Mares, stallions and geldings that is; yes, mares are from Venus, stallions from Mars and the geldings must be big boys from Pluto. What I mean is, mares and stallions have very different behaviors and geldings live in a slightly different world unto themselves. I love the old adage that goes “you tell a gelding, ask a mare and suggest to a stallion”. There is so much truth in that old statement!
Horses are each very unique individuals but often I find that geldings are usually pretty easy to deal with because they are not as complicated as mares and stallions and they aren’t dealing with raging hormones. Not all geldings are easy of course. Their temperament can be affected by many factors such as prior handling and how old they were when they were castrated. Some geldings will retain much of their stallion aggressiveness but most geldings show little or none of that aggression.
A down side that I’ve found to geldings is that they don’t usually have that extra “try” when the going gets tough. Things like a late, late evening class or a minor discomfort might put off a gelding where a mare or stallion will usually “tough it out”. I find that generally, geldings just don’t have the heart of a mare of stallion but they do retain the playfulness of “the guys”. In their play geldings usually really like to face-fight, rear, and pretend to strike. For this reason, some geldings do not do well if turned out with mares. I personally like to keep geldings and mares separated.
Now mares: apart from estrous cycles, they too exhibit their own behavior. They can definitely be opinionated. Mares are more likely to kick when expressing themselves. Mares will kick up their heels when turned out, for the pure joy of it all. They’ll also kick as a defense behavior or when they’re just plain mad. There are more problems grouping mares together than grouping geldings. Finding a single dominant mare that will nicely rule and manage the herd is definitely an advantage. Most herds of mares (anything more than two should be considered a herd) also consist of a second-in-command, a lieutenant so to speak and there are very definitely pecking orders in a herd of mares: top tier, middle tier and bottom of the herd.
And as for stallions, of course it’s always about getting the girls! So often I see people either being too lax and letting their stallion get into dangerous behavior or they over discipline their stallion which can make them angry and frustrated. Frankly, I don’t believe that most people should handle stallions but all stallions are different, just like all mares and geldings are unique. The trick is to know the horse. It also makes a big difference if the stallion is being bred and how frequently. What is allowed in the breeding shed should never be allowed outside that area. Stallions “talk”; they nicker and neigh to mares and geldings and this can quickly lead to more aggressive behavior. The girl smiles and the guy flirts harder…. Allowing a stallion to talk can be the beginning of a very dangerous escalation. Stallions are always fighting primal urges and can quickly start fighting with their teeth and front legs.
Stallions also want to control mares. During breeding they control the mare by biting a nerve in the neck so biting is part of a stallion’s natural behavior. Biting towards humans must never be tolerated as it can very quickly get out of hand. Stallions also play aggressively with their head and neck so when disciplining a stallion from the ground it’s important to make sure the horse doesn’t think you’re just playing with him. All that said, stallions can have long and loyal relationships with their humans when there is respect and the right amount of control and discipline. I think too that they will give more “heart” when asked, if you have a good relationship with them.
All horses are their own individuals but stallions are even more pronounced in their proclivities. Stallions must have regular work and exercise. It helps release their sexual tension and is a great aid in getting them to relax and then focus on whatever it is you need them to do.
It’s all about individuals – both in the horses and the people who handle them. Some of the worst “mares” I’ve known were geldings, some of the strongest hearts I’ve seen were in mares and one of the most affectionate horses I’ve known is a stallion. So whether you like Venusians, Martians or the boys from Pluto, get to know your horse and celebrate him or her as a unique individual but never forget the indelible traits that he or she carries. Talk to you later! JD