Any horse breeder knows that it's always a big debate whether to own your own stallion, or simply buy breedings to an outside stallion. The number of mares you want in foal seems to be the deciding factor, unless you're insane like I am, and are trying to revive an entire breed.
While stallions are just a horse, and not really any different then any other horse, they do require a bit of special thinking. You can never forget that your big boy is very much a BOY, and has a brain about on level with a 12 year old boy. Girls... girls..... junk food.... girls... video games.... get in fight with my buddy to see who's cooler, so we can impress the .... girls girls girls.
I am currently in the process of raising my first home bred stallion. That's him up there, my baby Scorch. All of the other boys I own (and yes, I have more then one stallion) I purchased or inherited as mature horses.
I have been working with Q to get him used to other boys. He's learned that playing over a fence line is pretty good, and will actually engage in mutual grooming. My next step is to see if he can be turned out with another stallion. Maybe a gelding herd? I'm working on finishing a paddock with enough room, gates, and exits to make this test. Until then, it will only be a theory, as I've been warned that he's fine over the fence, but aggressive when mingling. Also, all that pink skin of his, well, yeah, he sunburns. My small paddocks for single horses don't have trees, so he either has to be turned out at night, or in the run in pen. The run in pen is adjacent to the arena, so riding with a stallion showing off next to you... not exactly the most fun thing ever.
Normally Rico gets to play with his brother Scorch, and that keeps both boys happy and well socialized. The downside is that they only have a small paddock still, and so they get very little grazing and other "normal" horse activities to keep them happy and content. Rico has also been raised to be a very nicely mannered boy, but he is a bit more stubborn then his brother. When Scorch tries to talk to the girls in hand, I can simply say "unh uh!" and he's back to trying to impersonate a gelding. Rico, well, he has to try it twice. I wouldn't call him bad at ALL, but his big brother does make him look like a gawky second child. Ok, it's also true that I'm just in love with Scorch, but never mind that.
My point is, that all these boys are a handful! My mother has bursitis in her hip, and a torn tendon in her shoulder. In other words, there's no way she can handle a horse pulling or pushing on her with out suffering for days after. So, we've made the rule that she doesn't handle the stallions. Even the best boys tend to be a bit higher strung then a gelding or mare. The always hope that THIS time when you lead them out of their paddock, that it's breeding time. Never mind that they always breed in the same place, and have a special halter (or in Q's case a stud chain). They still HOPE. Some times that hope manifests as darting in a circle around me. Or, maybe it's trying to rear and scream their heads off.
Now, both Spot and Q suffered injuries when they were younger that have left them as barely riding sound. In Q's case, I think he could be restarted, but the "what if" gets to me. What if he steps wrong and fractures his stifle again. What if that old break can't take the weight of my not so skinny rump on him? What if he tries to be a show off under saddle like he is on the ground, and breaks something ELSE?
So here are 2 boys that can't be kept in pasture, and can't work as lesson horses (dur!) and only breed a few mares every so often. But they have to have individual paddocks, have no grazing so need hay to supplement that, and of course, their hormones run them into the ground every spring leaving me trying to just keep their weight on them!
Yes. Stallions like to run to impress the girls, and some won't even stop to eat. Notice the difference in weight in the 2 pictures above. He's shown in wraps only about 2 months after this lovely picture of him playing "pig boy" in the catch pens. As soon as breeding season is over, he goes back to eating, but while mares are in heat, he will NOT stop moving. He runs past the feed bucket, grabs a bit, and keeps going. I gave up on keeping round bales with him, as they'd rot before he would notice they existed. A few flakes of hay at meals he will grab and run though.
So yeah, it costs more to feed a mature breeding stallion. Probably double of what it costs to feed a lactating mare! Your other option of course, is to simply stall him so he can't run. But I can't bring myself to do that. I know that many horses live just fine spending most of their time in a stall or small paddock, and yet, it just doesn't seem right when I actually HAVE the room.
That's Scorch behind a 6 foot fence. Yes, he's 16.0 in that picture (and the pen is actually below the level of grass by about a foot... long story, and I didn't build it like that). And don't even THINK that something like T-posts and mesh will hold a stallion. Oh no, they are great at breaking fences! This pen Scorch is in has been rebuilt a few times. Once was because "O" simply walked through the gate at the back of it, breaking all the welds and much of the pipe on his way to flirt with a mare. Let me put that to you clearly: A stallion walked through a 3 inch metal pipe section of fence, and snapped it to bits while I watched. He never even acted like it was work.
So yeah, that gets to be pretty expensive after a while. Every thing for the boys has to be special built, extra tall, and extra strong. When they are draft and draft cross stallions, it needs to be even bigger and stronger! Needless to say, a lot of people find that it's cheaper to simply buy breedings because of this. And a lot of stables refuse to board stallions because of this.
But does that make them bad horses? Oh no! If you're willing to deal with all of that (and can afford it) then they are wonderful animals to have around. The problem I see most often is that people tend to think of horses like dogs. They think, but we had an intact male dog, and he wasn't a problem! Well no, but he weighed a fraction of what YOU do. A normal light horse stallions weighs almost 10 times what most of ladies would like to weigh, and a draft stallion is twice as big! If your personality isn't strong enough to stop that horse, your muscle sure won't!
So why have a stallion at all? Well, it seems like for many people it's a status thing. The whole "I CAN HANDLE IT" mentality. If you're breeding less then 4 horses a year though, it's cheaper for you to buy breedings. In order to have a stallion MAKE money, you need to do a few things.
First, ADVERTISE! Yes, that means spend money. You have to get the professional pictures, or try to do it yourself (that means buy the camera, learn to use it, and learn to edit those pictures). Then there's the videos. For boys like mine, that's a killer, since they both are lame rather often due to old injuries. I sure wouldn't try to sell them as being sound and fit either - that's just unethical! But, a quality video can cost over $200 (and usually more) and you'll need a new one every year. And then there's the ad space. Are you going to buy print ad space in magazines? Online ads? List your boy with one of the many horse for sale sites? That gets pricey pretty quickly. I mean, the guy above was listed on my local Craig's List. Does he just scream "bring your mare to ME" in your opinion?
Then there's the showing. In my opinion showing is another form of advertising. You are simply proving that your boy really IS good enough to keep his family jewels. Getting your horse ready to show can get really expensive really fast. Training for him, for you, and then show fees, show clothes (both human and horse) and travel expenses... while it's the best form of advertising, it's also one of the most expensive.
So, with all of that in mind, I often wonder why people think that their stallion is every going to make them money. Oh sure, SOME stallions do! But look at McQuay stables, and Gunner. How much money did they spend on him in order to make that kind of money on his breeding fees? How often do you see his image in magazines? Being local to the farm, I can also tell you that they have bill boards up advertising him and their farm. What does it even cost to have a bill board for a couple of years?
And yet, we need the stallions. If dedicated horse lovers weren't willing to put their money where their heart is how would we ever find quality stallions to cross our mares to? For most of us, it's a labour of love. For me, it's all about genetic diversity for the Sugarbush Draft Horses. I am almost past the stage of needing the Appaloosas (hence my sale) and I will not be maintaining another light stallion in the foreseeable future. For me, the work is to break even on the boys through foal sales.
But with all that said and done, stallions are not big evil fire breathing dragons!
Stallions need to be treated different then other horses to a point though. If you can keep them with other horses, then you should. Not all stallions can deal with that, and most stallion owners aren't willing to risk their investment on a possible accident. I mean, look at those boys in the mud! What if one had slipped? What if he broke a leg?
Sure, he's going to do some "boyish" things occasionally. As a stallion owner though, I have to set the rules, and I have to maintain the rules all the time. If I let him scream on the lead once, then he will try it every single time there after. Trying to "not make a scene" or ignore it is not going to work. Scorch will try to figure out why he got away with it once, and will try it every single time there after - because that's what stallions do! They call to the mares hoping to get a response. Breeding is their first instinct. The hormones are strong in this one (read in yoda voice).
But, if you're able to keep the rules the same, then they are wonderful. In many cases the concern over legal action or accidental foals results in a horse that is better mannered then most people's pets. A well handled stallion is usually very kind and friendly, and nothing to be afriad of. And yet I still hear people tell me that they were scared of stallions until they met Scorch. He is very good at changing people's minds like that.
For me, I allow mumbling while in hand, but not screaming (ok, I just hate screaming in my ear). I allow them to get "on the muscle" but not to prance or try to go faster then me. I allow any antics they want if they are loose and playing though, but add a human to the mix, and they are "working". I don't care if that means I'm picking up a bag that blew into their paddock, they are NOT allowed to kick at me, rear at me, bite at me, or other forms of "horse play". They know it, and so I have never had a problem.
Actually, I trust my stallions to behave better around people then I do most of my other horses. If it wasn't for the whole legal aspect of it, I would probably let more people handle them and actually interact with them. As it is, I don't keep them isolated, but I also make sure to have them up and out of the way before people arrive. It's extra work, but in the end....
THIS is the reason I own stallions. Not to make money. Not to become famous.
I own my stallions because I want to see the Sugarbush Draft Horse live again. Because it takes multiple generations to "breed up" to a Sugarbush Draft Horse, I need multiple generations of stallions, and their offspring. Spot and Quagga can produce foals that can cross back to other stallions, like Scorch or O. When those horses get old enough, then I will be gelding Spot and Q, and looking at a new generation of stallion, but that's still a ways in the future.