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.


Mary Paine said...

Hi Jami,

It's amazing when you find your horse of a lifetime! Here's hoping for many wonderful years for the two of you.

I'll be cheering for you!


Laura Crum said...

Jami, I've always been a "gelding person", but I found it very interesting to hear your take on mares. Many experienced horsemen I've known have said the same. Though I've trained mares for others, I've never really bonded with any of them--its always been the geldings. But then, most of my buddies are men. Go figure.

Promise said...

I didn't want a mare. Until I fell in love with one. I'm also in the 10 years later, after lots of tears, and even more smiles. If (or when) I get another horse, I will be looking at mares first, for all the reasons you said, as well as a few of mine own. My mare sounds a lot like yours...she'll try and try and try, and get very upset and nervous if she thinks she's not understanding what I want.

By far, the most special bond you get - and the horse that tries harder to please you than any other - is from a mare.

mugwump said...

I like geldings. I think they're sense of humor is sharper, and they take life easier.
Fate has dealt me mares. They are dramatic, they change day by day, they challenge me constantly. They can be inspired at the right moment, or I can be kissing the vet in thanks for the great equalizer, Regumate.
Luckily. I just like horses.

Jami Davenport said...

You all bring up good points. And all valid points.

I never thought about gelding having a better sense of humor, but I can see some truth in that. My mare takes life a little more seriously than my gelding and she is the consumate drama queen.

Leslie said...

Drama queens! That's how I see most mares, at least the ones I worked around. One mare I did bond with and I would buy her today if she went up for sale. But, I always said she had a "boy" attitude. She reminded me of the cliche tomboy. She would do everything I asked, yet someone else on her or working her,she wouldn't be quite as cooperative. None of the other staff liked her. I didn't at first but then when I was told to work with her as my yearly project, that's when we bonded. I still prefer geldings, but do agree, if you find the right mare, I think you'd have a great working partner.
Enjoyed reading all the different viewpoints on mares and geldings! Some I hadn't even thought about!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jami,

I agree completely with what you say about the mares.I have a three year old that I broke when I was 11and she was 2&1/2 and she wouldnt even lead when I brought her home when she was one.She put up quite a fight and all my friends who were "gelding people" thought I made a bad choice.Not anymore.They still think that mares are just cranky,little heat magnets that enjoy nothing more than to pin their ears back.That may be true with some,but my mare is now taking 1st in the show ring.They no longer think I made a bad choice because I got through to her and now she'd protect me and do anything for me that I would want her to do.Thats just a story I have with my mare that I wanted to share.Thanks,

Jami Davenport said...


I'm glad you're enjoying your mare and doing well at shows. What kind of showing do you do?