MY COLT’S FIRST MARE
by Cynthia Cooper
Although I’ve been breeding horses for over 33 years, witnessing my arab colt’s first sexual encounter with a mare was a very special time for me.
It was an enthralling study in horse behaviour and really showed me how a stallion courts a mare….naturally.
Finn is almost two years old and he is my second chance to get it right as far as owning a stallion goes.
I had his sire, Mandala Royale, from the age of six months until he was 22 when he died in 2003 and although I had a successful time with him in terms of competition, breeding and relationship – it could have been better.
So, when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a very in season mare arriving for some float training, the owner decided Finn would be worth trying as a sire. She had been considering breeding her mare but wasn’t sure if she was capable of having another foal at 17 years of age.
I assured her many mares breed well into there 20’s so long as they are physically sound internally and externally and are cycling regularly as this mare was.
Sophie was showing off to all the horses she met so I thought it was best to introduce Finn as soon as possible. I led him away from his family herd (he was still running with his dam, another old mare, her daughter and a gelding who all kept him in his place – at the bottom of the pecking order) to meet Sophie who was led to a safe meeting place with no fence between them.
For the next 45 minutes my partner and I watched (and photographed) Finn courting Sophie who was very willing but wanted some respect and trust before she would allow this fellow she’d only just met, come so close.
We held their ropes loose as a safety net so if she kicked with malice or if he rushed too much, we could control things a little.
As it turned out, Finn knew enough about equine body language from running with the herd all this time, to read her intentions and her couple of half hearted kicks kept him polite.
After nibbling and touching her from her nose to her tail including her legs with many approaches and retreats, it looked like he’d need plenty of time to get to know her before any sexual activity would occur.
I decided to take them to the paddock along side his herd and turn him loose while keeping Sophie on line until I was sure she wasn’t going to hurt him.
The touching and licking increased to testing her with some gentle biting – more like taking hold of her on the hocks, legs – she even lifted a front leg for him, and the tail.
He did some approach and retreat by rubbing against her and lifting his front legs before trying a jump up and even stood right behind her with his chest pressing her rear end to gauge her reaction.
Within 30 more minutes, he had her wooed and the mating began. It was lovely to watch – he was so in-experienced but knew exactly what to do and completed the coupling like a pro. I’ve never seen a young colt so sure of what he was there for and take his time so lovingly with a mare so ready to be served who also appeared to enjoy the whole process.
When it was over, I removed her halter and they wandered off to eat grass together and meet the other horses over the fence.
He was fine with his own family sniffing her, but when the group of geldings on the other side wanted to chat to the new girl, he protectively placed himself in between and even showed aggression towards much older horses he’d shown very submissive signs to only an hour earlier.
He then decided to herd his new wife away and assumed the lowered head with ears back of a stallion, circling her then driving her from behind to go well away from the others.
All of a sudden my meek and mild baby colt was behaving like the stallion his father was – and he was still 10 days off his two year old birthday!
I sat and watched his antics for a couple of hours – he showed of his paces to Sophie, trotting away and turning tightly around various obstacles in the paddock as if to say “Look at me – aren’t I the best”.
They cantered around together, ate grass together and looked so happy I decided it was safe to leave them running together for future un-supervised matings.
I remove the geldings from over the fence so Finn didn’t need to tire himself with herding Sophie away and left them to enjoy each other’s company.
The next morning, I found them both lying down close to each other, soaking up the sun and resting from all the activity which no doubt happened during the night judging from the squeals I heard every now and then.
I’m happy knowing that my current knowledge has helped him learn about life with mares in a relaxed and gradual manner, unlike his sire who was always anxious and difficult to handle when serving mares due to the traditional approach of only hand serving and no herd to run with.
So I’ve made amends with Roy’s spirit who didn’t have that same opportunity all those years ago and we are all smiling.