Because I breed almost exclusively by live cover, I do a lot of teasing, watching for how the mare and stallion communicate with each other. Is the mare interested in the stallion’s flirtations? Does the stallion sense the mare will be receptive to his advances? Or is the opposite the case? I realize that I’ve considered teasing to have two possible messages – interest and no interest - but a mare recently showed me there could be a third.
As I watched this mare over the course of several weeks of teasing, she showed me the two messages I was expecting. At first she was uninterested in the stallion. If I were to put words to her communication, they would be, “Don’t even dare coming any closer to me, or I’ll turn and kick your brains out!” Then she came into heat, and if I were to put words to her behavior, they would be, “Come here pretty boy and let’s see what we can do together.” The third message came after her heat cycle had ended. I realized when she expressed disinterest in the stallion, it had a different character. If I had to put words to her message, they would be, “Thank you for our interactions. I’m no longer interested, but I appreciate your cooperation.” The mare’s disinterest was less intense, and she tolerated the stallion’s company seemingly because she appreciates being in foal.
Not all mares enjoy a stallion’s company after they’re bred. I suspect that’s why I’ve never previously realized my inaccurately narrow view of the conversations between mares and stallions during teasing. Now though, I realize that one other mare had a similar threesome of teasing communications. She too enjoyed a stallion’s company while she was in foal.
I was speaking to an acquaintance the other night and expressing my envy at his multiple generations of animal husbandry experience. Because I’ve been doing this for just twenty years, his 60 plus seems eons longer. I was surprised by his response. He said even though he has more years of experience than I do, nothing’s really ever the same, and he’s always learning how to steward his animals better. Good to know!
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2019
More thoughts about breeding Fell Ponies can be found in my book Fell Ponies: Observations on the Breed, the Breed Standard, and Breeding, available internationally by clicking here or on the book cover.