Studly Seniors Part 1

Tips for keeping your stallion healthy and productive into his golden years.

The American Quarter Horse Association

Stallions can successfully reproduce well into their senior years with proper management

You’ve heard the success stories of stallions who reproduce well into their 20s. There’s no magic potion. These breeders are simply meticulous about the care of their stallions, monitoring all aspects of their lives – from turnout to nutrition to collection schedules – to keep attitudes happy and avoid burnout at all costs.

Read on for 17 tips on maintaining your stallion for a lengthy breeding career.

1. Maintain a consistent daily routine.

“It’s a good idea to establish a routine with breeding, feeding and exercise,” says Judy Adams, a breeding manger from Acampo, California.

“They look forward to it. A lot of horses will fret if their schedule is changed. In a stallion, the last thing you want him to do is be unhappy. Have his food on time, and breed him at the same times each occasion.”

But each stallion is different and might prefer a unique schedule.

“If it’s not a routine they like, you might have to change something, whether it’s the route you take to the breeding shed or the halter. There’s not one set plan to follow for every stallion. Get to know your stallion and read his attitude.”

If your stallion travels, maintain a consistent feeding schedule with the same feeds as he gets at home and provide exercise at similar times to his home schedule, she says.

Every stallion owner hopes their horse will truly make an impact on the industry. Read about the tremendous influence of American Quarter Horse stallion Doc Bar in AQHA’s report The Doc Bar Bloodline.

2. Stand stallions with good attitudes.

“We’ve had a lot of good stallions because they had good mental attitudes,” says Greg Whalen, a 20-year breeder from Clements, California.

“If you have a horse that’s mean, you can tell. You can see the attitude in their colts. I don’t go for kicking the stalls, pawing and raising heck. The Quarter Horse shouldn’t be that way. Some of the great stallions, you could rope off them and tie them alongside a mare. Hereditarily, all that stuff comes back around.”

3. Set ground rules at an early age.

“It all starts when they’re young,” explained the late Jack Kyle in an interview before his death. Jack was a 40-year breeder and American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame inductee.

“If you never let a young stud get out of hand, you’ll never have a problem with him. You never want to let a stud take advantage. That starts way back when they’re young.

“If you get a 3- or 4-year-old horse that somebody hasn’t mannered, you’ve really got to school him and be really firm. If you’re going to fight with a stud, you’ve got to win the fight. That’s where most people get into problems. They’re not firm enough with the horse when he’s young. That’s where bad habits are developed.”

4. Exercise regularly.

“The horses I’ve handled through the years had a regular schedule,” Jack said. “Never was a stallion in the stall without a great deal of exercise. I rode them all for at least an hour a day. Most, I roped on. I showed them, too.”

5. Put them to work.

“The best thing I’ve found with studs, in general, is keeping them busy,” Jack said. “Give them exercise and do things on them. I rode all of mine in performance.

Though prolific American Quarter Horse sire Doc Bar did not excel on the race track, he still enjoyed getting exercise galloping over the hills well into his senior years. Read more about the long-lasting legacy of The Doc Bar Bloodline in AQHA’s special report.

6. Ensure nutritional health.

“A healthy horse is going to stay fertile longer,” says Joe Hockensmith, stallion manager for Dan McWhirter Quarter Horses in Doniphan, Nebraska.

“There are no supplements that will boost fertility, so meeting the horse’s daily requirements is the best you can do.

“Senior feeds are more processed, so they’re easier to digest if the horse’s teeth aren’t in good shape to grind thoroughly,” Joe continues.

“Most senior feeds don’t require a lot of chewing, and they can be used as a complete feed, eliminating the need to feed forage. Beet pulp is a common ingredient for fiber to keep their gut working properly. Senior feeds are also higher in energy, mainly in the form of fat, and lower in protein, which the older horse doesn’t need as much of. Too high of a protein content is hard on the kidneys. The main things are digestibility and energy.”

7. Be flexible with feed.

“Decreased appetites can become a challenge,” says Carol McWhirter, of Dan McWhirter Quarter Horses in Doniphan, Nebraska.

“We feed steam-rolled oats to complement the senior feed. They get oatmeal at night. You might have to change feeds to keep them interested in eating.”

8. Schedule dental care.

“The biggest key to proper nutrition in older horses is proper dental work,” Joe says.

“Horses’ teeth continue to erupt throughout their lives until they wear out. They’ll eventually run out of teeth.” The teeth wear unevenly, sometimes creating sharp points and jagged edges, making it impossible to chew, so proper dental work is crucial.

9. Perform frequent physical reproduction exams and semen evaluations.

“As your stallion ages, his fertility can decrease,” Carol says.

“You want to know the semen’s condition so you don’t overbook and can be prepared. It’s hard for people to understand and work around the limitations of an older stallion.”

Tune in Next Week with America's Horse Daily to read Studly Seniors Part 2 for the complete list of Tips for Keeping your Stallion Healthy and Productive into his Golden Years.