Horse Problems: Controlling a Stallion Around Mares

Many people want to keep a stallion for his bloodlines but also want to ride and/or compete with the same horse. That becomes a problem if your stallion becomes unruly around other horses. Untrained stallions begin to snort, fight your control, walk on eggshells, and generally become out of control in an effort to approach another horse. Given no restraint, they can hurt their rider, other riders, or get other people and horses hurt.

Not all beautiful boy horses should become breeding stallions. The vast majority, although loved and cherished by their owners, contribute nothing important to the gene pool (in fact might be adding detrimental genes). Unless you are an EXPERT geneticist AND an EXPERT stallion handler, a stallion can be a HUGE LIABILITY. Think in through carefully. It’s expensive. It’s a huge amount of work. It can be very dangerous! (I personally know a woman -a wonderful horsewoman – who had her arm actually bitten off by a stallion she had owned for many years). All of that for a couple of colts that look like Daddy.

If you really want a riding and competing horse, GELD him.

This is a good time to understand natural, wild horse behavior. What keeps a stallion in line in a wild herd? There is no human being there to teach him restraint. He learns to control himself.

In a wild situation, a stallion may approach a mare. However, mares who are not in season or who are already in foal don’t want to be pestered by a stallion. Therefore he is told in no uncertain terms by the mare if she is not ready for breeding. Her ears go back, she swings to bite, and she will ultimately double-barrel kick him if he persists. After experiencing this a few times, any stallion worth his salt will approach respectfully, notice the warning signs, and find a safe distance where he can watch, and even interact with the mares but stay away from non-receptive partners.

Stallions who are raised with other horses as youngsters learn a lot about horse etiquette during their formative years. If they live with geldings, a pecking order is established. If they live with mares, they take instruction from them.

The key to training your stallion how to remain respectful and under your control when you are both around other horses lies in giving him the deterrence training in a controlled situation – a situation you set up in your time, your space, and under your control.

Set up the scenario and be prepared to demonstrate to him what happens when he approaches another horse in a “studdy” way.

Gather two or three helpers with mares (not in season). The idea is for someone to remain on the ground with a handy stick or whip with a flag on the end. You mount your stallion. The other handlers stand around the arena holding their mares on lead ropes. (This should be done with people with some horse savvy. And you should be a good enough rider to handle your horse when he is threatened with the stick while in an adrenalized state.)

The ground trainer will stand near one of the mares while you allow your horse to approach that mare. If he approaches respectfully and if you can turn him away from her easily, he is under control. If, on the other hand, he becomes “snorty”, “dancy” and/or out of control, you have the situation ready.

When he approaches the mare, your only job is to stay on him. We want him to make a decision on his own that approaching her is not a good idea. The ground trainer must waive the stick at your horse’s head and neck to waive him off of the mare. A determined stallion will resist: First by refusing to move away, at which point the ground trainer raises the ante to more forceful pressure to tell him to leave. The pressure is raised until he actually turns away. That might take several attempts while he tries to find a way around the stick and flag instead of leaving the vicinity.

The ground trainer must understand what he is doing. He is acting as the mare’s surrogate – telling your stallion, “Not today, Bud”. He should be watching your horse’s reactions – his body language shown by his ears, his posture, the rigidity of his body as he resists.

When your boy leaves to a respectful distance and stands there for a few seconds, let him relax there with a rub on his neck to tell him that his calm stand is the correct response. Remember, he has just found out that approaching the mare was not a good idea. Now let’s give him a nice, calm rest to contrast the two behaviors. Approach: BAD! Stay respectfully distant: GOOD!

If he decides to try again, don’t hold him back. He must be allowed to make the mistake of approaching in an un-gentlemanly manner again to reap the consequences again. You will probably have to repeat this whole procedure several times. It will take 15 minutes or more before he walks away and stands calmly for several minutes. And that is just one mare in one place.

Now the training must be generalized to the other mares until you feel him take control of his own urges and approach other horses in a respectful manner as a matter of course.

You may also have to repeat this procedure in some way in another area such as a pasture, or another arena with other horses. It takes some time for him to understand that under no circumstances, when there is a rider on his back, shall he make a hormone-induced, impulsive move. He wouldn’t do it in the pasture, and he can’t do it when he is with you.

A couple of other considerations
Stallions crave the contact of other horses as much as any horse, so keeping them in perpetual isolation only drives them to more and more desperate behavior. Stallions should be raised with other horses where they learn to be polite or meet the other end of another horse. It is good if they can be kept with other horses throughout their life. A nice older gelding is often the best choice.

It is a good idea for your horse to get used to breeding (or being collected) in only one place where only that activity takes place. It is easier for him to decipher when it is or is not appropriate if he has place-specific clues. And he should be allowed to meet and greet the mares in a safe environment if at all possible. In my humble opinion, pasture breeding is always the best. A natural herd. A natural cycle. Plenty of exercise and natural horse behavior. Or AI will be just fine: no stallion, no mare, no problem.

Not all beautiful boy horses should become breeding stallions. The vast majority, although loved and cherished by their owners, contribute nothing important to the gene pool (in fact might be adding detrimental genes) to the breed. Unless you are an expert geneticist AND an EXPERT stallion handler, a stallion can be a HUGE liability. Think in through carefully. It’s expensive. It’s a huge amount of work. It can be dangerous. All of that for a couple of colts that look like Daddy.

Stallions can be gelded as early as 10 days old. Ask Pat Perelli, who gelds all of his colts at that early age with NO detrimental affects to development. If you really want a riding and competing horse, GELD him.

Horse training can be dangerous. Not all methods work on all horses. Instruction presented here is not meant to be prescriptive in nature, and Horse-Pros.com takes no responsibility for the welfare of any animal or person using our methods.

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