Mares vs. Geldings

Mares vs. Geldings

Everyone has their preference, and if you’ve ridden enough horses, you start to notice the differences between mares and geldings.

By Allison Griest – @allisongriest | December 10, 2014

At a Glance:
  • Reliable.
  • Indifferent to your hugs.
  • Forgiving.
  • Loyal.
  • Temperamental.
  • Unpredictable.
In-Depth: If you want a reliable mount, a gelding is most often your best bet. He’s less likely to have an off day, but he’s also indifferent to your hugs and pets. There is something about the loyalty of a mare. I think mares test you more, but if you gain their trust and respect, their ability to bond is unmatched.


Are you offended? Maybe you’re nodding and thinking, “Agreed!” Or perhaps it’s the opposite: “How dare you suggest my most amazing partner-in-crime doesn’t love my hugs? He’s the best. And you are clearly a closed-minded fool.”

The author with Gabby

While I believe there is a pattern, I’m not claiming there is an absolute. That being said, I do think that my 20+ years of catch riding experience allows me the credibility to make generalizations about my experiences.

When you own your horse, whether mare or gelding, there’s no question of the bond you share. When you’re a catch rider, sometimes interesting patterns emerge, like the common differences between geldings and mares.

I will forever love my Gabby Giggles. Gabby, a mare, was:

  • Affectionate
  • Boss mare in the pasture
  • An angel on the ground
  • An enemy to the heavy-handed rider

Basically, Gabby represents what I have come to recognize as ‘the mare.’ If you’re a jerk to her, in your body language, verbal language or overall attitude, she will be a jerk to you. If you take a moment to say hi to her before you throw on the saddle, if you take a moment to give her a soft pat on the neck when she’s done something well, if you give her a pattern to follow, such as a nice graze after a hard ride, she’ll recognize it. She’ll love it. She’ll be your ally day in and out. She’s bonded to you, and she shows you and everyone else at the barn. I’ve found that a deep bond with a mare is hard to beat.

The author with Wrigley

I will forever love Wrigley. Wrigley, a gelding, was:

  • The barn schoolmaster who used to compete in Grand Prix and didn’t really want to anymore.
  • Not going over that fence no matter how hard you tried if it looked scary.
  • Nice. To everyone.

Wrigley was one of the most important teachers I’ve known, outside of my human trainers of course. Wrigley was one of the most important teachers to every rider at my barn. Unlike Gabby, who really responded to me and was quite the pill to others, Wrigley was a consistent mount. He wasn’t for the first time rider, though he could be. He was for the novice rider like me, who had grown up riding ponies and had never really ridden a large warmblood who could actually perform a shoulder-in movement. Wrigley was great, but when I’d be excited to see him, I felt like he was excited because I might have a peppermint, not because it was me.

These generalizations are often true, but I love how many horses go against the grain. I love the trustworthy mares. The ones who really just want to eat, but they’ll respectfully tote around any rider. And I love the geldings who surprise me, like the gelding who knickers in the pasture and runs up to his rider.

I love that horses are partners, not equipment. There’s an ideal partner for everyone, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to ride different personalities – that’s what makes our sport so unique. Every horse, gelding or mare, is different.

But I still love mares.


Liked this article? Here are others you’ll enjoy:

The Mare Mystique
Connecting with Your Horse