Sex and the Single Horse

Due to attending the Emerald City Writer’s Conference in Seattle last weekend I’m recycling another early post. This one deals with how the sex of a horse influences how you deal with him or her. Next week I plan to get back to my regularly scheduled posts.

There is an old horseman’s saying: You can TELL a gelding what to do, you should ASK a mare and must NEGOTIATE with a stallion. Many people either are unaware of how important gender can be or think it doesn’t matter. This can interfere with them getting the best from their horses.

small_4858113130  A gelding is a male horse that’s been neutered. As such, he’s no longer ruled by his hormones and tends to be more even tempered. Most are gelded when they are quite young and often remain “child-like” with a relaxed and playful attitude toward life. Of course, breed and personality influence things too. Some are bred to be hot and excited, such as the thoroughbred, and some are bred to be laid back and cooperative, such as draft horses. But in general, a gelding is easier to deal with.


Mares, on the other hand, are quite influenced by hormones. From early Spring to late Fall, they come into season about every 21 days unless impregnated. For some this issmall_2645376508 a big deal and they can be unpleasant or irritating to deal with. Most just get a little touchy and distracted. And just like with people, when someone isn’t feeling their best or isn’t attentive, it’s not wise to try to force an issue. Also because of the biological imperative to have babies, mares tend to have a more serious attitude toward life. This means they can get insulted quite easily. That can provoke a sullen shutdown, fearful withdrawal or determined resistance depending on their personality. But their mothering instinct is also a big plus. They want to cooperate and please and most will try their hardest for you if you ask nicely.

Stallions have small_2431865552one purpose in life – to breed and protect their mares and babies.  They are the ultimate alpha males. As such they can be quite difficult to live with and that’s why most males are gelded. Given how powerful and determined they are, you don’t want to provoke a fight. It’s unlikely to end well. All horses need to be taught to respect and obey humans, and this is vitally important with a stallion. The scent of a mare in season can turn an untrained stud into a dangerous time bomb and be a potent distraction for the well-trained. So, you have to take into account the forces driving them and figure out how to negotiate their cooperation. The results can be spectacular.


Have you noticed or had experience with sex differences in any animals? If you’re into horses, which do you prefer?


Brown horse and rider: photo credit: <a href=””>Highway of Life</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Mare and foal: photo credit: <a href=””>nomanson</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Stallion: photo credit: <a href=””>valeehill</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: horse care, horse personalities, Horses, nature, riding, training horses, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Sex and the Single Horse

  1. Ha! This is so funny, because just the other week I was asked about a stallion in a book. I was raised around horses, and I’ve seen some stallions do some wacky stuff. One fella fell in love with a goat for quite a while. The goat spurned his advances, by the way.

    I’ve ridden a mare that tried to jump a cliff, trying to get to a certain fella she liked. Not the best ride.

    Yeah, I’ll take a good ol’ gelding any day!

    • A goat? How funny. Many people do prefer geldings. I’m a mare person myself. But I’ve been lucky and never had a really difficult one.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  2. I never thought about the stallion thing until I read this post. One of my favorite Kentucky Derby Winners is Smarty Jones! From what I’ve read, Smarty adapted very well (and quickly) to the breeding shed. Now, after reading this post, I’m wondering how I can name a hero after Smarty.

  3. marsharwest

    Interesting post, Kate. I loved the quote at the top and what a great title for this blog! LOL

  4. Ana Morgan

    I’m guilty of thinking ‘hero = stallion,’ Kate.
    Fortunately in my historical western WIP, he rides a mare named Belinda.
    Great post!

  5. An important reminder about horse personalities that can be overlooked. I love the scene in “A Game of Thrones” during the jousting tourney, when one knight thinks he’s tough for riding a temperamental stallion–until another knight rides out on a mare in heat to distract him. The author must know his horses. 🙂

    • Sounds like he does. Of course not all stallions are difficult. Some are real sweethearts and can be handled by kids. But those tend to be the exceptions. You simply can’t ignore biology.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. My first horse was a mare. She taught me everything I needed to know about sass and the sexpot. I prefer geldings, personally. Great post!

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