Many of you have probably seen the quote referenced above. There is no doubt that riding different genders of horses is extremely different. There is also no doubt that many equestrians tend to prefer one over another. You have your “gelding people” and your “mare people.” I don’t know if I’ve ever met or talked to anyone that preferred to work with a stallion, but I am sure they are out there.
For much of my riding career, I only rode geldings. I think the first mare I rode was after I had been riding for a good 10 years. Most of the mares I had experienced once I started going to different barns were, to be frank, bitchy and unpleasant to deal with.
I much preferred geldings over mares. I just clicked with them better. Unfortunately, my lack of experience with mares added with the fact that my trainers that had me ride mares never explained to me the differences between mares and geldings had soured me to working with mares.
It wasn’t until my current barn and my current trainer that I fully understood how working with a mare is completely different than working with a gelding. And, I also discovered that not every mare is mare-ish. Some are actually very pleasant to work with and ride. In fact, my barn owner has told me that having a relationship with a mare is one of the best horse relationships you can have because when you really click with a mare, they give you their all. They want to make you happy and do what’s right, and they truly cherish their relationship with their human.
There is no doubt that mares are much more sensitive than geldings. They can be more temperamental. They need to be ridden a certain way and worked with a certain way. Oftentimes, you cannot demand things from them like you would a gelding. They will test you, but, they are also incredibly loyal. When you earn their trust, you know you’ve done something right. If you respect them, they will respect you. And, while I have not yet experienced this myself, I have heard that a bond with a mare is like no other.
Senior Editor Liv Godfrey has her own chestnut Thoroughbred mare, Lulu. She gave her thoughts on what it’s like working with a mare.
Lulu is my first young horse and off the track Thoroughbred that I started from the beginning. I taught her how to be a rideable jumper that happens to love jumping and being in the jumper ring. She has taught me so much over the past two, almost three years. I truly believe mares are a completely different ball game than geldings. Mares just have different personalities than geldings. Geldings tend to be more happy go lucky. Mares give their all to people that they trust and that they like being ridden by. A connection with a mare feel likes a different kind of connection, especially when you click with the mare. It teaches you to constantly want to be a better rider. Personally, my mare make me strive to be a different, more motivated, stronger person.
I’ve found when you ride a mare you need to constantly be talking to them and figuring out what will make them go their best depending on how they’re feeling that day. For example, sometimes Lulu goes like a little hunter, and some days she will throw harmless, sassy bucks in when we are cantering around the ring. When I am spending time with Lulu on the ground, she has a different kind of attitude. I feel like I constantly have to remind her how pretty she is in order to put her in a good mood before I get on!
Oh, and lots of treat help too…..
Overall mares are the best, in my opinion. When an equestrian is patient and listens to a mare, he or she will learn what buttons to push to make a mare go the best she possibly can. For me, that also involves a lot of good training from my trainers. Personally, I highly suggest working with professionals, even if you can only afford to once a month. Working with a professional helps a lot, sometimes more than one cares to admit, when you have someone on the ground observing and giving you suggestions.
To wrap it up, mares are the best when an equestrian is able to connect with them and take one’s time to understand their personality. I personally do not think people give mares enough credit all the time, but as far as I am personally seeing, some of the nicest horses (Sapphire, HH Azur, Cylana, etc.) in this era are mares.
Take your time. Understand what makes them tick. A mare will be the best teammate you could possibly ask for.