Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stallions will be stallions

With modern horse training's widespread commitment to the natural horsemanship movement, horse owners have gotten the benefit of learning to understand how to utilize their horses' natural instincts and psychology when training and handling them. But how do you apply that methodology when the horse is a stallion? These lusty creatures are often assumed to be aggressive, pushy and domineering, requiring a strong hand and lots of discipline. Their testosterone laden behaviors would seem to require "horse shouting" as opposed to "horse whispering" to keep in check, and I have certainly seen them handled that way, with varying results.

It was, therefore, with great interest that I read a recent article in America's Horse Daily on natural horse keeping techniques that keep stallions happy and manageable. The article's suggestions are thoughtful and empathic, providing good solutions that keep the horse's mental and physical health in mind. Some of them are fairly common sense, including making sure that your stallion has enough work to do to keep him out of trouble (use cow work as a way to get him to focus his natural aggressive tendencies, for instance), and being clear to firmly and patiently assert your personal space when feeding or leading the horse.

Other suggestions might be less readily practiced in the equine industry, but depending on the circumstances, still quite viable. The article's authors, for instance, recommended keeping ones stallion in the mix with other horses as much as possible, because isolation and separation are more agitating for stallions than for mares or geldings due to their deeply ingrained herd instincts. Though the tendency might be to keep stallions separate and out of harm's way, this article's authors argue that the opposite strategy actually proves more effective. This extends to the way stallions are stalled, as bigger is always better when planning housing for stallions. They need room to move, and ideally, the capacity to see out of their space and survey their horizons, much as nature intended them to do. Letting stallions be stallions, therefore (within limits acceptable to their human counterparts), appears to be the key.

Do any of you readers have other tips and tricks for stallion keeping?

No comments: