Though it is hard to generalize with horses, there is far more truth to that saying than fiction. Geldings most often tend to be consistent and reliable in their demeanor and less apt to change under different conditions and circumstances. This doesn’t mean that their individual personality can’t vary from very sensitive to rather lazy and easy going, or that they can’t have individual quirks. In general geldings are the most tolerant of things such as inconsistency in the aids coming from the rider, uncomfortable tack, harsh training methods, etc.
Your average mare, when schooled to do the sort of work she is good at and enjoys, can be an incredible partner. Most often a well-schooled mare is happiest when their rider pretty much leaves them alone to do what needs to be done. A rather sensitive mare in particular hates to be given conflicting aids or otherwise interfered with when they are doing their job. They often show their dissatisfaction by kicking at the leg or pinning their ears. Early training of a sensitive mare is best done by a good horseman who knows how to find the narrow line between being overly demanding and overly permissive. Mares aren’t prone to tolerate nagging or inconsistency in a rider. A mare’s natural “toughness” can make them exceptional partners when the going gets hard in certain disciplines such as high level jumping or endurance. However, this same quality can be the rider’s worst nightmare if they try to go head-to-head against a strong-minded mare.
Stallions can be tricky. Most importantly they need the right start. Some young ones seem to think they are destined to rule the world – THEIR world at least. In their early training it is essential for them to learn that the human they work with is their well-respected leader. Mutual respect is key. Few stallions take to being bullied and many bad behaviors are a result of someone having taken this approach with them. They demand respect and, once mutual respect is achieved and maintained, many can be just as straight-forward to handle and ride as a mare or gelding. In training a stallion for jumping, it is always wise to remember that despite all appearance of extreme ‘bravado’ that so many stallions evidence, this can vanish in an instant if the stallion is over-faced too early in its career. When someone tries to ‘make’ a stallion do something the result can be disastrous since fighting can be a part of their basic nature. Good horsemen earn the respect of any horse they work with and avoid ever becoming the antagonist.
I believe that horses in general have a well developed sense of what is fair and what is not. Taking advantage of their inherent desire to learn and to accomplish what is asked of them can have definite negative consequences over time. Teaching a horse his role in life in a way that produces trust in and respect for the humans he interacts with is the way to achieve the most from any horse, no matter the discipline. When things are not going as you would like the best way to deal with it is to first figure out exactly what is triggering the undesirable behavior. If a horse is reacting to pain or confusion, inflicting more is not the answer! While they can’t talk – be they a mare, stallion or gelding, they do communicate through their actions and expressions. It is up to us to learn to ‘hear’ them and decipher what they are telling us. In this way we create the two-way conversation that can make riding such an incredible and unique sport!
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I look forward to your next publication.
Thank you so much!