As most of us know, finding the right partner can be a challenging task. Taking the necessary steps to ensure the proper stallion selection for your mare can be just as daunting!

First of all, stallion selection requires that you critically assess your mare to determine if she is worthy of being bred at all. Then you need to consider her strengths and weaknesses and what needs to be addressed and improved in her offspring. You also need to determine if you are breeding for yourself or the commercial resale market. What might be acceptable to you may not be sought after or valued in the marketplace.

Fully understand the market you are breeding for, and the one you plan on targeting with your mare’s offspring. It is pointless to breed your lovely hunter mare to the top dressage stallion in the world; recognition and credibility in one specialized discipline are not necessarily the same in the other, and you will undoubtedly end up with a very expensive foal that neither the hunter nor the dressage market wants!

Understand and accept the limitations of both your mare and the stallion you are selecting for her, and try to breed “like to like” as much as possible. Selecting a 17hh large-framed stallion to breed with your 15hh fine boned mare for a 16hh medium build offspring will generally not work, any more than would selecting a long backed stallion to offset your short coupled mare. You will usually end up with the foal pulling to either the mare’s or stallion’s genetics, with very unsuccessful results.

Some stallions are very successful simply because they are so competitive, brave and forward. This is wonderful for the professional rider but can be overwhelming for an amateur looking for a user friendly, forgiving partner. Again, it all boils down to understanding completely what market you plan to target for the foal, and ensuring that the odds are stacked in your favor as much as possible. One stallion I remember well was a phenomenal competitor as a jumper, but always needed to wear a muzzle at shows. He produced offspring that were equally quirky and aggressive and were shunned by the traditional amateur market – which made up more than 90% of the buying market.

Look critically at your financial situation, what you can afford to spend and what you can justify spending on this foal, what you expect your returns to be, and in what time frame you expect to achieve them.

Ensure you have access to a top notch reproduction expert in your area and that they have experience and knowledge in the breeding method you plan on using. There is no point selecting frozen semen from a deceased stallion that meshes perfectly with your mare if the closest frozen repro vet is 200 miles away. Also understand that if you choose to go with frozen semen and you purchase it by the dose, the expenses can mount very quickly if your mare does not get in foal off that first cycle.

Consider as well how the stallion’s show schedule may interfere with your breeding plans. We have heard countless stories where a stallion was away at a show, the mare was ready to be bred, and it was impossible to get him collected. You end up incurring expenses and delays because these questions weren’t asked up front.

Ask the stallion’s handler if he has any heritable vices or health issues that may transmit to the foal. Ask what the majority of his foals are now doing. If they’re mostly all pleasure horses and you have your heart set on a foal for the show ring, you may need to look elsewhere or ind out why none of his foals have embarked on show careers to this point. Ask if you can obtain some contact information for mare handlers who have bred to the same stallion so you can talk to them about the personality and temperaments of their foals – and also, very importantly, if they were happy with the service levels received from the stallion’s handler.

If at all possible, drive out to see the stallion and observe how his handler interacts with him. Understand that stallion videos can be sanitized and staged, and what you are permitted to see in a promotional video may not tell the true story! Very few stallion handlers would include video footage that didn’t depict their stallion in the absolute best possible light.

Don’t be afraid to go on bulletin boards and ask if anyone has dealt with a particular stallion, and if anyone knows firsthand what his offspring are like. Breeding can be expensive and frustrating, but it can also be one of the most rewarding ventures you can undertake with your mare if you fully understand what you are getting into, lay the groundwork well in advance to make sure you are fully prepared for anything that might happen, and truly understand the market you are breeding for.

If all goes well, and the Genetic Gods smile down upon you, in 340 days you will help your mare deliver the foal of your dreams by the stallion you have carefully chosen for her. Happy stallion shopping!