Sunday, September 7, 2008
Mares vs. Geldings
Over the years, I've only had geldings until my current horse, Gailey. While trying to decided whether or not to buy her, I heard lots of advice, much of it negative, regarding mares vs. geldings.
In my ignorance about mares, I pooh-poohed most of the negative remarks. I couldn't imagine they were any different from geldings.
Boy, was I ever wrong.
Now, ten years later and a lot of tears and smiles, I can honestly say that my mare is very different from the geldings I've owned. And, I suspect, the gender differences are pretty standard across the board. The interesting thing is that the differences weren't all that dissimilar to the difference between men and women. These are obviously generalizations and my own observations.
The biggest thing I learned is that you have to work with a mare as a partner. Geldings will take the path of least resistance and comply in most cases. Mares have to test you, make sure you really mean it. My mare had a fairness quotient. If you didn't treat her fairly according to her measuring stick, she let her irritation be known.
Force never worked with Gailey, she'd fight to the bitter end. Not in a dangerous manner, but through resistance in some manner, like sulking and not wanting to go forward, then her favorite evasion, falling on her forehand and going faster and faster.
My mare also likes to take over, either because she's trying to hard to help or she's in alphamare mode. She memorizes dressage tests after one ride. Then she insists that I don't know what I'm doing if I'm not riding the pattern she thinks I should be. I've had to mix up the tests more than I ever did with my gelding.
Mares have a protective instinct I never saw in my gelding. One time when I was in her pasture, a stray dog came into the field and approached me. She didn't like that one bit. She went after him and chased him out of the field.
Are mares smarter? Some people say they are. Mine seems to pick up things faster than my gelding. She tries hard to please, sometimes too hard. She can get quite nervous and upset when she's trying and just not getting it. She definitely has a bit of a drama queen in her, too.
Are mares more affectionate? I can't speak for all mares but mine is more attached to me than any gelding has ever been. Gailey knows the sound of my truck. When she hears it pull up the driveway, she's waiting by the gait for me. When I'm talking to friends, she'll hang out with us like one of the girls, which is why her nickname is "Girlfriend." When I have her at home, she'll often follow me around.
Are mares more difficult? Yes, I'd say they are. But, if you get a mare on your side and work with her, she'll work for you like no gelding you've ever ridden. It just takes tact and fairness.
I love my mare. She's my horse of a lifetime. Not because of ribbons or talent or anything tangible. But because over the years, through good and bad, and all the ups and downs, we've formed a bond that I've never experienced with any gelding.
Would I own another mare? You bet.