It’s the most important decision of the year- which stallion to choose? Below are my ten top tips to help make the right decision for your mare.
1. Set an appropriate budget. This is easier said than done as opinions will differ widely as to what is ‘appropriate’. I would suggest asking yourself two simple questions:
a) is my mare worth at least 4 times the stud fee of the stallion?
b)Will my mare be in the top third of the book of mares visiting that stallion?
The hardest temptation to resist is the temptation to over-breed your mare in the hope of quickly upgrading the family. Resist this temptation or your will lose money. The old maxim of ‘breed the best to the best and hope for the best’ remains true, but don’t extend it to include ‘breed the moderate and worst to the best’.
2. Know the conformation of the stallion you are using. Do your research, have a good look at photos, videos and in the flesh. Look at his offspring. It’s critical that you look to balance out any weaknesses in your mares conformation by choosing a stallion who will offset, not reinforce these defects.
3. Know the fertility statistics of the stallion. Although modern management and scanning techniques have greatly improved the situation, having a barren year is an expensive lesson.
4. Look at the other costs. It’s not just the stud fee but the ancillary costs, such as transport, mare boarding fees, veterinary fees etc. What are the payment terms?
5. Does the stud have a reputation for fairness? If the foal dies shortly after birth will they strictly adhere to the contract? Will they facilitate you in future years?
6. What is the stallions book size? This is a critical factor as it can impact on
a) the stallion’s fertility
b)the level of competition you will face in the sales ring you tend to be benchmarked against the other offspring of that stallion rather than unrelated foals)
c) the likelihood that you can get more favourable terms on the stud fee.
7. Know your purpose. Are you breeding to race or to sell? If breeding to sell you are a slave to market fashions and will have to exclude many perfectly sound stallions who are out of fashion. There is no point being right about an underrated stallion but losing money when it comes to sell.
8. Remember you might have a filly! This might sound obvious but if the offspring is a filly consider how easy or difficult it would be to subsequently breed her. This is particularly the case in Europe where there are a lack of alternatives to the Sadler’s Wells and Danehill lines and we are seeing increasing inbreeding to these influences.
9. Proven vs Unproven. If you are dealing with a young mare remember that you should have a long term plan for the management of her career. It is critical to try and achieve early success with her offspring as this will obviously make later foals easier to sell. For that reason don’t use unproven stallions with an unproven mare. Later in her career you can use first or second stallions once she has established her record.
10.Get impartial advice. Breeding horses is not cheap and it makes sense to get expert advice. You wouldn’t buy a car or a house without getting a mechanic or engineers report yet people seem loathe to pay for another opinion on their mating plans. Look at sites such as www.ematings.com for a list of available experts or contact this author directly at firstname.lastname@example.org to get a fresh perspective on your options.