The Difference Between a Stud & Stallion

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A stud and a stallion are not physically distinct -- both are intact male horses, meaning they are not neutered and are physically capable of impregnating a mare, or female horse. The term "stud" is most commonly used in breeding: An owner desiring her mare to become impregnated by a certain stallion will pay a "stud fee," for example. Stallions used for breeding are often said to be "standing at stud." In reality, the two terms are interchangeable to describe a non-castrated male horse, notes LaNet Johnson-Hester, owner of Spindletop Farm in Texas.

Stallions used for breeding are often said to be "standing at stud."

Horse Genders

A newborn horse is generically a foal, but a male foal is called a colt, and a female foal is a filly. By age 3 they are called a stallion and a mare, respectively, but many can successfully breed before then. If you decide you don't want a stallion, you will need to neuter, or geld, your colt. This surgical procedure removes his testicles -- also called a castration. A castrated male horse is referred to as a gelding.

A horse with an unsuccessful castration is called a rigg or a cryptorchid stallion. This is most often the case if the colt's testicles were not fully descended at the time of castration. Most of these horses are infertile but they may still exhibit stallion-like behaviors, particularly around mares.

Tip

  • Though infertile, some geldings still get excited to see mares, and some may even mount them. This behavior may be particularly true if the colt was gelded later in life.

The Stallion and Stud Decision

Most male colts are gelded, but a few deciding factors lead their owners to keep them intact, including:

  • bloodlines
  • conformation
  • owner experience
  • business versus hobby orientation

Bloodlines

Consider the colt's bloodlines -- the pedigrees of his mom, or dam, and his dad, called his sire -- when deciding whether to keep him as a stallion. Parental lineage with desirable characteristics, such as conformation, performance in a particular discipline and temperament, are more likely to lead to those traits in offspring and can continue to be passed along in future offspring. This not only results in a more desirable stallion prospect for you, but increases the likelihood that you can obtain money -- a stud fee -- from horse owners looking to breed their mares.

Conformation

Excellent bloodlines and horses with great conformation are likely to result in offspring with similar conformation, but there is no guarantee. If your colt got unlucky and has an unbalanced conformation, you won't be doing the horse world any favors by trying to breed him. This is especially true if his parents also had conformational defects. Still, a gelding with minor conformational issues can still make wonderful pleasure or amateur competitive horse.

Tip

  • It's frequently difficult to accurately gauge a newborn colt's conformation unless there are obvious defects. Different breeds grow at different rates, but for a well-bred colt, the decision to neuter him may not take place for a few years.

Owner Experience

Considerable experience with horses, and preferably with stallions, is desirable when considering whether to keep your colt intact. Stallions can be difficult to handle as they get older and can be dangerous. If you do intend to stand him at stud to be used for breeding, you'll need to have the facilities and expertise to operate such a business.

Another reason to keep a stallion is to compete with him for several years -- or hire a trainer to handle his training and competition -- to let him accumulate a good performance record, and then advertise him for breeding. This is a common but expensive endeavor in the horse world. In this scenario he would typically be referred to as a stallion during his competitive career, and then will be standing "at stud," during which time horse people may refer to him as either a stallion or a stud.

Business Versus Hobby

Whether you decide to get into the horse breeding business will also impact your decision on whether to geld, or neuter, your male colt. But without the time, facilities and experience, owning a stallion can be a daunting endeavor. Stallions are strong and so are their urges to mate; a whiff of the neighbor's mare "in season" -- ready to be bred -- may be enough incentive for your stallion to escape, thus creating a host of new problems for you.

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