This post is part of a series I am writing about training, or being trained by, 2 stallions. Nafis Rafiq “Rafi” was 24, a been-there-done-that wise protective smart patient stallion. Nasr Mubaarak “Nasr” is his yearling son, just as smart and wise as his daddy, with the curiosity of youth mixed in. Stallions in general aren’t part of the majority American horse culture. Most of us grew up riding geldings, or mares. Stallions are generally reserved for the breeding farms and experienced riders and trainers, and are often perceived as dangerous or difficult. Thank goodness my first stallion experiences had been with Rafi. I am figuring out much as I go along, finding a path that honors their conscious being, while also keeping me and other people and horses safe. I have been blessed to find some conscious horsemanship for stallions mentors in the books of Linda Kohanov and Klaus Hempfling and the teachings of Kim Walnes and her horse Gideon.
Join me for the journey!
So, I’ll start by saying this has the potential to be a controversial post. At least in the USA.
And I’ll also caution, I have proceeded this way knowing the risks. Please don’t blindly follow my example. Do your own research, know your own horses, before making this leap.
So Nasr is 17 months old now. A young colt, not gelded. And until a week ago he lived in the herd with his mom, aunt, “aunties”, lead gelding Lucky and donkey Jasmine. Nasr still nursed occasionally, mainly after meals and naps. Bahiya controlled his nursing, and had cut him back slowly.
Lucky is an interesting gelding. He’s a Polish Egyptian Arabian, who I’m told was gelded late. He is still “studdy” and flirts with mares, and generally watches over and protects the herd the same way I see stallions protecting and watching. Lucky takes his duties quite seriously. Lucky took Nasr under his wing (under his hoof?) and has taught him about the adventure of climbing the hill to watch over the herd, about manners, and most importantly, about not approaching mares in anything other than a respectful manner. Nasr defers to Lucky in all things (heck, he defers to everyone) and still makes the clacking baby teeth face.
My first controversial decision was to let Bahiya decide when to wean Nasr rather than force weaning at the standard 6 months. I made this choice for several reasons. There is an interesting study of young foals that shows the much higher rate of stomach ulcers in the force-weaned foals. I also looked at emotional development, and the social benefits that young horses get from being raised in a herd. Finally, I looked at the wild horse model, and the timing of weaning in those herds. For all those reasons, I felt it was worth going out on a limb and letting Nasr and Bahiya settle the matter themselves.
There is also the question of a 17 month old colt covering mares and breeding them. Again, please don’t simply follow me blindly. I made this choice because Nasr had shown no signs of courting mares yet, and because Lucky kept him firmly in line, as well as the other mares. Additionally, it is winter here and none of the mares are cycling. I had seen Salty and Sugar and Lacey all come into heat in late summer, and they went to Lucky, who was happy to oblige. Nasr had zero interest, and kept well out of the way. So for all those reasons, I decided to let him finish out the winter in the main herd.
What made me decide to wean Nasr before spring was I spotted him nibbling on Jasmine the donkey much the way Rafi would nibble his mares. Jasmine had no interest and threatened him, but it was a sign that it was time to make the change.
What I decided upon, after consulting with mentors Kim Walnes and her stallion Gid, and researching other farms that follow this conscious horsemanship approach to stallions, is that during the transition Nasr is using the stall inside his mother’s pen and Rafi’s old pasture for turnout. When he shows he cannot maintain calm that close to his mother, he will move to the wood stall next to Lucky in the barn for stormy weather. Nasr shares the pasture with Lucky. Eventually I would like to give Nasr a small mare herd of his own, when I find the right mares.
Nasr is thriving in this new situation, and has remained a pleasure to handle and work with.