Friday, June 29, 2007

When Do Colts Begin to Act Like Breeding Horses?

This questions shows up pretty regularly in the source of viewers for my blog. I always laugh when I see or hear it probably because my colts come out this way. They know from the time they are born that they are boys and they're trolling for girls.

However, that is not the norm. Actually, I'm not really sure there is an actual norm. Each colt is an individual and will reflect his own genetic code for virility and potency. With that being said, many colts are not born with both testicles down and obvious testosterone driven behavior. Some are born with one or two testicles up inside the body cavity while others may have then down at birth only to retract their testicles inside shortly after birth.

It is not unusual to have a colt go for over a year without having the testicles descend down into the scrotal sack. Usually if both testicles have not descended by the age of two the horse is considered to be a mono or cryptorchid. _Equine/cryptorchid_horse.htm

Even without the testicles down, colts can and do display varying degrees of hormonal behavior from birth. Colts as yearlings are known to display stallion type behavior, experimenting with teasing and mounting mares. Many an unwanted pregnancy has resulted from leaving yearling colts with testicles still up in the body cavity pastured with mares.

Usually the earliest point at which an owner might decide to begin breeding with a young horse is at the age of two. While two year old colts are capable of breeding many will exhibit submissive behavior. Some will not have the confidence to initiate breeding even with patience and understanding on the part of handlers.

There is a school of thought that believes breeding with two-year-olds is asking for behavior problems. Some believe that it's ok as long as the horse doesn't do live cover. While others believe that starting a young horse off collecting semen can result in loss of interest as the horse matures.

Usually by three years of age most young stallions express an outward interest in mares. Many are willing to breed mares once they begin showing those outward signs. Some will show some signs of stress at the prospect of breeding and exhibit submissive behavior but usually that is easily overcome.

The day this question showed up in my viewers log a three month old colt here was displaying some pretty active stud like behavior. My herd sire can hang his head over the wall of his stall and visit with the mares. The colt, Andy, was getting in between Legs and whatever mare was trying to visit with him. (In the picture above, Andy is standing right by a pool of urine left by a mare in heat, it's not conicidence that he's there.)

Fortunately, Legs really likes Andy so the colt wedging himself in between any of Leg's mares didn't infuriate the stallion but he did nip the colt hard enough to send him off. However, Andy didn't stay gone for long. The colt would scoot off just out of range, shake his head at his dad and then make another pass back in between the mare and his dad.

The stallion's stall is on the corner of the barn and there is a gate right there on the corner. Mares also come right up into that corner to talk with Legs. On this particular day, there were three mares in heat in that field all vying for attention in the corner.

Probably the furthest in heat was Solidare. She is the boss mare and kept the other mares back away from the stallion while she played kissy face with him. The colt was right there on the other side of the gate but out of reach of the stallion. He was talking to the mare, nibbling on her neck, dropped, erect and dripping fluid.

I went over and pushed him away from the mare. I knew he'd be mad but it's a lot easier to begin teaching a colt who's in charge of breeding at that age than actual breeding age. I wanted him to know I can push him off a mare any time I want to and he has to deal with it.

The colt ran off but kicked out at me and then tried to charge me. He's small enough that me charging back is enough to intimidate him. He continued to try and find a way around me to visit with the mare and I continued to drive him off until he finally went off grazing with his mother.

As soon as I left, he went straight back up to the gate calling to the mare. I waited for her to come up and let him get chummy with her before I chased him off again. We repeated this dance several times. The reason I spent my time and energy in this game is I want this colt to understand that he must tolerate me pushing him off of a mare without challenging me. That way in the future when (not if) a breeding wreck might happen, I will have a co-operative stallion.

Some people are bothered by colts acting studdy at this young an age. I appreciate it because it gives me the opportunity to school when the colt is small and manageable. I also know that colts that have this much testosterone are fertile active breeding horses with long breeding careers.
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  1. Very interesting. I didn't know youngsters were so sexually interested. I have noticed the yearling fillies showing heat, but not much before a year old. And all the geldings at the farm are sure they are the barn-stallion.

  2. Awwwww..whata cutie!! I'm still absolutely LOVING your blog!