Breeding

The Shed

When breeding isn’t as easy as it should be.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

It seems simple enough. Lead a stallion past a few mares and into the breeding shed. His natural desires will take over, and shortly you can ask him to mount the breeding phantom. In just a few minutes, you have enough semen to inseminate a number of mares. Take the stallion back to his stall. He is satisfied and, after appropriately dividing the semen, you have completed your daily duty as stallion breeder.

But wait just a second. Do you honestly think it’s that easy every time? Many, if not most, times, it is that easy with an experienced crew – horse included. But sometimes this 15-minure process lengthens to an hour or more. And sometimes it doesn’t even happen at all. Not every stallion walks into the breeding shed and performs his favorite function with no trouble. Whether it be because of injury or previous bad experiences, some stallions do not breed, or do not breed well.

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Amy Gumz will stand nine stallions at Gumz Farms in Morganfield, Kentucky, this breeding season. Several more will come in from time to time for collection. With that many stallions coming to the farm each year, Amy has seen most any problem you can imagine. “The most successful farms manage their stallions very simply,” Amy says. “You should try to keep your program consistent, calm and confidence-boosting.”

Turn on the juices

The vast majority of show stallions are taught from early on that any sort of sexual behavior – from whinnying to mares to showing an erection – is not allowed in and around the show arena. When it’s time to go to the breeding shed, the horse is confused. He doesn’t realize that now is the time he can get excited. Now he can nicker at mares. “People make these stallions show horses; they live in a heated barn and completely controlled environments, and then they are supposed to perform a very natural act,” Amy says. “The stallion is expected to act like a gelding 99.9 percent of the time, and then the owner wants some semen. Showing and breeding can work hand in hand, but you have to give the stallions some time to be a horse.” When a show stallion arrives at Gumz Farms, the first thing Amy does is turn him out in a paddock and let him see mares. Many people think show horses should never be turned out in a paddock or stalled in a mare motel, but Amy has a different opinion. “It’s hard for people to understand that stallions can go outside but keep their blankets on, their shoes on,” she explains. “They can still look like a show horse, but they need to be a stud horse, too.

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“They learn very quickly that the turnout paddock is the place to (act like a stallion),” Amy says. “He learns that when he goes to the breeding shed or the turnout, he can act like a stallion. He knows he can’t do that at a horse show or if someone wants to ride him. And he knows that if a mare owner comes by shopping for a sire, he must stand quietly.” It is important for stallion owners to realize that it might take some times for their show horses, particularly young stallions, to turn into breeding horses. Usually by a stallion’s second or third year of showing and breeding, he understands the process and is able to produce viable semen.

Illness

A stallion produces sperm as much as 60 to 90 days prior to its collection. Pretend it’s March 1. You have 50 mares at the farm waiting to be bred and another 50 across the country that will get shipped semen. You collect the horse, run his semen through the appropriate high-tech sperm-counting machines and see that there is nothing in there that will get a mare pregnant. Panic sets in. Before you get hysterical, think back a couple of months. Was the stallion sick for a few days? Did he go off feed and act lethargic? It wasn’t anything major at the time, but you are seeing the results of that sickness today. When your horse is sick, write that on the calendar so two or three month later, when he doesn’t give you good semen, you can look back and know why.

Injury

There are times when a stallion just physically cannot mount a breeding phantom or it’s painful to mount. Maybe his feet or his hocks hurt. Perhaps his back hurts. Like people, he won’t be in an amorous mood when he’s in pain. If the cause is a temporary injury and the mares can wait a few days for breeding, no problem. However, is the stallion’s injury is so severe that he won’t ever mount the phantom; you’ve got a decision to make. Do you consider the horse finished as a breeder? Most of the time, these horses are still quite capable of getting mares in foal. What do you do? Amy teaches many of her horses to ground collect. The horses go to the breeding shed just like always. They’re prepared as usual, but the artificial vagina is used while the horse stands flat footed, rather than when he is on the phantom. Ground collection usually takes a bit longer and will probably require some manual stimulation to the horse, but it works just as good as when the stallion mounts the phantom. Do not be surprised if you do not get the horse collected the first time you try. Be patient, and soon he will learn.