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Bringing a stallion on board can be cause for change at the ranch

By RAY ARISS / Horsetrader columnist - June 16th, 2010 - Q&A Hey Ray!

HEY RAY!: We’ve got a pair of retired Quarter Horse reiners (mares) and a pony (gelding) for the grandkids. We also have a Quarter Horse stallion that we may bring home for the first time from a breeding facility. What is your advice on this arrangement as far as safety and preparation, since the kids right now have a safe and friendly place to ride and be with their horses?
–Jon McClennan, Redmond, Ore.

HEY JON: It’s nice to hear that you have another generation of horsemen coming up the ranks. We need to make sure that they stay safe, happy and interested for the next half century. I guess the first question to ask is: What type of breeding stallion do you intend to bring home. Assuming that all stallions are pretty much a game of Russian roulette, my question to you is how many rounds are in the cylinder? There is a big difference between a stallion and a stud that has bred. There’s a good chance that your stallion will be hypersensitive to horses around him. Some stallions may also be quite aggressive towards humans with behaviors such as rearing, striking, biting and crowding. There’s always the chance that your stallion will be passive, sweet, willing and predictable. But, we need to think responsibly on the off chance that things go wrong. So, we should ask ourselves, what is the worst possible scenario that can happen?

1. We need to guard against the stallion getting loose. One way is to make sure that he is in a secure stallion pen or barn stall. Securing stallions should be no different than securing birds in an aviary. A sure way to do this is to have a catch pen in case they got loose while trying to enter their stall to halter, clean or feed them. Some stallions are quite the escape artists. So having an extra fence and gate separating or catch pen is sure to keep your grandkids safe.

2. Installing a yoke/stall guard on the inside of his stall door is also a good precaution in the event that a stall mysteriously becomes open.

3. Educating all people that come on to your property including your grandchildren is a must. They all need to know about the dangers previously mentioned above when coming close or around the stallion area. Signs are not a bad idea.

4. Keeping all perimeter gates closed will help in the event the stallion gets loose and tries to leave the property. You do not want to think what can happen if a stallion gets out into a horsey neighborhood.

5. When you plan on taking your stallion out of the stall for the first time, make sure that you know what you are doing and that you are on top of your game. You need to have an extra long lead line in the event that you need to put some distance between you and the stallion as well as any other equipment to keep you safe and confident. Clearing the area from any obstacles, horses and people may be a good idea the first time out. Making a mental note on any and every situation relative to your horse will be helpful each and every time you handle him.

6. Handling and riding your stallion should not be a “hopefully safe” occurrence. If the overall feeling of handling and housing your stallion is an accident waiting to happen, find a different facility in order to preserve the safe and happy haven you have created for your family.

7. If all goes well, and you feel like handling and riding your horse is safe, you might want to attempt the following:

(A) Bring over one of your other horses to the stallion’s stall. Get a feeling whether or not you are comfortable doing this. All you are trying to accomplish is seeing how your stallion is going to react, and whether or not you can handle it. It’s important that you feel you can handle whatever situation arises from this encounter. By then, you should clearly see whether or not keeping the stallion on the premises is a good idea.

(B) If the answer is “yes, I’m comfortable!”, then try taking the stallion in hand over to one of the other horses’ stalls. If you are able to handle whatever arises from that, you may want to ride the horse around the property, including all the stabled horses while in their stalls before attempting to ride in the ring. Unless you’ve trained and handled many stallions, and you feel your judgment is that of experience, keep your stallion away from all humans and horses.

Jon, I live on a training facility that always has breeding stallions and mares and children and riders of all levels. Over the past 2 decades, I’ve enjoyed handling and riding various stallions of all breeds and ages without any incidents (knock on wood!) — because I have ALWAYS expected the worst possible scenario and prepared for it by making anything short of that a pleasant surprise. Unless you possess the experience and the judgment to handle this situation, you’re better off keeping the stallion out of the mix.

Remember to always trust your instincts and think safe,

RAY

Horsetrader columnist Ray Ariss, husband to Pippa Ariss and father of six, shares his insight into the relationship of horseand human twice each month, in print and on www.horsetrader.com. He lives and trains in “Horsetown USA”, Norco, Calif., at his bustling Starbrite Riding Academy, where he currently has 50 horses in various stages of training, including Andalusians, Friesians, Quarter Horses, Paints, Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Mustangs and more. Ray attributes his training success to the support of his wife and partner, Pippa, and a system he calls S.W.A.P., to which he credits his multiple championships in several disciplines. His passionate understanding of the “human-horse” relationship was evident when he took on the challenge of training a wild Mustang and — in just 100 days — produced the highest-priced adopted Mustang ever — $50,000. Does your “horse-human relationship” leave you with a question for Ray? Click here to submit one!

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