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Choosing the right stallion

by breeder, Jack Beeson-Smith

There are many factors to take into consideration but here are some of our top tips:

Here at Cliffe Equine Vets, we offer chilled, frozen, and fresh artificial insemination which allows for a greater choice of stallions. Have a discussion with your vet regarding the pros and cons of these options and bear in mind that not all stallions are available for AI.

Before getting drawn in by the glossy stud cards and professionally produced videos, make sure you first consider exactly what you are aspiring to breed and for what purpose. Perhaps you aim to produce a future sports horse, a show pony to aim for HOYS or a cob to hack around the countryside. Whatever your aim, stay focused and try to stick to your goal when choosing the right stallion.

We often place much focus on the stallions and sometimes forget that breeding is 50/50, therefore it’s not only the stallion’s responsibility to pass on his genetics but the mare has an equally important part to play.

Start with the mare and consider what her strengths are and equally what are her flaws? Evaluate her conformation, movement, temperament, natural jumping ability, and anything else necessary for the offspring’s future job. Be critical and highlight areas you wish to improve on. If conformation isn’t your strong point, then ask your vet to give you advice which could be combined with a pre -breeding assessment at your yard or our equine hospital. Weaknesses or areas for improvement should be your starting point and form your wish list when choosing a stallion. For example, if you know your mare has poor quality feet, make sure any perspective stallions would make up for her short fall by having good feet. Equally, if your mare has a weaker pace such as the canter, your search should be for stallions showing a very good natural canter.

Some stallions, particularly in dressage have been produced to show off huge, expressive paces which in some cases have been manufactured through training and the use of tension and not always relaxation. Try to recognise this when looking at the whole picture and if you suspect this to be the case search YouTube for some earlier videos. It’s often possible to find footage of stallions in younger years, which can give you a truer representation of their natural movement.

Good photos and videos will give you the chance to assess conformation and movement. Don’t be shy in requesting shots of views and angles other than those offered by the stud for marketing. Most stallion owners are more than happy to oblige and will respect your attention to detail.

Once you have a stallion in mind, make contact with the owner, preferably by phone. This allows for a conversation about your requirements and more importantly your mare. Proven stallion owners are best equipped to give advice about the types of mares best suited to their stallion. Don’t be offended if the stud advises against using their stallion; this is the sign of a trustworthy and professional stallion owner/ stud.

Ask for information about the stallion’s semen quality and what his average progressive motility has been reported at. For chilled semen you want to know the average percentage reported by vets at the time of insemination after the semen has travelled. This will give you an idea of how well the semen lasts and travels. Semen quality differs greatly and knowing this pre- breeding could help you decide between chilled and frozen AI and save you money in the long run. Knowing the stallion’s usual semen quality should also highlight any unusual problems with a particular dose of semen. If the progressive motility is much lower than you have been advised, you should report this to the stud and it’s possible there was a problem in transit.

Before starting the breeding process, we advise you book one of our vets to give your mare a pre -breeding examination.


  • A general physical examination and vaginal and rectal examinations
  • Ultrasound examination of the reproductive tract
  • CEM swab and certification, including laboratory fees

For information on all our 2023 stud packages and prices or to speak to one of our team for advice, please call us on 01323 815120.

Best of luck for the stud season from all at Cliffe Equine Vets