For some stallion owners, it seems the sun, moon, and stars all need to be perfectly aligned to successfully turn a stallion from a champion athlete into a champion stud. Thankfully, this is not necessarily true, and owners or handlers can take several reasonable steps to ensure a smooth and successful transition from athletic to breeding performance.
“The keys to success are to understand both the physical and behavioral demands on the horse and ways that we can help stallions overcome these challenges when transitioning from competition to breeding,” explained Steve Brinsko, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, professor and associate department head for academic programs at Texas A&M University’s Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.
He noted time and patience are essential factors when breeding a retired athlete or a stallion in competition.
“When breeding a retired athlete, such as a Thoroughbred racehorse, the novice stallion should arrive at the new facility at least 90 days before breeding,” Brinsko advised. “This will allow the horse to become familiar and comfortable in his new environment and will provide time for stress and performance-enhancing drugs to cease exerting their adverse effects.”
He also recommended owners take time to teach the novice stallion that it is now acceptable to demonstrate normal breeding behavior.
“During their athletic career stallions are frequently reprimanded for demonstrating sexual interest in a mare,” he explained. “When they transition to breeding, these horses need time and positive reinforcement to remind them that they are in fact stallions and that exhibiting normal sexual behavior is now permissible.”
For breeding stallions still involved in competition, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring they do not lose their athletic focus.
“In these cases the stallions need to be taught to differentiate between their athletic and breeding environments,” said Brinsko. “Instituting and adhering to structured routines, which help differentiate between competition and breeding, are integral for maintaining a successful dual-purpose stallion.”