By Breanne Hill
Pedigree. Intelligence. Good looks. Athletic ability. Does your stallion have it all?
Many horse owners dream of one day having a stallion who not only possesses the above characteristics, but who can pass these characteristics along to his get. After all, a sought-after sire can put money in the bank and may even make a ranch, a brand or an owner legendary in the industry.
For barrel racing stallions, however, the prospect of a lucrative breeding career may bring with it some unique complications. Unlike his cousins in other sports, such as cutting and reining, a barrel-racing stallion isn’t necessarily going to be retired early just to be a full-time breeding machine. Barrel horses often have long careers that last well into their teens, and even their twenties, and this can leave owners who want to keep racing a stallion, but who are reluctant to hold off on starting his breeding career, in a quandary.
The good news is, if you’re considering going this route with your horse, finding a balance between a racing career and a breeding career doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds.
We surveyed six well-respected breeders in the barrel racing industry, asking them to share their personal experiences of racing and breeding their great stallions. What they have to say may surprise you, or it may leave you scratching your head and asking, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Treasure State Quarterhorses
Owners: Todd and Una Ford
Location: Chinook, Mont.
Stallions: PC Mr Sun Peppy, Perks Status Symbol and Paddys Shota Merada
When have you had to balance and stallion’s racing and breeding career?
PC Mr Sun Peppy was a futurity horse. He ran the spring futurities of 2001, came home to breed in May and June, and then went back to the fall futurities and ran.
We bred Perks Status Symbol in March and April of 2008 as a 4 year old, and then he went and ran in late summer and fall. He will be doing the same thing in the summer and fall of 2009.
Have you found it difficult to breed and race your stallions in the same time frame?
With all of our stallions, it really didn’t affect them a whole lot. It took PC Mr Sun Peppy one or two futurities to get his mind back where it belonged [after breeding]. With “Paddy,” it didn’t affect him at all.
We take some precautions [with the stallions] that I think help. Specific handlers, manners on the ground around other horses, having mares “ready” when it comes time to bring the stallions home for breeding, routines with the stallions, specific areas we breed, etc.
Elaborate on the steps you take to keep your stallions from acting like they’re in the breeding barn when they’re at a race.
With Perks and Paddy, we had one specific handler during hand breedings or AI [artificial insemination]. We breed in one specific area. We use kind of an “aid,” I guess you would call it, with both stallions. We put a towel around their muzzles every time we breed them. The towel goes on as soon as we halter them so they can distinguish between being haltered and led to breed and just being haltered and led, say, to be saddled.
Those little things here and there help create routines for a stud.
PC Mr Sun Peppy was pasture bred, so [we didn’t have to do] so much with him. However, out of the pasture, we were very careful to keep his mind and attitude focused on the task at hand through communication. Once haltered and out of “his” field, he was expected to behave or be reprimanded.
What health precautions do you use to keep your stallions in tip-top shape while breeding and racing?
A mineral/grain ration (supplement) is given to the stallions basically the entire year.
When do you think it’s best to retire a stallion to breed him, rather than continue to race?
If you can afford to keep them going, if they like it, I think it gives them a job. If retiring them means having them in a stall most of their life, I bet they would be more than happy to keep competing.
Words of wisdom: The most important thing [in this situation] is routine. When breeding, try to do the same thing every time and, if you can, in the same place with the same handler. When you’re away from that routine, be precise in your communication, and they catch on really quick.
TimberHaze Quarter Horses
Owner: Ron Hansen
Location: Mapleton, Minn.
Stallion: Firewater On Ice
What stallions have you bred and raced at the same time?
Firewater On Ice and Bobbiesdashtafame. Firewater On Ice in 2001–2002, and Bobbiesdashtafame [had] limited showing in 2006.
Was it difficult to breed and race them in the same time period?
There was never an issue. When our stallions were being ridden, they knew they had a different job to do—and they liked having a job.
What steps did you take to keep them from acting like they were in the breeding barn when they were at a race?
Firewater On Ice was socialized at an early age, and he was always hauled with a lot of mares. It became second nature to him.
He was also hauled to a lot of arenas were he had to stand tied next to a variety of other horses for the duration of the day/show. In many cases, people did not know he was a stallion.
What precautions did you use to keep your stallions in shape while they were breeding?
We treated him like any other horse/performance athlete. Treating him like a normal horse was essential to his social skills.
We never told him he was a stallion, and he never had to remind us he was one.
What is the most important thing to remember when you’re standing a stallion who is still an active competitor?
There are a variety of things from proper conduct and courtesy at a competition, to looking out for your investment when you have a lot at stake, such as running on good ground and taking overall good care of your investment.
When do you think it is better to retire a stallion and breed him, rather than continue to race?
I think [everyone] will have a different answer here. Many people will say there is no need to haul them if they have a good earning record, but I do not believe there is a right or wrong answer.
If the horse is competitive and winning to your expectation, then I believe there is no early expiration date.
Words of wisdom: I would say that if you intend to compete on a stallion, start socialization skills early and spend that time to make them the best they can be. If the stallion is confined for long period and never gets any socialization, you will make the experience more difficult.
I would also contend that if you are able to limit breeding to artificial insemination versus live cover, it will make a big difference in behavioral characteristics at home and at the show.
Jud Little Quarter Horses
Owner: Jud Little
Location: Ardmore, Okla.
Standing Stallions: Brownie Jones, Bug In My Frosty, Bestcreditmesunfrost, No Mas Corona, Bugemforcash, Hes Downrite Special, Doc O Mister Hawk
What stallions have you bred and raced at the same time?
Hes Downrite Special in 2005, Bug In My Frosty in 2005 and Bugemforcash in 2005.
Did you have any difficulty breeding and racing your stallions during the same time period?
The only difficulty was in the logistics of having the stallion at a location to be collected when needed.
How did having a breeding career at home affect your stallions’ behavior on the road?
It did not affect their behavior because they were broke. They maintained a normal routine as they would while not breeding.
Why do you think it might be important for a stallion to continue to race during his breeding career?
If he wins, you will sell more breedings.
Words of wisdom: Retire [your stallion] after his futurity or derby year when he has proven that he can run. The most important thing about all horses, and especially stallions, is that they are broke well from day one, so that you can do whatever you want with them.
Myers Performance Horses
Owner: Debbie Myers
Location: St. Onge, S.D.
Standing Stallions: Frenchmans Guy, Hot Colours, World Speed, Sky High Guy, A Smooth Guy
What stallions have you bred and barrel raced at the same time?
Did you find it difficult or easy to have your stallion breeding and showing during the same time period?
Frenchmans Guy was really easy to haul. We hauled him with geldings and mares, and he was well mannered.
Hauling a stallion is a challenge in the fact that you need to make arrangements when you are on the road to make sure you have the proper stalling arrangements.
Also, when parked at the rodeos, we always tried to park a little away from the other trailers, so someone did not tie up a mare that was cycling next to our stud.
Since Frenchmans Guy does not have a right eye, I found that to be more of a bother than the fact that he is a stud. He did not mind anyone riding beside him, whether they were on a mare or gelding did not matter—as long as they were on his left side where he could see them.
When I hauled him as an 8 year old, he was starting to get a lot of mares [bred] to him. We were live covering at that time, so I would breed a mare in the morning before I left, go to the event, drive back home and breed another mare, get up in the morning, breed a mare and go to another rodeo.
Needless to say, it was hard to find traveling partners because of all the backtracking.
Did his breeding career at home ever affect his behavior on the road?
Frenchmans Guy loved to go down the road. He liked being around the people, horses and the action.
I give my husband all the credit for having taught “Guy” his manners when he was young. He is well-mannered in the breeding shed as well. He does not like to get into trouble, so if he knows what is expected of him he tries to please.
He knew that when he was at a competition, he was to focus on that and not the mares around him.
Was his health ever affected by maintaining both a breeding and showing schedule?
I can’t say that his health was affected, but we did have trouble with him getting sore in his back the year I hauled him a lot and also live covered a lot of mares. This situation caused us to miss the WPRA Badland Circuit Finals, as well as all my finals in the Amateur Rodeo Associations.
We were never sure if we should blame the soreness on the barrel racing or the breeding, but it was probably caused by the combination of both the competing and breeding.
After this happened, we and our vet thought it would be best for his breeding future if we backed off the rodeo schedule.
What other health precautions did you take to protect him while he was breeding and racing?
We always kept Frenchmans Guy current on his vaccinations, worming, etc. We feed Woody’s Feed to all our stallions, broodmares and sale horses. His Summer Heat formula is the best for horses we are hauling and getting ready for our sale.
While competing and breeding Frenchmans Guy, his exercise program consisted of mostly pasture riding. My husband also did some roping on him here at home.
When do you think it’s best to retire a stud instead of continue to race and breed him?
If your goal is to compete on your stallion to get him promoted in a certain sport, and you have accomplished that, then I feel you could retire him.
We currently have a young stud [Sky High Guy] who is 5 years old, who has never been bred, as we were wanting to promote him in the barrel racing industry before we stood him to the public. We just recently took him to the Oklahoma City World Barrel Racing Championship where he won the $25,000 Future Fortunes Round, as well as qualified for the Futurity finals. We had promoted him during the 2008 futurity year, and his earnings are now over $50,000, so we feel he has proven himself as stud material, and we will stand him for his first season in 2009.
That is our decision, however. There may be other stud owners who would choose to go on with him and continue to campaign him in the following years.
Words of wisdom: The most important thing is, of course, to keep your stallion safe. Also, make sure you have him on a good feed program.
Nichols Quarter Horses
Owner: Kenny Nichols
Location: Waco, Texas
Standing Stallions: Frenchmans Fabulous, First Down Leaving and Triple Drifter KN
What stallions have you bred and raced at the same time?
Frenchmans Fabulous in 2004 and 2005.
Did you find it difficult to breed and race your stallion in the same time period?
With young studs before they’ve started a breeding career, it’s easy, but once you start breeding, it is hard to get 150 percent out of them every run you make during breeding season.
When [Frenchmans Fabulous] was 6 years old, he fell into the typical category— competed great at the first of the breeding season, but once he began breeding, he was running sometimes with other things on his mind. But when we went back to using him after breeding season, you would never have known he was a stud.
Did breeding affect his behavior at competitions?
His behavior was fine at competitions. You never know he was a stud as far as behavior went. He would prick up his ears and be aware of mares showing heat, but was never unruly.
We made sure we kept roping and doing other things besides just running barrels, and that kept him occupied.
Was his health ever affected by breeding and showing during the same time period?
No, no health issues. Too many studs are allowed to get too fat and out of shape once they start breeding. Riding keeps their backs in shape, their bodies toned and their minds great.
What other steps did you take to keep your stallion in shape while he was breeding?
Most studs are usually good eaters, and “Fab” fits right into that category. Good quality alfalfa hay with some grain is usually all they need. I also add some additional coastal hay to make sure he gets additional roughage to chew on while being stalled up.
Keeping up the vaccinations is a must. Remember, it takes 60 days for a stud to produce semen. Have them in shape prior to the start of breeding season (that includes vaccinations). This will make sure you have good quality semen and will keep breeding season from pulling the stud down. Sometimes it is hard to put weight on them during the peak of breeding season.
When do you think is the best time to retire a stallion?
The horse will tell you that. As they get older, some studs get sore when running due to their testicles maturing and growing in size.
We always keep riding them, but stop hauling them when we want to haul their offspring.
Words of wisdom: Keeping a stallion healthy affects his semen quality. We have never had a problem with Fab, but some studs may not do well when not attended.
A stallion may not be for everyone. Put in a lot of time and thought before standing a stud to the public. Just a few items to consider: training a stud to the [collection] dummy, live cover, checking semen quality, shipping, liability for outside mares, promotion/advertising costs, stallion incentive cost/fees and the list goes on.
I was raised in the horse industry, and I love to raise the babies. When foaling season starts, it makes all of this fun and enjoyable, but remember the work is just getting ready to start. Make sure you have the time to put into it, so you get to enjoy what you are doing.
Walz Performance Horses
Owner: Sonya Walz
Location: Ainsworth, Neb.
Standing Stallions: Ima Firefighter and Sweep The Leg Johnny
What stallions have you bred and barrel raced at the same time?
Ima Firefighter’s first year at stud was last year, and he was in barrel and rope training here at the same time. We also hauled him to some jackpots and rodeos during the breeding season. After breeding season, he was hauled throughout the summer. He will be getting ridden and hauled some this year during breeding season as well.
Have you had any difficulties breeding and showing him at the same time?
Competing with Ima Firefighter during breeding season isn’t difficult. He knows the difference between the breeding shed and other circumstances. He is very well behaved. I think we are very fortunate in this aspect because many stallions do not have the mentality to keep their hormones under control.
We keep our stallions here and haul them to the vet’s for collection, so that they can be ridden during the week and hauled on the weekends. So the difficult part is working our schedules around the breeding schedules because clients come first!
What steps did you take to keep “breeding behavior” from affecting him at competitions?
We are very strict about only letting him act like a breeding stallion at the vet’s breeding shed. Before being taken into the breeding area, he gets his breeding halter, which has a chain. He never has a chain otherwise. When this halter goes on, and when he heads to “his building,” he is allowed to prance, snort, etc. He isn’t allowed to become unruly, just excited.
So by letting him act like a stallion, but not letting him act out in a way that could injure himself or others, we are still emphasizing that he has to be able to control himself and his actions. If he acts in this behavior at any other time besides at the clinic, he is disciplined. Luckily for us, he very rarely gets the circumstances confused.
Is his health affected by breeding and showing during the same time period?
I wouldn’t say his health was affected, but we do have to increase his nutritional intake to keep up with the energy requirements of breeding and daily exercise/training.
Words of wisdom: You need to remember that the act of breeding/collecting is very hard on the stallion’s body, both physically or mentally. Every effort needs to be made to ensure that your stallion’s health is maintained. Breeding can have a large physical toll on the stallions, and if you combine that with competition, you can injure your stallion if he isn’t kept in a healthy condition.
I don’t think every stallion has the disposition to breed and compete at the same time. I think that in some instances it would be better to campaign a stallion, and then retire him to the breeding shed.