Selecting a Stallion
By: Dyan Westvang

Whether you are a breeder who produces scores of foals each year or a backyard breeder who would like to produce only one, the selection process to find a good match for the prospective mom should be taken with the same diligent seriousness. It takes the exact same amount of time, effort, money, and energy to produce an inferior foal as it does to produce a top quality foal.

In many circles you will hear it said that you can only produce as good as your mare or stallion. In my opinion that is a false statement! I EXPECT my mares and stallions to produce better than themselves. If they cannot do that, then either the match was not a good one, or the individual was not of breeding quality.

To get prepared to make the breeding choice the first thing to do is to get a notebook or tablet and KEEP IT WITH YOU at all times. Make notes in it as you come across thoughts or observations and then revue it each time you think you have made a choice.

When selecting a stallion to mate with your mare or mares, the first consideration should be what type of horse you wish to produce. Do you want an athlete with which you can game, cow pen, do ranch work etc? Or would you like a down the road horse better given to endeavors such as gaited dressage, arena work, trail riding and showing? Can you have both? With limitations yes! However conformationally the down the road horse will be more lean, have longer muscling, and often times be much taller than the more compact athlete.

To determine which type horse you are looking at…if you are inexperienced in this process, ask to see the stallion move either on a lunge line, under saddle or at speed in a round pen or arena. Does he transfer quickly from fox trot to canter? Does he come to a quick halt, roll back and canter or fox trot off again? Or does he lumber across the space, zig zagging or moving in an awkward way? Does he have difficulty breaking into a canter? Must he stop before he turns around?

Some of the very smoothest horses are not athletes in the sense of being able to turn quickly, stop and start fast, go smoothly from fox trot to canter and back. Some of the very smoothest horses are like gangly teenagers when asked to perform any type of quick changes in leads, gaits, direction…but they may well excel in having reach, style and a gliding motion geared for trail or show ring or other straight line work

Next one needs to consider the "Look" you want in a horse. Within limitations there is a range of body styles that can also be athletes or top quality down the road horses. Do you want a high headed horse? Do you want a long or shorter back. If you like to ride the lateral gaits such as stepping pace or rack the shape and style of the horse will be different from that of a square moving more stock horse type. Do you like heavy bone, or more refined look? What about a pretty head….? Do you like the Arab look or the chiseled look of a Saddlebred?

After you have made these choices it is time to take a very good ….LONG look at the mare or mares you wish to breed. It is sometimes very difficult for a person to be totally honest and critical of the horse they love so dearly. A good way to do this is to take clear pictures of the mare from all four sides. THEN, scan them into your computer and flip the image. If you do not own a computer hold the picture up to a mirror! It is amazing what this little trick can bring to light.

Record all your ideals for what your new foal is to be on you tablet. Then record all the weaknesses you see in your mare…BE HONEST and tough! The more critical you are at this stage the better.

Now look at the good qualities you wish to preserve in your mare. Write that down as well.

Things such as the desired color, size, sex etc can come into play right about now. Write down what you would ideally like your foal to be.. sometimes when it comes down to a hard decision between two likely stallions these bonus attributes may be just what is needed to tip the balance.

Things that really should not come into play when selecting a stallion are things such as: He lives in my neighborhood! I can get the breeding free or very cheap! … He is a pretty color! If we could eliminate those things from breeding circles we would go a very long way to improving the quality of stock in the breed.

So now you are nearly ready to begin your search for the stallion who will produce the foal of your dreams.

You will need to know whether the stallion you choose is available for Artificial Insemination and what those charges amount to on both the donating end and the receiving end. If you choose live cover, is it feasible to send your mare to the stallion?

These things need to be thought out and budgeted for far in advance of actually selecting the stallion you wish to use. Your budget will limit the choices of stallions so you need to know before the selection process begins how much you have available and are ready to spend.

So now you have taken time to make a budget, decided what type animal you wish to produce, chosen a style and desired color, and taken a good hard look at the mare…! You know what weaknesses your mare has that you do not wish to come through on your foal. You know what strong points in your mare you wish to reproduce. Now you are ready to begin .

Where do you begin to look? If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where there are many Fox Trotters, such as Missouri, Arkansas, and a few other states this is really not so much of a problem. If you live in areas along the coasts or far removed from the hub of the breed this can be a real challenge!

If you live out of the heart of Fox Trotter country you may like to start by contacting your local affiliate to see who in your state or general area has a stallion standing. If you do not have an affiliate or do not know the number…call AVA. They can give you the numbers.

You may also like to get a copy of the most recent Celebration Book which will contain many ads for stallions all around the country. Most of those ads also include photo's of the horse in question. One photo is not a good way to judge a horse, however. Some very quality horses are passed up because the person shooting the photographs was a poor photographer or took photos from a poor angle! Likewise a very good photographer can make some pretty miserable horses look pretty good! So only use the pictures in the catalogue as a general idea of the horse but request more photos from different angles in order to make the best assessment possible of what the true horse is.

Another way to learn where there are stallions available is to visit a few shows in the area. This is not an option in many places as of yet since the breed is only just now beginning to get national recognition.

You have now found a number of possible candidates. It is very beneficial to see photos or the live get of a stallion in order to ascertain just how prepotent he is. Does he pass along the characteristics you like in him? What sort of mares was he bred to?

Seriously look at each individual and use the same methods you did on your mare. Find all the weaknesses in the horse and mark them down in your notebook or tablet. Be sure to learn what sort of disposition the horse has as well as what his gait looks like. If possible get some video footage of the horse if you cannot go view him in person.

I particularly like to pay attention to the legs, heart girth, neck set and hip on a horse. I like joints that a large and flat, bone that is strong without being too drafty, a neck that sets in high enough to have style, yet low enough so the horse can work with it's head in the proper position and I like a good strong loin and hip for drive power. Huge bulging chests and bunching muscles are not of much use to a gaited horse. They need to have good muscling but long lean type muscles for flowing motion. Pay attention to the feet! Without feet, joints, legs you have no horse.

One pitfall to avoid is picking a stallion just because he's gorgeous. If he was going to duplicate himself that would be one thing but stallions rarely DO duplicate themselves because the mare provides half the genetic make up for the foal.

Instead of just seeking the most beautiful stud you can find, you need to look for a stallion that is strong where your mare is weak. You need to be very certain he does not share a weakness with the mare or you risk duplicating that weakness in the foal. Whether the horse is a beauty or not, if he has what it takes to make a great foal from YOUR mare that is the issue.

One other thing I like to check is a stallion's prepotency. By looking at a pedigree one can get a fair idea whether the stallion will be a prepotent breeder. Stallions that are line bred are far more likely to be consistent breeders than those who are not line bred.

If you like a stallion try to see some of his offspring. They will tell you whether he is consistent in what he can do. If they are all fairly similar there is a good chance you are looking at what you are going to get. If that is not a happy picture, move on to the next stallion!

Above all, take your time. Really do your research. The effort is worth while and will give you the best chance of producing a great foal!

Every foal born should look well bred. There are far too many dumpy, mediocre horses being bred in registries today and that is simply not acceptable nor necessary. Breed for the very best you can because that horse has to live with your decisions a lifetime!

© Copyright Dyan Westvang ~ All Rights Reserved~ No portion of this article may be reprinted or distributed electronically or by other means without the written consent of the author. Foxvangen Farm





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