Horse Behavior: Raising A Well-Mannered Stallion

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Question Category: Horse Behavior

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.

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Horse Behavior: Handling A Stud Colt

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Question Category: Horse Behavior

Question: Hello,

I just bought a wonderful 3yr old AQHA colt/stallion. I read in your answer to Lindsay about letting them in a herd setting when they are young….I have a 7 yr. old Percheron gelding and two mares…..I keep the 3 yr. old separate because he is at breeding age and I haven’t finished his training ( I’m not riding him yet and wasn’t going to even start until he was at least four). I was wondering what you thought about him and the gelding living together or would that not be a good idea because of the stallion’s age and the fact that there is only one gelding? I am also running into a new problem…when we bought him he was a “mans” horse (he preferred a man over a woman and I had a hard time getting him to respond to me like he did my husband) since we got him home I do his leading lessons, (he wants to try to out walk you on the lead line) grooming, and feeding now the problem I have is he depends TOO MUCH on me…. he gets kind of disrespectful (pinning ears and turning his head at people) well I’ve been making friends touch him and mess with him so he has contact with people besides me…is that a good idea and do you have other ideas about how to correct this problem? Any advice is welcome.

Thanks, Sally

Answer: Sally,

It would probably be great for your gelding and stallion to live together. The younger the colt is introduced to other geldings, the more likely he will assimilate with a herd for the rest of his life. It is easier to introduce a stallion before he begins his breeding career. Of course, you’ll have to monitor the situation closely and there will be some sorting out of who’s boss, but one will emerge as the leader and the other the follower and then hopefully they will establish a compatible relationship. I would prefer the older gelding to emerge as dominant; that will keep the colt’s aggressiveness limited. It is always possible for a horse to get hurt in the process of assimilating new horses into a herd; so that is a risk you’ll have to be willing to accept by turning him out. Many people chose not to allow a valuable breeding stallion to interact in a herd of any kind, because of the increased risk of injury, even though conception rates are proven to be much higher with pasture breeding programs. Only you can decide whether the reduced risk for the horse is worth the benefit he will gain from being socialized into a herd, which will affect his happiness for the rest of his life. No horse wants to live in solitary confinement.

I do not agree with waiting until the horse is four to saddle train him, especially if you plan to leave him a stallion (which is not a good idea for most amateurs). Given that his urge to breed will be growing stronger as he matures, the more training and performance is imposed on him, the more control you will have over him. I prefer to start all young horses as three year olds, but in the case of a stud colt, I would start him earlier.

As for why a horse responds differently to male and female is not so much gender related as it is related to leadership, confidence and firmness in handling. Women tend to approach horses from a more submissive point of view, trying to make friends and keep the peace. Men usually approach horses with a body language that shows confidence, leadership and a no-fuss-no-muss demeanor. Horses, being better attuned to body language than us humans, will size up a person right away and factor the results into his behavior. If the horse has had experience with a human that was a “push over,” he will recognize that demeanor more quickly and may take it as a green light to take control. Interestingly, if the horse has never been handled by anyone except very confident and in-charge people, he will tend not to size up the human, but just act obediently automatically, as he knows that is expected of him. However, if someone with less confidence begins to handle that horse and the horse is allowed to act impulsively, it’s training will completely unravel. At this point, the horse MAY have learned that there are two classes of humans, not male and female, but enforcer or enabler.

This might result in a horse that is like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde; responding perfectly to one person and a total brat to another. This can also result in a horse that learns to test the water right away when assessing a new human handler and may subtlety invade your space or commit some other transgression. If a correction comes spontaneously from the handler, the horse will shift into “good boy” mode. If the invasion is tolerated or ignored, it is an open invitation for the horse to escalate his behavior and become rude, disrespectful and eventually aggressive.

If your horse is obedient and respects your leadership and authority, he should not be acting aggressively when others are around you. That makes me wonder if he views you as one of his mares, rather than as the boss of him; an object to be protected from invading marauders. If your horse is at any time acting like he is herding you or aggressively defending you, I suggest that you reassess your relationship with the horse and take immediate actions to make him more subordinate to you. There is lots of info about this on my website.

Anytime your horse acts disrespectfully or aggressively toward humans, for any reason, he should be punished immediately with a negative stimuli; swiftly and harshly. This is dangerous behavior. Sometimes with stallions, the stimuli you use must escalate quickly to a lot off pressure or a harsh cue. There must be enough pressure to motivate the horse to change and when it comes to aggressive and reproductive behaviors, it takes a lot of motivation to cause a change. Using an aversive sound as negative stimuli (yelling or growling) works well with all horses (I call it hissing and spitting at a horse). If the sound is followed up with a physical stimuli (like a spanking or shanking), then the sound stimuli alone will soon more easily motivate the horse to change.

If your horse is subordinate and obedient, he simply should never act that way around humans. With stallions, it is critical from day one that you use very forceful measures to let the horse know that aggressiveness toward humans or other horses will under no circumstances be tolerated. If you plan to use this stallion for any type of performance, this becomes paramount, since he will likely encounter others humans and horses in his regular routine. Horses are very capable of abiding by rules, but they must be consistently enforced. Please keep in mind that owning a stallion gives you a much greater responsibility than mare and gelding owners have, both legally and ethically. Stallions are much more prone to instinctive behaviors, like reproductive and combative, and as owner, you have to accept the responsibility of providing additional control, confinement and training that comes with owning a stallion. Good luck with this colt; keep him busy.

JG

Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.