the surgery and somehow part of the horse’s testicles were left in there. This is possible, but not probable. It is possible that a stallion only has one testicle descended at the time he is gelded (a cryptorchid) and that the vet assumes he only has one testicle and leaves the other testicle in there. But vets are pretty conscientious about this, so it rarely happens. Still, you should have this horse checked by a vet to make sure.

Removing the testicles only prevents the manufacture of semen. It does not preclude the horse getting an erection and/or displaying any of the other breeding behaviors of a stallion. You’ll see geldings get erections all the time, usually when they are day-dreaming (we can only guess about what), but most geldings have never learned or practiced real breeding behaviors so after they are gelded, they wouldn’t know what to do and don’t have the hormones prompting them to explore these behaviors.

As for your friend’s horse, it’s probably not as big a deal as they think it is. It’s likely that once he settles in and gets used to this new herd, most of these behaviors will disappear. He may still occasionally try to mount them when they are in heat, but the rest of the time things will seem pretty normal. One of my best-ever beginner school horses would occasionally mount and breed a mare—but he was the gentlest horse I ever had.

No horses, whether stallion, gelding or mare, should be allowed to display any kind of interest in each other or any herd behaviors once they are in-hand or being ridden. This should be met with the harshest correction and there should be a zero tolerance policy about fraternization. This is why breeding stallions can be shown and handled and ridden like regular horses. But what they do on their own time in the herd is up to them and there’s not much you can do about it.

If this horse is excessively aggressive to herd mates—geldings or mares—you can resolve this behavior with a training collar. But if this gelding is otherwise a good ride and well-mannered when being handled and ridden, I wouldn’t worry too much about it—just cover your eyes when the mares are in heat.
–Julie Goodnight

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

Difference between paint and pinto

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Question: There is always controversy about the Pinto…is it a breed or color?…same with the paint. I also always thought the Palomino was a color, but I just recently read it was a breed; can you clarify this for me?

Sue

Answer: There is a big difference between Paint and Pinto. It is not at all controversial, it is fact. Pinto is a color; Paint is a blood breed (as opposed to a color breed). To qualify for the Paint registry, a horse must be descendent of either a Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse or registered Paint, and have qualifying color (I believe it is at least 3-5 square inches of white above hocks/knees or outside of the line between eye and mouth). A solid colored horse with appropriate breeding can be registered as “Breeding Stock Paint.”

The term Pinto simply refers to color and the horse might be of any breed. For instance, if you had a half Arab-half QH with the right color, it would be a Pinto, not Paint (the Paint registry does not allow Arab breeding). The Paint registry will not allow any other blood, other than QH or TB into the registry.

Color breeds are the breeds that qualify horses for their registry by meeting color requirements, such as Appaloosa, Palomino, Buckskin/Dun, etc. In some instances, a horse may be double registered, such as Palomino/QH.

Julie Goodnight

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