>>>>> Most of the reason I dislike live cover is because humans interefere SO much, we create the danger. How receptive can a mare be when we tie up three legs, twitch her, and then force a stallion on her? AI tends to take away from that manmade danger in situations when the horses can't be natural about it anyway. That's my only preference for AI.
Ahhh but not all people manage their in hand live covering with twitches hobbles and such. I wouldn't like live cover breeding either if I trussed up every mare. If the stallion is being forced on her-- ie. she is not at least showing receptivity (for a maiden) or better yet begging for his attention (for an experienced mare)-- something is seriously amiss! My goal with hand covering is to make it as stress free and natural as possible, because IMO it is safer, and I have happier horses and better conception rates that way.
I have my stallion's pen near one end of the mare paddock, and, like True Colours, I observe several times daily what each mare is "doing", and keep track. The stallion and mares can be in full sight and hearing of each other 24/7, if they wish to be.
If I see "clues" in a mare's behavior and/or the stallion's interest in a mare, I halter up the mare, take her out of the paddock, and tease her more "up close and personal" with the stallion-- he is allowed to come into contact with her over his fence when appropriate. I have a very vocal, very attentive stallion. He doesn't bite or charge. He is a very good teaser.
If the mare is receptive and the stallion showing appropriate interest, what I do next depends on the mare. With mares I am familiar with, I don't usually breed at the first sign of receptivity, but wait a day or two, if they typically are in standing heat at least four days-- I prefer to cover a mare only twice in her heat cycle if at all possible. If I am not familiar with her typical oestrus behavior, or if it is a day or two into standing heat, I do minimal cleaning under her tail with water, either tie her or have a helper hold her (as I don't tie maiden mares or mares I am not familiar with, or the occasional mare who does not stand well tied). I get the stallion ready (minimal water cleansing) and proceed to cover the mare.
I am not a big operation, and I don't usually have outside mares to worry about. We covered 6 mares this season, ranging from a five year old maiden off track TB, to a tempermental 16.3 hand mare who had only ever been bred via AI previously, to a 16 year old mare who has had 7 foals and is an old hand at all of this. Not one twitch, hobble, needle or chain touched any of the mares. In fact, I only used a chain over the nose on the stallion with two mares-- I knew from how they teased that they were a little more reactive, and for his own safety I wanted him to be more responsive if I felt I had to move him out of the way quickly-- but not one mare took any serious shots toward him, and obviously we had successful covers.
I know some folks will say a mare should be restrained for the safety of the stallion and handlers--I have worked at barns where we used all the gadgets to restrain a mare. Guess what-- they can and do still kick, rear, flip, and panic with hobbles, twitches, in breeding chutes and stocks, and even when tranquilized. When they are restrained with devices and end up freaking out, IMO it is a bigger wreck than if they are being attentively held or attended to while securely tied, and it can be MORE dangerous to all concerned, especailly the stallion.
I prefer not to use any of that if I can avoid it, and as this year illustrated, if a mare is somewhat familiar with the stallion and the process and is not bred until she is totally ready, it can work out smoothly and relatively stress free for all involved.
The above won't work with every mare, every stallion, or every farm, every time-- these are my own mares, or mares on lease that I am responsible for and have here long term, so I get to know their habits and concerns pretty well. I would not hesitate to employ more restraint if I felt it was the best choice. But seriously (and embarassingly, LOL) I had more drama getting one old bird to load in the trailer to go for her ultrasound appointment than I had getting her covered and in foal!