Keeping Stallions Keen for Their WorkBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 28, 2014
Top Thoroughbred stallions may cover as many as three mares a day during the peak months of the breeding season. When a stallion works this intensely, he may sometimes lose interest in breeding. Advancing age, fatigue, a need for more dietary energy, or other factors can also dull a horse’s interest in breeding.
During the breeding season, stallions may expend about the same amount of energy as performance horses in light to moderate exercise. Owners should base the diet on high-quality forage (grass or hay) at a level of about 1.5 to 2 percent of the horse’s body weight. If the stallion loses weight or shows decreased energy, the addition of energy-dense feeds, usually concentrated feeds, may be necessary to satisfy caloric requirements for the increased workload of breeding. This may be provided in several meals per day, as no single meal should weigh more than five pounds. The stallion’s diet can be reduced gradually when the breeding season ends, but should be built back up as the next season approaches.
Pain can be a deterrent to breeding interest. If a stallion has back, hock, or hoof discomfort, it may be painful for him to mount a mare or dummy. A veterinary examination can usually detect the source of the pain and suggest an effective treatment.
Well-fed and pain-free stallions may lose interest in breeding, and some tricks can be used to stimulate their desire to serve mares. While keeping to a routine is usually important to the stallion’s understanding of what he is supposed to do, small changes can sometimes keep him fresh. For instance, if he’s always in the stall, try a short turnout period every day. If he’s spending hours in the field, pacing the fence or verbally communicating with other horses, try keeping him in the stall where he may not run off so much energy. Putting the stallion in a paddock where he can watch mares arrive and prepare for breeding may rekindle his interest, as may allowing him to watch another stallion cover a mare. Moving the breeding site outdoors is a pleasant change for some stallions. If it’s possible for him to take a day or two off his breeding schedule, try keeping him in a stall at one end of the barn where arriving mares are housed during this time. For stallions that object to certain mares because of coat color or some other physical trait, try dimming the lights in the breeding shed and putting a sheet or light blanket on the mare when she is brought to the stallion.
Above all, realize that each stallion is an individual with his own personality and behavior. Feeding, exercise, and breeding plans must be developed in accordance with whatever keeps that stallion healthy and eager to do his job.