Stallion Prospect or Gelding
- January 19, 2024
- Jan Swan Wood
With foaling season in full swing and the time is approaching, once again, to decide whether a colt is a stallion prospect or not. Some don’t worry about that and just sell the stud colts as weanlings or yearlings and leave the decision to the next owner. But, is that wise? Do those non-stallion quality colts always get gelded or do they get used as a stud in a “backyard” situation?
If you are in the breeding business, and are serious about producing quality horses, you have some things to consider when you have a stud colt. Your stallion, theoretically, is the best individual you could find or raise to work in your program. He has the whole package: conformation, performance, ability, disposition, and good looks. You have carefully selected mares to breed to him to carry on those good qualities. Hopefully the mare is as good as he is and has all the same qualities he does. This very nice mare and stallion have a colt on the ground now. He’s certainly got the pedigree, as they sure do, and he probably has some color. But, is he a stud or a gelding in the long run?
Many years ago, when I was seriously raising horses, I had a very good, proven mare have a stud colt two years in a row by a very good, proven stallion. Annie was 23 years old when the first stud colt was born. The bay roan colt, whom I called Clint, was a dandy. He was structurally correct, had perfect legs, and was an exceptional individual with a pleasant disposition and attitude. He also had a really solid pedigree. But, when he was less than 48 hours old, I knew he was going to make a tremendous gelding. I
never even questioned leaving him a stud, as there was something missing. So, that fall, when he was nearly ready to wean, he was gelded along with the other stud colts born that year. I never regretted it. He was an outstanding gelding and his owner used him for everything on the ranch and in the roping arena.
The next year, Annie had another stud colt. It would be her last, due to her age. He was born black but showed some roaning in his coat and eventually grayed out. Joe was also structurally correct, had perfect legs and a pleasant disposition and attitude. But Joe had something more. There was a presence about him that was lacking in Clint. He was, from 24 hours old, showing promise of being a stud. That presence was what was missing in Clint. It wasn’t the difference in color, or anything else. He was just a different individual. Joe went on to be a breeding stallion, performance horse, and a top horse on a ranch and in the arena in his life. He sired the same. I was never sorry that I’d left him a stud.
So, back to the discussion on stud colts. What does make a stallion prospect? Is it pedigree? I don’t think that is nearly enough. It shows what the horse’s potential could be due to it’s ancestry, but keeping one a stallion just because of that is flimsy. Color sure isn’t the reason. I don’t care if he’s the most gorgeous colored horse in 12 states, if he doesn’t have all the other qualities, he might as well be a rug. A stallion prospect has to have IT ALL. Then he is only a prospect until he has proven himself at whatever performance event he is groomed for. If he’s bred to run, he’d better be able to run in tough company, stay sound and have a brain. If he’s bred to cut a cow, he’d better do it better than the 20,000 others out there that can too. If he’s a barrel horse, he’d better be exceptional, because that competition is stiff too. Whatever event or events he is destined for, he needs to show that he is equipped for it physically and mentally. I will, on a rare occasion, will use a stud that didn’t get to perform. But, he has to have every other piece of the puzzle and be a proven sire.
There are some really amazing stallions out there, of course and they’ve had a big influence on the horse industry. One that comes to my mind sired hundreds of foals and some of them did well in their careers in spite of some personality flaws. Early on, most of his sons were gelded. Then those gelded sons got into the right hands and became solid performance horses. A couple of them were incredible in their events, and that most people couldn’t even ride them, much less compete on them, was irrelevant, as they
were geldings. But, the fame and fortune achieved by those geldings caused the stud colts born in the ensuing years to be left studs. Some of those studs were very good individuals, but some were virtual lunatics. The fillies by that stud were often sent straight to the broodmare band because of the gelding half brothers who were exceptional. Oddly enough, some of their offspring can sure enough be holy terrors. It carries on down through the generations. No, I won’t say who the stud was, as it applies to more than one, I’m sure.
Another stud I knew was a fine performance horse himself, and sired more of the same. Not all of his offspring were good, of course, but enough were that it was a pretty good investment to get ahold of one and go on with it. Many studs were kept by him due to the colts being sold as weanlings and yearlings for quite a few years. I suspect, looking back, that the owners of the stud regretted not controlling what was left as a stud, as they quit selling weanlings and yearlings. They now start all of the foals and ride the colts before selling them as a gelding or stallion. You can bet that if they left one a stud, he is a sure enough stallion prospect. He has that something more. No, I won’t say who he is either.
In my opinion, which along with around $4.00 can buy you a cup of coffee, most stud colts should be gelded. Most people aren’t equipped or skilled enough to handle a stallion. They are a whole different horse than a gelding or mare. Some are easier to have around than others, but they’re still stallions. All the time, 24/7. Plus, most stud colts don’t have the quality to need to be a stallion.
Over my lifetime I’ve seen many stallions. I’ve seen the best of the best, such as Easy Jet, First Down Dash, Pie In The Sky, Beduino, Tolltac, The Signature, Boston Mac, Windchester, etc…Those horses were incredible individuals. They had it all. Pedigree, performance records, conformation and that something more. They had PRESENCE. They knew who they were and you didn’t have to be a horseman to recognize it in them.
I preach it constantly. Geld those colts. You’ll be doing them a favor. My preferred time to do it is when they are nearly weaning age. Have your vet dope them, lay them down, geld them, brand them if you want, take out their wolf teeth if they are in, and when they wake up, there’s Mom and everything is just hunky dory. Stall rest overnight and they go back out on pasture the next day. I’ve never had so much as swelling in one. Then, in a couple of weeks, they can be weaned. I’ve never regretted gelding a stud
Also, if you have a stud and have decided that he shouldn’t have been, it’s not too late to geld him. We had a very nice stud that was an exceptional individual, with looks, pedigree, attitude, and conformation. His offspring rode like a dream. But, when he was 12 years old, he couldn’t impregnate a mare any more, though he’d been able to for years before. He had something wrong up inside and it hurt him to try and he got to be very aggressive to his mares. So, the fall of that year, he was taken to the vet and gelded. He’s turning 20 this spring and he’s had a great life as a gelding. He’s the beloved partner of my son, and the trusted mount of his kids, from the five year old to the 13 year old. He can run with any other horses, and his life is simpler being a gelding.
So, when your mare drops that bouncing baby and you look and it’s a stud, really study on whether that colt has what it takes to really be a stud. Be realistic and don’t let the dollar signs get in your eyes. They’ll blind you to the truth way too often. There are way more great geldings than there are good studs.
About Jan Swan Wood
Jan was raised on a ranch in far western South Dakota. She grew up horseback working all descriptions of cattle, plus sheep and horses. After leaving home she pursued a post-graduate study of cowboying and dayworking in Nebraska, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota....