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12 Stallion-Care Myths – Fact or Fiction?

Find out how much you know about stallion care with our fun and informative mythbusters' tour through a modern-day breeding barn.

Do you know the difference between stallion-care lore and reality? If you own a stallion, or are thinking about owning one in the future, you should. The more you know, the less unnecessary work-not to mention heartache and disappointment-you'll experience. That's because in addition to all the things that can go wrong (such as injury and illness) when your general horsekeeping falls short, there's a host of unique problems that can arise when your stallion's needs aren't met. These include urinary-tract and behavioral problems, breeding difficulties, and genital infections.

Here, we list 12 quirky stallion-care myths-plus two truths. Test your knowledge, then see how you did-and to learn the important facts behind each statement.

1. You need to clean your stallion's sheath more often than you would a gelding's.

2. For the best odds of getting a healthy mare pregnant by a healthy stallion, pasture-breed her.

3. As a rule, stallions are taller than geldings.

4. Stallions need a higher-protein diet than geldings or mares to maintain good condition.

5. You need to clean your stallion's stall more frequently than you would a mare's or a gelding's.

6. The best way to keep your stallion's genitals from becoming infected is to wash him after each breeding.

7. During a busy breeding season, it's best to let your stallion rest, rather than make him exercise.

8. Stallions kept together in the same pasture will fight.

9. A fever can adversely affect your stallion's sperm count.

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10. You shouldn't vaccinate your stallion during breeding season--the vaccine may adversely affect his sperm.

11. Stallions are more susceptible to parasites than mares and geldings are.

12. It takes 7 days to build a sperm cell.

13. It's not normal for your stallion to masturbate, so you should take steps to stop him if he does--it'll affect his sperm count.

14. A stallion's testicles descend into his scrotum around the time he reaches puberty.

1. You need to clean your stallion's sheath more often than you would a gelding's.
Busted! Sheath cleaning's primary goal is to remove accumulations of smegma (waxy secretions) that irritate the delicate skin in the pocket between the penis and its protective sheath. Smegma can even form hardened "beans" in the little moat around the urethra at the penis' tip. (Beans can dangerously interfere with a horse's ability to urinate.)

Your stallion has higher levels of the hormone testosterone than are found in a gelding. Therefore, he's likely to extend his penis to its full length six or more times per day, even when it's not breeding season. This essentially turns inside-out all the little folds, pockets, and nooks- and-crannies within his sheath, allowing small accumulations of hardened smegma to flake off.

A gelding, on the other hand, rarely extrudes his penis completely, dropping it only partway to urinate. Cleaning the sheath twice a year is plenty for most geldings-more often than that and you risk irritating the penis' delicate skin, disrupting its normal bacterial flora, thereby increasing its susceptibility to infection.

And your stallion? He should get by quite nicely with a sheath cleaning once a year or less. (Think about it. Wild stallions never get their sheaths cleaned.)

2. For the best odds of getting a healthy mare pregnant by a healthy stallion, pasture-breed her.
Bingo! The key word here is "healthy." For mares, this means normal heat cycles. For both mares and stallions, this means normal hormone levels, healthy reproductive tracts, and sound bodies.

High-tech, artificial ways of getting sperm and egg together do have some advantages, such as a lowered risk of injury, infection, and venereal disease. But the biggest stumbling block to successfully breeding healthy horses is timing-getting semen into the mare at precisely the right time.

A healthy mare (and her powerful hormones) can call the shots a lot more accurately than any human can, because she'll accept a stallion's advances only when the time is right. And, when mare and stallion are left to their own devices in a pasture, away from yanking stud chains attached to nervous handlers, the chance for human error is completely eliminated.

3. As a rule, stallions are taller than geldings.
Busted! Stallions may appear larger than life, because of their bluster and uppity nature. But the truth is, testosterone-the hormone that makes them act like stallions-also causes the growth plates in their cannon bones and other long bones to close earlier than they would in a gelding. Once these plates close, they seal, halting further growth. Therefore, colts gelded before puberty (in most cases, before they're yearlings) will grow about 1/2-inch taller than if they were left intact.

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