I'm in the process of drawing up a shortlist of stallions to go and see so I can check out them, their progeny, the yard and the people before a final decision and was wondering on two things:
1. What is best - in-hand or in-field covering? My mare is 16.1hh Irish sports horse and I'll be putting her to a welsh stallion who will be between 15 - 16hh depending on which I choose. She's a sweet mare with a kind temperament but doesn't stand up for herself so gets caught in the cross fire between other more dominant mares.
2. What questions should I ask of the stallion in terms of safety? For example, my mare has had the clitoral swab and EVA blood test - should I be expecting those from the stallion too, how long before breeding should those tests have been done to make sure they're current; what about his fertility rates; how good/gentle he is with mares (mine has had AI before but technically a maiden for the actual act itself).
Emma: I am not sure where you are located, or what stallion owners normally do there, but here in my area there is no pasture or in hand breeding done at all. Its always risky to have two horses mate, theres risk of biting, injuries to the stallion by a mare that may kick him and possibly break a leg or neck, and theres always the chance a stallion could be overly agressive with a mare with tragic consequences.... I have a stallion that was trained to collect for AI at the age of 2. He was trained in one session and collected on the next session and my mare AI'd that afternoon. Personally I would never pasture breed my mare or my stallion for no other reason than injury to one or the other, or both.
As far as what questions to ask... I would want to know what kind of samples he is producing, how many mils, what the motility is (% of live versus nonmoving sperm) and also a quality test so you would know the motility after one day, two days, three days... etc. that way you would know when your mare needs to be bred based on ultrasounding her for a good follicle and how long the sperm would live once bred.
I think its a great idea to go see each stallion, visit the facility where he is kept, how he is worked and handled, his temperment so you will know what kind of disposition his foals may have, and also take a look at what is on the ground already, how they act, look for any genetic flaws on his foals, conformation issues, etc.
Many now innoculate for EVA, check the stallion breeding contract to see what the owners expect from the mare owners... if theres not much required, then be wary if you are pasture breeding as the stallion may have been exposed to disease or virus from past live breedings (another reason I only offer AI to mare owners)
You can also check other stallion breeding contracts.. many are available to look at on the websites of the stallions. They should disclose whether the stallions are vaccinated, whether they have fresh coggins pulled each year etc. I would not breed to any stallion that did not seem to me to be up to date on care, wormings, shots, farrier, you name it. The fussier the stallion owner, the better in my opinion.
In my area there is not usually an option for A.I. since almost all of the breeders use live coverage. If you are going to use live cover, I will tell you that my family bred paints for all of my life, and have tried both in field, and in- hand covers. If you were trying to breed a large herd then it might be more expedient to allow field coverage, so you should check with the stallion owners. They may offer only this kind of exposure if they are very busy, or do not feel comfortable with hand- breeding. I will not say that ALL field- covering stallions are aggressive, but I have heard of stallions that were "too aggressive to hand breed". In that case, I do not want my mares exposed to this! In my experience, field breedings tend to be more likely to cause a mare distress and/ or injury, especially for mares who are non- dominant. Unless there are compelling reasons, we prefer in hand coverage. As for vaccinations,etc. I think a good rule is to select a stallion who is as well tested and/ or vaccinated as your mare. I prefer all of his tests to be 6 months, but no more than a year if possible. I hope this helps!
Thanks both, I think I will go for in-hand and I definitely want a nice stallion who isn't aggressive with the mare. Will probably take a trip out to see them this coming week or next ...
I agree Debbie - the owners are as important in the equation as the stallion and will definitely be picky and try not to be blinded by a gorgeous looking stallion!
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