Down south in the UC Davis Horse Barn, student interns called stud managers spend six months a year making horse babies. Yes, making horse babies.
Natural breeding is quite dangerous, so they practice artificial insemination, in which the managers excite the stallions, collect the horse semen and impregnate a mare.
Last week, the Equine Facilities manager, breeding manager and a former stud manager took students from an Animal Science 49 class into the Horse Barn for an artificial insemination (AI) demonstration.
“To people who don’t really get it, it sounds weird. So I just say, ‘yeah, I make horse babies,’” said Alberto Davados, a fourth-year animal science major and former stud manager.
Stud managers risk hoof bashing as they go about getting these horses excited. They do it because letting horses have sex naturally is even riskier.
“There’s a lot of reasons we like to do AI over live cover,” said Joel Viloria, Equine Facilities manager. “It’s safer for the stallion and the handlers.”
There are other reasons as well, one being that horses can have STDs, and if a stallion is especially popular, he might breed with 500 other mares in a year.
“AI is pretty much how every horse is made now, and [as] stud managers, this is our job. At the end of it, we’ve probably done about 150 [semen collections] in the six months,” Davados said.
Animal Science 49 is a two-unit class where students get hands-on experience, by learning how to groom them and witnessing an artificial insemination.
The technicalities of the process are a clever blend of scientific and hilarious, and involve collection cups, artificial vaginas and lots of lube.
The collection cup is just a plastic bottle with a Brooks & Dunn beer cozy, which keeps it at the right temperature. Sterile baby-bottle liners are rolled into the cup, and the gel filter is popped in on top. Once built, the cup is placed at the end of another interesting AI tool.
“Now we need what we call an artificial vagina, or AV for short,” Viloria said.
AVs come in all shapes and sizes. Two in particular are called the Colorado and the Missouri. The Colorado is a giant, hard pipe with a handle.
Once the stallion is inside it, however, there’s nothing the stud manager can do to physically manipulate him. For horses that like physical manipulation, the Missouri is a better choice.
The Missouri is a latex vagina.
“It’s not based upon a rigid skeleton — [what we have is a] floppy-doppy little buddy here,” Viloria said. “Once the stallion enters, you can do things that feel good when we’re performing horsey sex. For example, [one horse] likes pressure on the base of his penis while you gently massage the tip of his head. One of the other boys liked it when you literally squeezed him — he was a masochist; he liked that kind of pain scenario. [For] other stallions, as you collect you lightly massage their testicles. There are just things that you’ve got to do.”
The final step in building the AV is lubricating it.
“[If] you don’t lubricate it, they ain’t going to like it,” Viloria said.
Finally ready to proceed, the class moved into a barn room with a tease stall, a phantom mount and some bleachers.
The tease stall is for a mare who helps the stallion get excited. Once he’s ready, the stud managers move him to the phantom, which he mounts. Then they hold the AV in position while he ejaculates.
“What’s going to happen is that stallion’s going to go to the mare and tease, [and] when the stallion drops, we’re going to clean his penis,” Viloria said.
As they do this, Viloria warned them to be gentle with the penis.
“Every year when I teach this, it seems to be the females — they just grab that thing like it’s nothing and start pulling and yanking and cleaning it,” Viloria said. “Then [later] we get to the mare’s part of the role. The girls are super careful, soft, and not wanting to hurt them, and the guys are like ‘whatever; clean that thing!’”
Speaking to the two people cleaning the stallion’s penis, Viloria gave a run down on safety procedures.
“I’m going to grab you two either by the belt loop or the back of your jacket,” Viloria said. “Do not fight me. If I say come here, come here. I only had one person that [resisted]; she almost died.”
While the stallion was teasing, getting excited and dropping, romantic music was played throughout the Horse Barn, and the 49 class sat on the bleachers watching.
“Afterwards they look like they enjoyed it. After he collects, he just lays there as long as you let him — he almost passes out,” Davados said.
Enjoyable though it may be for the stallion, it certainly requires some bravery in those who clean the penis and hold the vagina up.
One of the students, who was unfamiliar with horses before the class, said she generally enjoyed the class, though this demonstration was a bit different.
“Today, I’m kind of scared,” said Yi Li, a third-year animal science major.
Being scared isn’t an unbelievable feeling when watching horses tease.
“Some people get very concerned about the level of aggression,” Viloria said. “This is aggressive behavior. The studs always want sex.”
NAOMI NISHIHARA can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.