Standing a stallion at stud while he’s actively competing can be a logistical challenge, but these breeders share tips to make it happen.

It makes sense to breed a stallion that’s a proven competitor. What better way to show the possibilities of his progeny than his own accolades in the arena? But it can be tricky to attempt breeding your stallion while he’s still competing. If this two-pronged approach is one you’d like to implement, you’ll want to adjust how your stallion is managed to make sure he can be at the top of his game in the arena and in the breeding shed.

Why Pull Double Duty?

Slick By Design is a 2007 black stallion by Designer Red and out of Dreams Of Blue by Dream On Dancer. He’s a three-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, an American Quarter Horse Association Junior Barrel Racing World Champion and EquiStat all-time leading stallion with earnings more than $643,000. His progeny have earned more than $850,000. Although he’s now retired from the barrel racing pen, while he was in the middle of this rigorous schedule his breeding schedule began picking up. Highpoint Performance Horses made the decision to incorporate breeding into his schedule to lay the foundation for his career post-competition.

Slick By Design is now retired, but he carried a full book of mares while heavily competing, thanks to careful management. Photo courtesy Highpoint Performance Horses.

“We didn’t want to not be breeding him, because we knew that would be his future,” owner Jason Martin said. “We just tried to balance it the best we could.” Martin says if you’re able to successfully balance both breeding and competition, it’s a win-win situation.

“The people who are breeding to your stud also want you out there promoting your stud to make their babies worth more money,” Martin said. “The mare owners we’ve had are really, really good—they worked with us—but we also have good semen, and frozen available.”

Highpoint also stands 2013 chestnut stallion Feel The Sting (Dash Ta Fame x MP Meter My Hay X PC Frenchmans Hayday). He has lifetime earnings more than $60,000, and he’s currently competing while standing at stud.

These stallions are pulling double duty—standing at stud while actively competing. These breeders share tips on how it's possible to manage.
Feel The Sting is campaigning at rodeos, but his collection schedule is left mostly uninterrupted. Photo courtesy Highpoint Performance Horses.

Freckles Ta Fame is a 2009 sorrel Dash Ta Fame son out of Frenchmans Freckles by Frenchmans Guy. He has earned more than $240,000 in competition, has qualified for RFD-TV’s The American Semifinals twice and the NFR once. The stallion has stood at Vista Equine Colorado for four years. He is currently competing, but Vista Equine Colorado co-owner Jake Dahl says his clients rely on frozen semen that has been collected during his lighter competition months.

“We have found that offering frozen semen is best for a stallion that has a full competition schedule,” Dahl said. “Some stallions, if you’re trying to collect him and then take him to a show, that doesn’t normally work very well. Especially when you’re opening a stallion’s book to the public, if you promise mare owners cooled semen, and then the horse has gone to a rodeo and you can’t get semen during that time, mare owners won’t like that very well at all.”

These stallions are pulling double duty—standing at stud while actively competing. These breeders share tips on how it's possible to manage.
Freckles Ta Fame serves mares with frozen semen, which allows him to focus on competition when needed and collection during slower times. Photo courtesy Vista Equine.

Work in Seasons

Slick By Design’s rodeo schedule would, at first glance, conflict with breeding season. But Highpoint worked around that schedule. Martin says during breeding season, rider Michele McLeod would take another horse with her to competitions during the week while “Slick” stayed at Highpoint or at nearby trainer Ron Ralls’ place. At home, he’d be kept in shape while still being brought to be collected three days a week.

These stallions are pulling double duty—standing at stud while actively competing. These breeders share tips on how it's possible to manage.
Competing while also standing at stud served Slick By Design well— he’s a three-time NFR qualifier and AQHA world champion with more than $643,000 in earnings and offspring earnings of more than $850,000. Photo by Kenneth Springer

Each year, Slick was collected on this schedule up until June 1, when he’d hit the road for competition full time. Clients breeding after that point could use frozen semen.

Frozen semen was helpful as a backup, too, says Martin.

“We didn’t have to do that a lot [if a client had booked for fresh or cooled], but for instance if he was running at RodeoHouston [in March] for a week, those clients would have to use frozen semen or cooled semen,” Martin said. “We’re fortunate, because Slick has really good semen.”

Feel The Sting competed in futurities and derbies with Ryann Pedone and has started going to some rodeos. He has a full breeding book, so during breeding season Pedone will haul him and several other horses over to Highpoint the morning of collection day, and they’ll be settled into stalls before being collected.

For the most part, Feel The Sting goes to rodeos somewhat close to home, so his collection schedule is uninterrupted during breeding season.

These stallions are pulling double duty—standing at stud while actively competing. These breeders share tips on how it's possible to manage.
Freckles Ta Fame has earned more than $240,000 in competition and has stood at stud at Vista Equine Colorado for four years. Photo by Kenneth Springer

Freckles Ta Fame’s rider Shali Lord, owners Joe and Carla Spitz, and Dahl block out a schedule of at least a month at a time when he’s off from com- peting to keep him at the breeding facility to build a store of frozen semen. They give him buffer time of about a week after competition to decompress before collection.

“Stress and reproduction don’t go hand-in-hand,” Dahl said. “If a horse is stressed, reproduction is the first thing to go.”

While “Can Man” is at Vista Equine, he receives regular exercise to stay in shape but not at the highest level of fitness like he is during his rodeo schedule. He’s collected three time a week—Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dahl says the stallion’s team works out an estimate of how many doses will be needed to fulfill his breeding contracts and then collects to match that amount.

“The last thing I want to do is have to pull him out of his rodeo schedule to come back to collect more for frozen semen,” Dahl said. “I want him to go out there and do his job and have the best possibility of success, but at the same time we need to make sure we have enough fro- zen semen for the clients who are wanting to breed to him as well.”

Create Routines to Separate His Jobs

A stallion with a good mind is better suited to working the arena and breeding shed. For Slick, Martin’s crew kept him on a set schedule. He’d stay at Ron Ralls’ place, for example, and then breed at Highpoint on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Highpoint staff would pick him up to return to the ranch overnight Sunday night. He would be collected that morning and sent back to Ralls.

“Our goal was to never have him be in a trailer hauled to the ranch and collected on the same day,” Martin said. “We didn’t want him to think that getting in the trailer had anything to do with being collected. That way he won’t get in a trailer to go to a rodeo and think he’s going somewhere to be collected and get worked up.”

While doing double duty, Slick’s rider Michele McLeod’s work with the horse was also completely separate from his breeding routine.

Differentiating your stallion’s routine between breeding and competition can help him know his job. These experts use different trailers for the two tasks. Photo by Abigail Boatwright

“He knew when he was with her that he was never going to the breeding barn,” Martin said. “When he went to the breeding barn, we’d put a chain in his mouth with his halter. But he didn’t have that chain when he was with Michele. He is pretty darn good-minded, and as long as he was with Michele he didn’t need that chain. You could get him out of the stall and just work with him.”

Separating competition time from breeding time has been helpful to keep Freckles Ta Fame focused on his jobs, says Dahl.

“Freckles Ta Fame is a good stallion—he knows his job here at the breeding farm, and he knows his job at the rodeo,” Dahl said.

To facilitate this separation, Freckles Ta Fame travels in a different trailer to rodeos than when he’s going to the breeding facility. He has a different halter and lead rope as well, which are cues to tell him which job he’ll be expected to do.

“If he is wearing his leather halter, he knows he’s going to the collection shed,” Dahl said. “If he’s wearing a nylon or rope halter, he’s going to compete. Simple things like this are enough to make stallions realize, ‘OK, I need to put this hat on to do this job.’”

These breeding managers say communicating about the possibility of using frozen semen with mare owners is crucial to a successful business arrangement. Photo by Abigail Boatwright

Care is Crucial

Slick’s nutrition is top-notch and was especially critical during his competition and breeding days. Martin says his diet stayed the same throughout the year. He received regular exercise while at Ron Ralls’ training facility during breeding season.

Feel The Sting’s nutrition does not vary between competition and breeding seasons.

Freckles Ta Fame’s diet stays the same as directed by his owner and trainer during breeding and during competition.

“We don’t want him getting too fat, so we have to balance his diet with his exercise level,” Dahl said. “If he’s getting too heavy, we may need to back off a little on his feed. We keep an eye on his nutrition day-to-day and adjust as needed.”

At Vista Equine, Freckles Ta Fame gets hot walker exercise about half an hour every day and stays in a stall connected to a run the rest of the time.

Advice

Part of why Slick’s double-duty schedule was possible is his breeding contract, which allowed Highpoint to use frozen semen if fresh or cooled was unavailable.

“I think it’s really important when you take a mare owner’s money that you have semen available,” Martin said. “If your stallion is going to be away at a rodeo, you need to have frozen semen available and have it written in your contract that if he’s gone, you can use that frozen semen. Transparency is a big thing.”

Mare owners understand they’ll be receiving frozen semen from Freckles Ta Fame, but good quality semen is important for this to be a successful strategy, says Dahl.

“His conception rates on frozen semen are exceptional, so this works very well with him,” Dahl said. “If you have a stallion that doesn’t freeze semen as well or doesn’t have as good of conception rates, then you may have to look at another plan.”

Dahl says communication is the reason Freckles Ta Fame has been successful in both jobs.

“The trainer and owner understand what we need for breeding and we understand what they need, so it makes for a good relationship,” Dahl said. “If you want to make this work with your stallion, you really need to have good communication between those three parties.”

Dahl says mare owners should research a stallion’s conception rates prior to booking a stallion that is currently competing, particularly if you’ll be using frozen semen. You’ll want to know if he’ll be available year-round or during certain seasons. If you’re using frozen semen, make sure your mare’s veterinarian is comfortable breeding with frozen semen.

“It’s not a bad idea to have your veterinarian call the stallion’s farm and ask about pregnancy rates and what’s necessary to give them the best chance to get a mare in foal,” Dahl said. “Communication is very, very important.”


This article was originally published in the January 2020 issue of Barrel Horse News.

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