“When they first arrive, you make adjustments to see what routine, diet and preferences best fits the horse,” Graham said. “It takes a lot of attention to detail to see what combinations work. They are all different.”
Because the facility is in Texas, Graham’s stallions get treated to frequent baths in the summer and are supplied with fans in their stalls. Heat can reduce the quality of semen, so keeping the stallions cool is a priority.
“Every horse handles it differently, so we do make adjustments to their daily routine,” Graham said. “Collecting in the summer is very difficult, because it gets too hot for them.”
Each horse also has opinions on the breeding shed routine.
“Not every stallion likes the same extender,” Graham said. “Not every stallion likes the same artificial vagina. They definitely have preferences.”
Murray agrees—he says his stallions even have different preferences on temperature and tightness of the artificial vagina.
“As you get to know the stallion, you start to figure these things out,” Murray said. “But every horse doesn’t respond to the same things. They have to be treated like an individual.”
Murray’s stallions get groomed twice a day, which not only keeps them feeling good but also helps them make a positive impression when the public comes to visit the breeding facility.
When the stallions aren’t going to be collected, they get turned out in large paddocks.
“During the summer, we bring them in at night and put them in stalls, but during the day they get turned out so they can play and roll and be horses,” Murray said.
If you want to start breeding, Dahl recommends researching what that entails and determine your goals before you bring a stallion home. It might be best to send your stallion to a stallion station, where expert care and marketing are available.
Murray recommends spending time at a breeding facility before embarking on your own breeding operation. He also recommends taking a course at a university, such as Colorado State, where non-students can learn to collect stallions, breed horses and learn the ins and outs of the entire process.
Graham says to remember that stallion management is quite different from managing mares and geldings, and she advises enlisting the help of experienced horsemen before getting started.
“These stallions are complete individuals,” Graham said. “We have to listen to what it is they want. Breeding is really rewarding, and it’s always changing. But very fulfilling—the stallions are like friends.”
Meet The Experts
Jake Dahl is the co-owner and general manager of Vista Equine–Colorado. The farm, located in Fort Collins, Colorado, stands Vanila Viper, Magnum, Freckles Ta Fame, This One Time, REF Black Mamba, Better Get Your Gun and Country Bay Berry. The farm foals out around 200 mares a year and does about 250–300 embryo transfers, as well as oocyte aspiration. Vista Equine also sells between 50 and 75 yearlings at sales around the country. Learn more at vistaequine.com.
Naia Graham co-manages Southwest Stallion Station with her husband, Tyler. The station in Elgin, Texas, stands Kiss My Hocks, Epic Leader, Bucks Hancock Dude and Firewaterontherocks. Located on 2,000 acres, Southwest Stallion Station is the oldest consecutively-run stallion station in Texas. The facility houses close to 300 horses during breeding season and offers all breeding services, including embryo transfer, frozen and cooled semen. Learn more at southweststallionstation.com.
Mac Murray co-owns MJ Farms, located an hour south of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The facility stood the late Jesse James Jr, and currently stands Big Daddy Cartel and Woodbridge. Set on 90 acres of pasture, the ranch has about 170 horses between stallions, mares and recipient mares for embryo transfer. Visit facebook.com/MJFarms.
This article was originally published in the January 2018 issue of Barrel Horse News.