Most folks think the stallion is the ruler or the boss of the "herd" of horses. This is not the case. The truth is that the mares are dominant and there is usually only one mare that is the Alpha or "boss mare". She leads the rest of the herd to food, water, and shelter. She is familiar with the terrain and when alerted by the stallion to potential danger she will determine the route and take the lead as the band flees.

The stallion's role is that of protector and sentinel. He prefers hilltops and
wide open spaces where he is not confined and can see danger from a long distance away. He will alert the band if he feels there is potential danger. When the herd is in motion and fleeing from danger, the stallion brings up the rear, driving the straggling weak, injured or very young herd members on. There is safety in numbers for prey animals. He acts as a "rear guard" between the herd and a potential source of danger. We have seen a stallion so vigilant that he would place himself between a deer and his mares, matching the deer's every movement so that he continued to stay between the deer and his band.

The stallion's place while on the range is on the outskirts of the band where he is exposed to the weather, predators, and less than the best grazing. He leads a vulnerable existence and he is exposed to more danger than any other herd member.

Gabe VS The Deer

During breeding season the stallion tends to like his band grouped together. He doesn't want them strung out. He may act more aggressively about keeping the mares together and occasionally the stallion can be seen 'snaking' along, with his ears pinned, neck extended, nose along the ground, driving a straying mare back to the safety and security of the band. Rarely is more than that show of force needed.

However, when it is actually time for the mare to be bred by the stallion, she will seek him out. She will travel to the stallion's world at the outer fringe of the herd and let him know that she is interested in what he has to offer. She will stay with the stallion, in his self- imposed exile at the outer border of the herd, during much of her breeding cycle.

The stallion spends much of his time, scent-marking manure piles and urination spots in order to make his position as herd stallion clear. This scent-marking also serves as notice to other stallions that this is his territory and his band of mares. The stallion pays little attention to the foals. It does not matter if they are colts or fillies. As long as they stay with the herd and do not stray off, he pays them little mind. In the wild, he would drive off both the colts and the fillies as yearlings or two year olds. A stallion that has had little interaction with the herd dynamic often has little tolerance even for foals.

Our experiences tell us that the range stallion is more sure of himself than the stalled stallion, simply because of the many different things he has been exposed to. He is confident, intelligent, a thinking animal. He has learned to use his mind, take things in and to think it through - not just flee in a blind panic. Is this really a threat to my mares and foals? He is not concerned you are going to take him away from his mares.

 The barned stallion breeds the mare and then is removed from her until the next scheduled breeding.

The range stallion is better behaved with the mares because he has learned from the mares that breeding goes according to her schedule. If he gets in too big a hurry, she will let him know that is not acceptable. He is kinder and gentler because of that.

We humans often try to hurry things and the domestic stallion is all too eager to oblige us.

The range stallion gets scuffed up, but we seldom see serious injuries such as those seen when hurried owners choose the time of mating. The range stallion is not the boss. He knows that he does answer to a higher rank. He draws on his experiences on the range, so while he is under saddle, he does not spook at many things that stalled horses may be concerned about like deer, birds, rabbits or horse-eating boulders because he has seen them in their natural habitat on a daily basis.

The range stallion has learned that people come and go. They bring treats and fly goop, brushes, pats and a few kind words so we are no threat to his band of mares or way of life. He has an instinctive need to escape danger and he could flee in the 300 acre pasture he is in, but we are not dangerous. The range stallion will approach us in search of attention. He has not learned the avoidance or dislike of being caught each day, as many stalled stallions have. His job is to guard and protect. However we are not a threat so it becomes his choice to approach us, and he can leave when he wishes. This creates a much better horse-human interface, and a better, safer and saner experience for both man and animal.


Mark and Shellie Pacovsky
Bainville, MT
PH. 406-769-2971
Cell 406-769-7971
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Last Updated: August 06, 2014