When I was younger if I looked for a horse or pony it was always geldings only due to me thinking they were easier. I’ve since had opportunity to ride a wide range of horses including mares, geldings and the odd Stallion and I am well and truly converted and would probably always now choose a mare given the choice and here is why.
1) Mares are just like most women if I’m honest. Most (but not all) good competition mares are probably best compared to an opinionated teenage girl! Pretend they were human and then decide how to approach a subject and your success rate will soar. I seem to understand mares rather well and get results, not sure what that says about me though…!
2) Mares aim to please and do well. If given correct opportunity they will do so at every chance. Give them that opportunity!
3) Discuss a plan with a mare she will co-operate and work with you, tell her to do something without choice and she will refuse and rebel. Even better if you can make something appear as if it was her idea in the first place you will be on to a winner. Don’t get in an argument with a mare as you will lose. They are bigger, stronger & more opinionated than you! Provide a structured reason to your opinion and they will agree. Even if short term you think you have won an argument you haven’t and don’t lull yourself in to a false sense of security that you have!
4) Mares are clever use this to your advantage otherwise she will use it against you. See point 3
5) Gain a mare’s trust and she will work that extra bit harder than any gelding ever will. (if I got a £1 for every time I’ve been told that I would be rich!)
6) Mares have hormones and they will fluctuate, routine works best but be considerate of seasons. Most will still work well through a season if not better than normal. For those that don’t it’s worth checking they don’t have an imbalance, Regumate is your friend if they do!
7) Mares are cheaper. Because so many people seem to carry an unfair prejudice that they are difficult you can get more for your money especially those in the amateur market.
8) Mares can have an alternative career as a mum. (DISCLAIMER: just because a mare is capable of breeding doesn’t mean it should!)
9) Mares are more vocal when something isn’t right. Whether that be a training method a piece of badly fitting equipment or something physically wrong with them. You still need to read the subtle signs but they start earlier so giving you more notice to correct the problem early on before they become less subtle and more direct with their opinions when damage may be irreversible!
10) Mares often pretend they don’t like your company or attention (unless you are providing food!). Most are lying and are just sensitive and in reality love attention, provide this fuss but only when they approve and on their terms. Launch in for a hard groom with a dandy brush at your peril! Think of them as a cat!
11) Mares often suit one horse amateur’s as they get the extra level of attention they feel they warrant which they then thrive on. It’s perfectly possible to be an amateur and have more than one mare you just have to learn to structure your time with them so the other doesn’t sulk like an ignored teenage girl! I also don’t feel it’s coincidence that most of the best mares in eventing have a special and closer bond with their riders and are brought up through the grades by that one rider.
Myths about mares that are in my experience wrong would include;
1) Loving to be clean. I will provide my mare as the perfect proof otherwise. She LOVES to get dirty ear to hoof if the chance arises and feels a failure if not sporting muddy dreadlocks and 70% coverage across her body in mud or dirt.
2) They are picky about food – No they are no pickier than the average gelding.
3) Chestnut mares are all nutcases – no they are not! The chestnut gene makes their skin more sensitive but no more than a gelding and they can be utterly amazing you only need look at Headley Britannia who was the ultimate chestnut mare. Never turn a mare down on it’s colour alone!
Beyond this mares are just like any other horse and just like geldings:
1) They like company but will occasionally get in arguments so choose their friends wisely because if you don’t they will.
2) They love food, use this to your advantage to gain their co-operation just like any horse!
3) They like and thrive on routine. I know I’m told very vocally if I’m 5 minutes late to the yard (although providing food will equal forgiveness!).
So yes give me a mare any day please. What other mare myths do you know of and let us know why you wouldn’t part with your mare.