Being a breeder, I have many opportunities each day to put my horsemanship skills to use with breeding stock. While I take my skills for granted, one of the horsemanship programs I study explicitly requires a higher level of skill for handling stallions and youngstock than that required for your average riding horse. I can certainly appreciate why. For my own safety as well as the safety of my ponies, I have found I have to be more perceptive about my ponies’ behavior, whether around the youthful exuberance of a foal or the hormone-driven energy of a stallion during breeding season.
My last post on the topic of horsemanship with breeding stock told of the strength of my mentor’s relationship with his breeding stock in public situations. As breeders, though, we spend much more time on more mundane tasks, and he told me of one such incident that only he and his ponies witnessed.
He was about to serve a mare with his stallion and had them both in an undercover open area. He had released the stallion so that the stallion could approach the mare when my mentor noticed that the mare was getting her halter caught on a gate latch, impairing her ability to move. Fearing for the safety of the mare given the movement typical of the breeding act, he realized he had to correct the situation. He moved to help the mare, and at the same time he told the stallion to return to his nearby stall. The stallion acknowledged the request by raising his head and looking at my mentor, but he didn’t move. My mentor told the stallion again to return to his stall, and the stallion complied. The stallion, though, wasn’t thoroughly convinced that this was the right decision and stuck his head out of the stall. My mentor told him to get back in the stall, and the stallion backed out of view. My mentor was then able to resolve the issue with the mare’s halter and then serve the mare with the stallion as previously planned.
I have personally had experience trailering my stallions with mares in heat without incident. And I have, after a fencing catastrophe, had to take a stallion off a mare he had mounted because the timing of the breeding wasn’t to my liking. I definitely wouldn’t recommend either of these activities to someone who didn’t have sufficient horsemanship skills. Once again I appreciate the horsemanship program that recommends higher skill levels when dealing with breeding stock. Most of my skills have come via on-the-job training, though, and I feel fortunate to have a mentor who can give me like-minded guidance when I need it.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012