How far failure on the part of mares to prove fruitful is due to impotence on the part of sires it would perhaps be difficult to say, but those who are in and about our breeding-studs know that in some circumstances barrenness is largely attributable to this cause. It is too much the fashion to regard the mare as the ever-erring partner, and to overlook the disability of the horse to render his services fruitful; but how often is it observed that numbers of mares both old and young which have been regular breeders fail in a particular season to a particular horse to bear foals; and it is no uncommon occurrence to hear a breeder remark of a certain sire that " he has not left two foals in the parish", or a comparatively trifling number in a district, notwithstanding that he was well supplied with mares the previous season. This is an occurrence so common as to be within the knowledge of everyone concerned with horse-breeding or stud-management.
Explanations of various kinds are always forthcoming to account for these stud failures, some implicating the mares and others the season, but the shrewd breeder, while allowing for the possible adverse influence of both these causes, does not fail to recognize that other and more potent factor, the sire.
How much of this failure is due to impotence on his part cannot be precisely stated, but there can be no doubt that under the circumstances presently to be referred to it is the predominating quantity. When we consider the exhausting services which stud-horses have to render during the season, and the indifferent preparation many of them undergo in anticipation of the work before them, it is not surprising that they sometimes fail to give the results expected of them.
Without condition, the services of a sire are no more capable of yielding a full measure of success than are those of a race-horse, and to call upon him to perform a season's work in its absence is as much an injustice to the horse in body and reputation as it is to those who use him.
The practice of turning a horse away into a loose-box after the season is over, to spend the winter in confinement, and too frequently on indifferent fare, is, even in these enlightened days, of common occurrence, and not unfrequently the foundation on which subsequent failure of the stud is laid.
When to this is added that bullock-like obesity into which he is rapidly brought during a few weeks of forcing treatment in the spring, little then remains to be done to defeat the object for which he is intended. It is not suggested that fat horses are necessarily impotent, but that they fail to meet the full and legitimate requirements of those who use them,, and pay for a fruitful service. In saying so, we recognize the fact that, in. order to command liberal patronage, sires, and especially those of the heavy breeds, must be brought up to the show standard, and at a time too when they should be in " racing trim".
In this connection it must be admitted that the users are not altogether free from blame for the losses which they suffer, and until they can judge " make and shape", and select their sires in the absence of soft superfluous flesh and fat, owners of stallions will continue the abuse to which we have referred.
Want of condition not only renders reproduction uncertain, but lays the individual open to attack from all sorts of diseases and accidents of a crippling nature, and to none more than that bane of stallions - laminitis.
Eighty per cent of the cases of this disease occur at the beginning of the season, when every organ of the body is over-burdened with fat, and the muscles devoid of that healthy tone by which the feet are relieved from undue impact of superimposed weight.
When a horse commences his season fat and wanting condition, his stud work is greatly multiplied by mares returning to service, and especially if - as is mostly the case - he is allowed to serve an unreasonable number. In this state his early services are often abortive, and require to be repeated again and again, so that the vigour and condition with which he should have started is never attained. Young and old horses especially are made to suffer, both in body and reputation, by neglect of this first principle of stud-management.
Stallions which have passed through an average season show the effects of its weakening influence, and need at that time as much as any a liberal measure of support. To uphold condition is the end to be aimed at, if a high state of fertility is to be maintained and services prolonged.
In order that this may be done, the winter keep should be generous and of the best. A paddock with ample range, if possible, should be provided, in which exercise and plenty of it may be obtained. Stallions are better in the open, even in the cold days of winter, than in the average stable. It is no uncommon thing to see Mr. James Forshaw's valuable Shire stallions out with their blinkers on at Christmas, when snow is over their hoofs, and most people will respect his large experience of stud-management.
As February comes round, the food ration should be increased, and exercise, commencing with six and increasing to ten miles a day, should be enforced. Hard condition and a fruitful season will be the result, to say nothing of the escape from diseases incidental to obesity.
With judicious management, horses "on the road" will uphold their condition as the season goes on, and far exceed in fruitfulness those that "stand" at home. How much the vitality and strength of the offspring depend upon the vigour of the sire at the time of service is an unknown quantity, but no one acquainted with the subject will fail to realize the importance of their physiological relations. It is distinctly to the advantage of stud-horses that they be regularly fed, and ample time be allowed for digestion to advance, before going to service. Neglect of this precaution is accountable for many of those attacks of indigestion, twisted bowels, and ruptured stomach from which stallions so frequently suffer. Nor is it less important that, as far as practicable, horses on the road should do their work in the early morning and cool of the evening, so that the depressing effects of mid-day heat may be avoided.