Let Nature Work it Out (Shy Stud Colt)

I desperately need some advice about my new colt. He is a 2½-year-old Gypsy Cob named Geordie. He was raised in a herd, then separated as a yearling colt, and ran with a colt herd until I imported him to Australia. He is naturally gentle and not aggressive. I've had him for two months and spend time with him in his paddock every day. His pasturemate is a 6-year-old maiden mare of similar size that is renowned for her willingness to be mounted--in fact, she (successfully) invited all the owner's geldings to mount her in the months they were paddocked together.

When we introduced the two, Geordie attempted to mount the mare after she explored the paddock and she stood for him at first. They did about 15 revolutions around the paddock before Geordie tried to mount her twice from the side. Then she lost interest and warned him. He didn't take the hint in his excitement and got a double-barrel kick in the flank, but fortunately he was uninjured.

Now he won't go near her! She follows him around and pees in front of him, but he's scared of her. I hope he gets his courage back because this is his job!

I don't know whether to interfere with Geordie and the whole breeding thing, or just let them be together and sort it out. It doesn't matter if he serves this mare or not, she was given to us as company for him. But in saying that, he needs to learn how to serve a mare without a complex! I lean toward letting them sort it out, and experienced friends are telling me to sideline hobble the mare and breed him in hand. What should I do?

The way I see it I have four choices:

  1. Leave them in together and let Nature take its course.
  2. Pull her out and bring her back during her next heat, then go with the above.
  3. Pull her out and sideline hobble her, and (attempt to) breed him in hand, with a greatly lessened danger of injury.
  4. Give up on her and go find an older, experienced mare that will stand and won't kick (not that there is any guarantee!).

For now the mare is out of his paddock, but running beside it. I think she might be coming off heat now. This colt is from a breed that's very rare in Australia, and he would be a valuable breeding stallion.

I'd appreciate any advice as I am really stuck at the moment.    

Adrienne Wimbush, Queensland, Australia

If it were my valuable young stallion, I would leave them alone to sort it out. I would keep them together so that the next time she comes into heat, he has full access to her and learns the natural progression of the mare's behavior as she nears ovulation.

Mares naturally progress through various stages from "no, no, no," to "yes, yes, no," to "yes, yes, well--maybe not," to "yes, yes, really, yes, please now," to the after-ovulation "yes, yes, no," to "no, absolutely not." To minimize the risk of injury, I'd keep them in a very large space with no man-made obstacles to get in the way.

Don't worry if you see him mount without an erection, as this is a natural protective behavior to test that the mare will stand before putting the important parts at risk.

By the way, I wouldn't be surprised if she is already pregnant. Sometimes these mares experienced with teasing and young guys get the job done when we aren't looking.     

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist

Thank you for your prompt reply. This was the way I was leaning. I just keep hearing about young colts getting a kick early on and never really getting it together after that! But I'm aware these could be stallions that are bred in hand, so they are not in a natural environment anyway.

I have him pastured on approximately two acres, and she runs in about 3½ acres that are adjacent to two sides of his paddock, in an L shape. If necessary I can enlarge his paddock by two by three acres. Is this big enough? The mare hasn't left the quarter-acre near his gate and where she gets fed since she got in there.

Is it too late to put them together again? I know they much prefer it, and so do I. She can stay with him through pregnancy and even during, if you think it's safe. Unless he got her in that first jump, I don't think she could be, because he really wouldn't go near her after that first kick. My mum, who was recovering from a broken ankle, watched the colt and mare from the house for several days. She said he never once jumped on her again--he just ran away when she presented her behind! But of course she couldn't see the two at night.


I'd say it's not too late to put them together. Since they have been familiar along the fenceline, I would expect it to be fairly peaceful no matter when you open the gate.

Dr. McDonnell

E-mail later that day

I took your advice and let them in together. He was pretty happy to see her, and she was still in heat, and after a short time of snuffling and smelling her rear end and licking her mouth, he judged correctly, she was ready, and he jumped up for a very successful mount. All went well and continues to do so. So thank you for your advice, and I'll remember to give Nature a chance in the future!


About the Author

Sue McDonnell, PhD, Certified AAB

Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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