Selecting the father of your future prospect is a big decision! Once you’ve decided on the mother-to-be, pick a stallion that will complement her strengths, but one that will also strengthen any weaknesses she may have. Temperament, conformation, and performance record are the biggest factors to consider when selecting a stallion. Color frequently plays a big role in stallion selection, but don’t let that be your only criteria when picking your mare’s mate; keep the other factors in mind before making the final decision. However, also remember that genetics are tricky, and Mother Nature may have other plans about which traits to pass on.
Once you’ve narrowed down the choices based on which stallion best complements your mare, next determine if Stud Fees, semen type (live cover, cool-shipped, or frozen), and semen shipping costs will fit into your program and budget. Stud Fees are typically set by the stallion owner and will vary based on a stallion’s popularity and performance. A non-refundable Booking Fee is frequently part of the total Stud Fee cost. While the Stud Fee goes towards the privilege of obtaining genetic material (semen) from the stallion, the Booking Fee goes towards the costs and time associated with stallion management, including record keeping, breed registry paperwork, and keeping the stallion in top breeding condition. Most stallions will also have a separate fee for semen collection and shipment, but occasionally one shipment of semen will be included in the Stud Fee. Be sure to read any breeding contracts carefully to determine what additional fees, if any, to expect.
A Live Foal Guarantee (LFG) is also a common feature of many breeding contracts. It is highly advisable to make sure a LFG is included in the contract of whichever stallion you choose. Many things unexpected things can happen with breeding and foaling and the LFG functions as an insurance policy, of sorts. This provision typically states that if a mare fails to conceive in a given season, or fails to produce a foal that is able to stand and nurse within 24 hours of birth, then the original mare can be re-bred to the stallion the following season without having to pay an additional stud fee. Frequently, however, a re-Booking Fee (usually discounted from the original Booking Fee) and semen shipping costs will still be expected. Many contracts will also allow a particular mare to be substituted if she is not successful at getting pregnant; be sure to ask if that’s an option. Read all of your contracts carefully, because many stallions also have what’s called a One-Year Right of Return clause. This clause states that should a mare fail to become pregnant or a live foal is not produced, the mare can be re-bred to the stud for only one more season before having to pay an additional stud fee. This is a common clause, so don’t be discouraged from using that particular stallion, but it’s a good caveat to be aware of ahead of time. It is also advisable to keep the stallion manager or the stallion’s veterinarian apprised of your progress throughout the breeding season. If your mare is struggling to conceive or you are encountering other difficulties, communication is paramount to getting the fixable problems resolved. Most veterinarians and stallion managers are happy to consult with your own veterinarian about which breeding practices work best with that stallion’s semen.