Once you've decided that you’re ready to mate your stallion to one or more of your mares, there are a number of questions you need to answer including:
• What’s the best way to conduct your horse mating operation?
• Should you allow the stallion to graze in the pastures with your mares and let nature take its course
• Should you consider using a particular assisted horse breeding methodology?
There are many who favor all natural horse mating which simply means allowing your stallion out to pasture with one or more of your mares. However, even though the all natural method does have its advantages, there are those who do not favor this method since too many important details are left out of your control. The major advantage to natural horse breeding is that it keeps you and any other handlers completely out of harm's reach, so for unsure breeders this may be the safest route.
The problem is the horse mating process can be rough and ugly, depending on the manners of your stallion and the mare(s) he’s attempting mate. When an overly hormonal stallion attempts to mount an unreceptive mare, hooves can fly and there's a significant risk that either the stallion or the mare is going to get marked up or worse, severely wounded. Intelligent stallions will of course know when to approach and when to back off, and patient mares will exhibit warning signs before beginning to kick or flee. However, unless you can fully trust both the stallion and the mares involved, it's often best to take a more direct role in the procedure. Why unnecessarily take the risk of yourself or any of your horses getting injured?
It’s always wise to fully test the receptiveness of a mare before even considering the possibility of mating the horses. Do this by walking your mare up to the stallion's stall and allowing the two to sniff and "nuzzle" each other. When a mare is in heat she will flash her vulva repeatedly, squirt copiously, and assume a mating stance. It's very important to ensure all these mating signs are present and that they are clearly noticeable. This is because as a mare enters her first days of heat, she may present some of the above signs slightly although she still may not be fully receptive to the idea of allowing a stallion to mount her when the moment of truth approaches.
Once you have ensured the mare is in a full heat and ready to proceed, take her back to her stall for some last minute preparations. At this point it is a good idea to wash the genitals of both your stallion and mare with warm water to try and minimize the insertion of dirt, dead skin, and smegma during the mating process. Be very careful about doing so if you're not intimately familiar with your stallion because many stallions can be unreceptive to people handling their genitals.
At this point you will need to decide on assisted or natural horse mating. By testing the two horses first, you have minimized the risk that an overly eager stallion will attempt to mount a mare that's not ready, however, there's still much that can go wrong with natural horse mating. The mare may decide she simply doesn't like the stallion (yes this can happen even with mares in full heat). The stallion may be particularly nasty or aggressive and scratch up the mare's back during the mating process. If these warning signs occur, it may be wise to pursue assisted mating rather than risk injury to either party.
Although these next two steps are not essential, they are often recommended since they can make the process much cleaner and easier. First, wrap the mare's tail in a plastic bag and tightly circle the end of it with duct tape so that it won't slip off easily. Another alternative is to use adhesive bandaging available from most vets. Wrapping the mare’s tail will help prevent the tail from getting in the way during the mating process, which can occur surprisingly often when you're dealing with an inexperienced mare or stud. It also doesn't hurt to apply some lubrication to the mare's vulva, though since by now she was probably squirting significantly it's usually not essential.
Preferably, it’s usually best to have two people involved with an assisted breeding: one to handle the mare and the other to handle the stallion. It is essential that both handlers be fully confident of their abilities to work with horses, because an inexperienced handler can be seriously hurt during the mating process if they are careless or inexperienced. Even though somewhat uncomfortable, its highly recommended that both handlers wear a protective helmet during the mating process especially the one that will handle the mare.
Now that the stallion, mare, and two handlers are ready to proceed, have the mare's handler lead her into a paddock, riding ring, or round pen. Keep the stallion stalled during this entire procedure because you always want the mare to be standing ready before you walk in the stallion. If a stallion is permitted to follow a mare too closely he will often become impatient and disorderly, putting both handlers and horses alike at risk.
Now that all the preparations for horse mating have been accomplished you're now ready to introduce the two in as safe a manner as possible.
While one handler is standing in the round pen, paddock, or riding ring with the mare, the other handler is getting ready to walk the stallion from his stall to the pen. It’s a good idea to thread a chain lead line through the lower half of the stallion’s halter so that if you need to catch the stallion's attention, you can give a sharp tug and snap the chain under the stallion’s jaw. This practice is usually not necessary or advisable for general training or normal walking procedures nor is it recommended that one should rely on severe tugging during the actual mating process. However, because the chance of injury to both horses and handlers is so high when you have a misbehaving stallion, its only prudent to get all leverage possible to keep an unruly stallion in his place.
The stallion's handler should now walk the stallion to the ring at a very slow and measured pace. Chances are high the stallion is going to be anxiously plowing forward if given the opportunity, and the worst mistake a stallion handler can do is to allow this behavior. It is essential that the stallion knows the handler is in complete and full control long before they reach the ring, because if the stallion suspects, even for a moment that the handler is the weaker of the two, the stallion often can and will turn on the handler once inside the ring.
Always force the stallion to slowly approach the mare diagonally from the rear, and do not allow him to try and mount right away. Keep him far enough away from the mare so that all he can do is reach his neck over and nuzzle her genital region. You want the stallion to tease the mare for a couple minutes, to both further assess her willingness to allow him to mount her, and more importantly to further impress upon the stallion that you are calling the shots, and only you will determine when he's permitted to mount.
The mare's handler will be responsible for ensuring the mare stands straight during the mount, as well as provide a bit of physical support if the mare is frail in comparison to the stallion. When a stallion first mounts a mare, if they are unpolished or inexperienced, this can force a lot of weight on the mare, thereby making her sway to the side or lose her balance.
The stallion's handler will be responsible for ensuring the stallion treats the mare with respect at all times. This can either be very easy or very difficult, depending on the disposition of your stallion. A fortunate few horse breeders may own stallions which are easy to control even in the midst of copulation such that were they asked to stand down, the stallion would do so immediately without questioning the command. That is an extremely good case, and just as there are extremely good cases there are also extremely bad cases. Some stallions are downright barbaric in their mating practices, and become so single-mindedly determined in their desires to breed that they could care less if they manhandle or hurt the mare.
Make sure the stallion mounts the mare in a controlled and reasonable fashion. Too many overenthusiastic or young stallions will be so anxious to start copulating that they will try to mount from the side and/or thrust with no rhyme or reason. This can frustrate both the stallion and the mare, and neither option is particularly desirable. A frustrated mare can start lashing out at the stallion, and a frustrated stallion will only perform worse as he allows his frustration to cloud his mind.
During the mounting process make sure the mare's handler keeps his head away from the mare's shoulders. As the stallion mounts, his front hooves will rest near the mare's front shoulders, and if the flailing hooves hit the unprotected head of mare’s handler, the results can be severe and even a helmeted head will be left reeling a bit.
It's best for the stallion’s handler to force the stallion to approach repeatedly until he gets it right, but an experienced stallion handler may also elect to guide the stallion's shaft to the proper location with his hand. This is highly inadvisable to all but the most experienced handlers since your movement loses a degree of control over the stallion and places you “too close for comfort” to the stallion’s body.
Once the stallion hits his mark, he will rest heavily on the mare's back; unlike humans horses do not thrust. The mare's handler should try and provide whatever support is necessary to keep the mare standing firmly in place until the stallion ejaculates and dismounts. Usually, it's a very quick process once the stallion has entered the mare.
Once the stallion groans or indicates he has ejaculated, the stallion's handler should dismount him immediately and bring him back to his stall. Meanwhile the mare's handler should start walking the mare around for several minutes and do not allow her to stop even for a moment if at all possible. Once the horse mating process has completed, the mare will do her best to eject as much of the semen as possible. So, to ensure the mare has a better chance of "catching", it's best to prevent her from ejecting the semen by walking her continuously and allowing everything to settle a bit.
Once you have walked the mare around for a few minutes, you can remove the bag or adhesive wrap from the mare’s tail and bring her back to her stall. Don't worry if she expels some additional semen during the walk or after you stop walking her. It's inevitable that she will rid herself of a good portion of the remaining semen.
While the mare is in heat, it is advisable to breed the mare once a day if you want to maximize your chances for her becoming pregnant during that heat. Though breeding every other day will often work well, your chances of impregnating the mare are somewhat reduced. The key is to stop further attempts at mating once the mare no longer seems as receptive to the stallion as she should be. This is because a mare may exhibit some signs of heat even as she's leaving heat. But, just like trying to breed the mare when she's just coming into heat, if she's not in full heat, then the horse mating process won't be convenient or safe.
If you have a well-behaved and experienced stallion and mare, then just about any experienced handler can safely perform an assisted horse mating. However, if your stallion is particularly aggressive then only the most experienced handlers should attempt to handle the stallion during the mating process.
Rival studs in nature can become violent towards each other when they are competing for the same mare, and, for all practical purposes, a handler will be playing the role of a competitor whether you realize it or not. You will be obstructing his desires and making sure he mounts only when you give the nod and only so long as he is respectful of the mare. If there is any doubt whatsoever that you and you alone are fully in control of the stallion from the start, you have no business trying to battle the stallion for authority during the midst of a horse mating process since this is one of the most dangerous times a handler can pit his skills against a stallion's.
Horse mating can either be easy and non-eventful or it can be an ordeal that tests even the most hardened handlers. When you decide to breed your horses, always be patient and always be unyieldingly firm. You cannot let your guard down even for a moment nor can you ever allow a stallion to believe he might wield the power for even a second.