Handle Stallions With Care

The horses that I have been around all my life have one thing in common--they are all different. Whether it was the pack horses in our front yard when I was a child in Colorado, or the racing Quarter Horses my Dad owned in Oklahoma later in my youth, or the magnificent Thoroughbreds I care for today, they're all individuals. The one thing I try to remember is that each horse is unlike the horse in the stall next door, even though they may have the same job. You must tailor their daily routines to their individual needs.

I feel that we should try to let the horses be horses as much as we can. At Three Chimneys Farm (near Midway, Ky.), our stallions are ridden for both the mental and physical benefits of exercise. And we try to give them as much turn-out as possible because we believe a happy horse is a better horse to handle on a daily basis.

I think the best time of my day at Three Chimneys Farm is the morning. The stallions come in from their paddocks, go out for a little exercise under tack, eat breakfast, are bathed or groomed, then we are ready for the breeding shed or for visitors.

Of course, it's not always that easy! Some horses might stay in at night, some are fresh off the racetrack, and some are on limited turnout, so every morning is different. You must be flexible.

Most of our stallions are out in paddocks at night and up during the day, so they are available for people to inspect and for the breeding sessions. Some horses don't do well with that much turn-out time, so we adjust as needed. During the cold winter months, when the wind is howling or the rain is very cold, we turn the stallions out during the day and keep them up at night. That way they are warm and ready to head to the breeding shed in the morning.

We have 12 stallions at Three Chimneys Farm--nine who are actively breeding and three who are retired. A "typical" day for us begins at 7:00 a.m., when we arrive at the barn and get the stalls ready to bring horses up from their paddocks. The night watch person has bedded the stalls, so we put fresh water in every stall and feed for the horses that are not going to the exercise track. After the horses are exercised they eat, then we can turn out any horses that remained in the barn the night before.

But there are all sorts of exceptions. We have one retired stallion who is fed at 6:00 a.m. so he can go out when we first arrive. He has a condition that makes it hard for him to regulate his body temperature in the warm months, so he goes out for a few hours in the cool of the morning. We have two older horses who stay up at night and go out during the day because they do better physically with that routine. Our newest stallion, who is just off the racetrack with an injured ankle, is going out in a small pen at night, weather permitting. But if the weather has been bad, he goes out during the day.

After the horses have been ridden, next begins the task of grooming the stallions that were out overnight and cleaning the stalls for the stallions who have gone out for the day. We try to have all of this done by 8:30 a.m. so we are ready for the breeding shed session at 9:00 a.m. or for any clients who may want to inspect the stallions. At 1:00 p.m., the horses that are out in their paddocks are brought in and everyone is fed again. The horses that do not have a mare in the 2:00 p.m. breeding session can go out after they eat. The rest of the stallions are turned out after they have covered their afternoon mare. When the afternoon session is over, the other stalls have to be done and the barn cleaned and readied for the evening breeding session at 7:00 p.m.

Of course, all of this is subject to change on a moment's notice if the sales are going on, if we have a thunderstorm, if we have a special group of visitors coming, or if a hundred other things happen! Each day, as well as each horse, is different, and you have to be adaptable.

About the Author

Sandy Hatfield

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