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Things to know about stud horses
Once the decision to breed has been made, and a shortlist of stallions has been chosen, the next decision relates to how the mare will be put in foal. There are various options available, depending on the breed and availability of the stallion.
Firstly, the mare can be bred by natural breeding methods or live-cover breeding. This includes covering in-hand. The mare is taken to the stallion, usually at the stud farm where he stands, and will spend a day or so there. She will be tested to ensure she has no disease that may be transmitted sexually. When she is in season, the stallion will be brought out to her, often to a special yard, and she will be covered by him (that is, mated) with both horses held by grooms or other staff.
The mare will be tested prior to this to show she is ovulating, either by taking her temperature, palpating or hormone tests, or by “teasing” with another stallion. The presence of another stallion, the “teaser”, will cause the mare to show the signs that she is in heat and ready to accept the stallion chosen to mate with her. While in-hand covering is a relatively safe form of breeding, it is not entirely risk-free for either mare or stallion. There is the possibility of injury and disease transmission. Also, the mare may need to be covered more than once before she is proved in-foal. Some studs offer a “no foal free return” service. If the mare does not prove in-foal after the first service, she can return to be covered again at no additional cost.
The alternative form of live-cover breeding is to let mares run out with the stallions as if they were in a natural herd. This is popular with some pony breeders, where the ponies live in semi-feral herds. It's not as common as it once was, since there is more risk involved. As the mare is living naturally with the stallion and other mares, there is a greater likelihood of proving in-foal at the end of this time. It is less stressful for the mare than travelling briefly to the stud farm.
Today, artificial insemination (AI) is the most frequently used option for breeding from leading sires in the major disciplines. This method increases the number of mares each stallion can cover every season, is relatively risk-free and provides a global service for mare owners. The pregnancy rates are lower for AI: 65% versus 85% for live cover. It should be noted that Thoroughbreds can legally only be mated by live cover.
Famous stud horses
Currently, the influence of Dutch Warmblood Totilas as a sire is showcased through his son, the stallion Timolin, showing immense potential in both dressage and jumping. Many of British-owned Hannoverian Dimaggio’s progeny are also successful registered dressage sires. In show jumping, Robert Whitaker’s stunning young stallion Vermento, son of Argento, is likely to be a sire very much in demand. In western pleasure and versatility classes, American Quarter Horse stallions still reign supreme, with Machine Made taking first place in offspring earnings at $200,000 dollars in total, followed by RL Best of Sudden in second place with $155,713.