A vet’s guide to choosing a stallion

By: Horse Deals

A vet’s guide to choosing a stallion

Expert advice on choosing a stallion from Horse Deals’ vet Ed Lyall BVetMed CertEM(StudMed) MR...

Natural v AI

The use of artificial insemination with chilled or frozen semen means there are so many stallions in the UK, Europe and worldwide to choose from.

No longer do you have to use the stallion closest to the mare and serve her naturally, the semen can be shipped from anywhere in the world by courier.  The details of stallions are published in various equestrian magazines or on the internet, often stallions are shown off at stud open days or stallion shows.  This can make choosing a stallion for your mare easier as the information is readily available, or it can make it harder as there are so many stallions to choose from you end up being spoilt for choice.

Temperament and type

When choosing a stallion there are lots of attributes of the stallion that you need to think about such as temperament, conformation, type, colour and ability, but firstly you need to think about your mare and what type of offspring you are trying to produce and for which discipline you intend it to be used.

Look at the good and bad points of your mare, such as her conformation, size, type and temperament.  See what you like and what you don’t like so that you can choose a stallion with attributes that could possibly counteract the faults, for example if your mare has a very straight hock conformation you would want to choose a stallion with good angulation through the hock in the hope that at least the foal might end up half way between the two.

Conversely, if your mare has an exceptionally good characteristic you might take a risk on a stallion who is poor in that area, but has other attributes that you like, for example if your mare has super temperament and the stallion is known to be a bit quirky but has fantastic conformation and ability you may take a risk and use him.

Many people say that the mare is more important than the stallion as she genetically provides more of the offspring’s characteristics and ability.

How important is pedigree?

To many people the pedigree of the stallion is very important, especially when it comes to selling young stock, a named fashionable stallion as a sire may make the youngster more attractive to a purchaser.

Also, the stud book that the stallion is registered with or licensed to produce foals for can be important.  Most stallions are now graded or assessed for suitability for use as breeding stallions by the stud book.

These gradings are important to prevent the use of stallions of poor conformation and ability being used for breeding, but also prior to grading the stallions undergo a veterinary examination, that may include X-rays, to make sure they do not have congenital problems such as simple things like a parrot mouth or OCD, that can be passed on to the foals.

The different stud books have different protocols for grading, as such some are more strict than others.  The results of the gradings are published as scores for things like conformation, gait, jump, rideability etc.  These scores can be very useful when choosing your stallion, if your mare has a poor walk for example,  choose a stallion with a high score for his walk.

If an ungraded stallion is used then it may be difficult to get a covering certificate for your mare and then you will not be able to get a passport with the pedigree of the foal in it.

The stud books on the continent look at the foals that the stallions are producing and report on their type and quality, again this information is published and can be helpful in choosing the stallion.

Personal preference

Interestingly, Thoroughbred stallions for racing do not go through any grading process before becoming breeding stallions, if they are good on the track people will take a risk on things like temperament and conformation.

The fact that most sport horse stallions are graded means that you should not be caught out using a stallion that you have not seen directly, it should not have some horrible conformational fault or very poor temperament.

This means you are then free to choose from the pedigree, size, type (whether it is a blood type or not), colour etc without having to worry.  The choice of stallion boils down to personal preference a lot of the time.

Once you have narrowed down your choice it is worth talking to other breeders and vets about their experiences with the fertility of the stallions and the quality of the offspring they are producing.  Stallions do vary in their fertility and a lot of time and expense can be wasted, not to mention the disappointment, using a stallion of poor fertility.

When buying semen from stallions not based in the UK, it is advisable to do this through an agent as they will check and make sure that the stallions have the correct health status to allow their semen to be imported into the UK and that the semen arrives with the appropriate paperwork.

Agents can be very helpful in making your choice as many of them go and see the stallions in the flesh and know in detail about their good and bad points, they will also have information, based on experience of the stallions fertility.