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The question of which will make a better riding horse – a mare or a gelding is often debated among horse people.

Some feel so strongly about this that they will only allow geldings in their barn, believing mares are too moody and temperamental.

While there are differences between mares, geldings, and stallions, a horse’s temperament and behavior are determined by other factors than just their gender.

In this video, I share three of the most important factors in determining a horse’s personality and temperament, as well as share my thoughts on mares, geldings, and stallions.

Hit play to watch the video below, and then tell me your thoughts on horse personality and gender.

See you in the comments,

Callie

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27 Responses

  1. Thank-you for the very informative and balanced assessment of horse temperament as modified by gender. I have always preferred mares, because, like you, I enjoy the spark or “attitude” they bring to the “conversation”, but when beginners ask me what gender to get, I generally suggest geldings, because, in my experience, geldings are more likely to offer the same “world view” day after day. On the other hand, I think mares are more likely to “take care” of the less than perfect rider, at least once you have established a good relationship with them, so it really does depend on what you want from a horse. Each horse is an individual and there is no one perfect breed, color or gender. The challenge is to find the horse that most closely matches what you need in terms of suitable temperament, suitability for the “job” you intend the horse to do and suitability for your current skill level. Riding (or driving) ceases to be fun very quickly if your equine partner isn’t a good match in all those areas.

  2. Great info! I’ve only had mares. I had a thoroughbred mare who was at first hard to handle and but with training became a nice trail horse but never lost some of the marish attitude . I have a 17 year old half-Arab mare who has more of a gelding personality and she is awesome! And I have a four year old TWH mare who is generally calm in disposition , but is just now going through her cycle and has ruined some fencing on our property due to a male gelding that lives behind us. My favorite type of horse is my mare that’s like a gelding. Mostly submissive although sometimes I struggle with her on the trail…

  3. Both the mares I am riding couldn’t be more different in temperament! One is very sweet and kind of laid back. You need to push her a bit but then she is willing to go along with the program. As far as her cycle is concerned, I don’t really notice a difference during that time. She’s low-man in the herd and tends to not confront anyway.
    The other is a ‘whole ‘nother ‘ horse! She tends to try and get away with whatever she can. She will invade your space, lay back her ears when girthing, brace against your hands and try to evade while riding. You need to ride her every second! No hand feeding allowed as she will decide she’s entitled to treats and nip you! But I have learned a lot from her and she’s got more “go” than my other horse and so it is easier to get her on the bit. Each has their advantages. They are just like people-different personalities that keep you on your toes and learning!

  4. I love my mare although my trainer really didn’t want her in the stable. She is sweet and very calm, except when on the trail and she encounters something spooky! She does need pushing, but thanks to Callie’s instruction I am making great strides in communicating with her. I will admit she does come into heat constantly which is a little (well, a lot) messy, but her personality stays the same. She has taught me a lot and I really do like her more than my previous pony, a gelding. She just suits my personality and seems more loving. Of course, two horses aren’t much comparison, but I am so happy I talked my trainer into giving her a chance!

  5. Thanks so much for making this video Callie! Like always it was super helpful for me. I’m in the process of looking to buy and am encountering all sorts of opinions as you might imagine! I agree with your assessment of mares thus far and think that each horse has to be given a chance to reveal his or her own unique personalities. I’ve ridden mares who were as sweet and docile as they come and also been totally mare-ish: spitfire and spunk in excess. I guess the likelihood of having a mare be a handful is slightly higher simply because they have the hormones to contend with that geldings don’t. But I think it’s unfair when folks categorically lump all mares into a single category and for that reason I tend to want to give them even more of a chance. #girlpower right?!

      1. In my purchasing process this summer I’ve trailed one mare– totally a sweetheart but too many lameness issues to contend with. Now I’m working on trial number 2 with a gelding who is as loving and goofy as they come. I’ll let you know where I land!

        By the way– also really enjoying the follow up to this on purchasing! So timely! 😉

  6. Hi Callie,
    I enjoyed this video and I love this topic! In my opinion, horses and gender are no different than any other animal experience that I have had (mostly cats). I find that personality, temperament and experience are more important factors than gender. I have been riding and working with both geldings and mares over the last few years, and honestly, find that I like them both. As I just stated, personality and temperament are more determining factors for me. I am now leasing a wonderful mare, who definitely is a bit more edgy and hot in the Spring and Summer, but I have been working through it with her, and completely understand the condition, so I am OK with it. Bottom line, horses, like other animals and people have their own personality and temperament, and whether they are stallions, geldings or mares, we will always find those we prefer and will be a better fit. The goal is to be open and look for that relationship with the horse that will be wonderful for both. Thank you again for another great video post. ~ Nancy

  7. I’ve leased a mare, a gelding and I own a gelding. The one gelding I leased was just as moody as the mare was in some respects. The mate definitely had a hormonal thing going on where I realized there a day, sometimes 2, where it honestly want worth bringing her out of the pasture. She was a good horse though and I learned a lot on her. She and I bonded to the point where she’d come running to me most days when she saw me. She also was protective of me. A horse charged me once and before I could react she put her own body between me and the charging horse. She was a 16 year old Paint. The gelding I leased was a 15 year old Thoroughbred. I think his issues were tied more to his arthritis and when it would flare up. The gelding I own is an OTTB (Thoroughbred). His temperament is very much tied to his environment. When he is stalled for any length of time due to an injury he gets extremely hot. He’s the type of horse that needs to be worked most every day too. His personality is pretty awesome though. He will play games and be silly when he’s in a good mood. But if I miss a day of seeing him he will turn his butt towards me and just ignore me until I give him a hug and tell him I’m sorry I didn’t set him yesterday. If I miss 2 days of riding he’s very hard to handle that day by usually is fine the next.

    I agree with Callie that there’s way too many factors to say one is good or bad based solely on breed or gender.

    I know that for me personally, my current Thoroughbred is my favorite of the 3. But that may be because he’s more of a challenge and forces me to be aware at all times, but he’s also so very willing and loves to learn. He and I have made huge strides in the year we’ve been together.

  8. The topic really got me thinking. I’ve owned 10 horses, and interacted with many others. Without a doubt, my current OTTB mare is the most challenging I’ve ever had, but that was sort of the point of adopting her. My horse “loves, OK’s, and problems” have not seemed to have been gender specific. Probably the biggest difference I am dealing with in coming back to horses after many years off is my first experience with pasture board. I do think herd dynamics have an impact, versus horses stalled most of the time with some turnout. I never knew mares would bond with one another over fence lines the way they do! Or that some geldings attract universal mare attention farm-wide. A little harder for human-horse communication when love is in the air.

  9. I have 4 geldings and 4 mares. 5 are mine and 2 (2 geldings and 1 mare are boards). I have studied them over the last 10 years, always in pasture herds. Sometimes I have them in 2 separate groups of male and females. Other times I have mixed them in various ways. Right now I have one gelding with 2 mares and a second gelding with 2 mares and then 2 geldings together — 3 separate pastures. I find different traits come out with the different herd dynamics. When all mares are together only 1 mare is boss and there is a pecking order with frequent friction. When all the geldings are together they are all pretty equal with usually one being clearly bottom of the heap, but relatively calm. When I mix them the males tend to become very protective of “their” mares and try to keep them away from the neighboring males, however, the mares tend to become equals with one another. The mares, especially the lead mare, tends to be happier when in this kind of arrangement than when all the mares are together. I find them to be more calm and stable for riding in this situation too. Maybe having a male in the group stabilizes them hormonally? The geldings do tend to worry for a bit when removed for riding, but it does not take much to get their attention on task and then they calm down and attend to riding, but of course are quick to get back to their girls when released from work! Thank you for having this video. I have never understood the, oh, I only work with geldings attitude. To me each horse is so different and to make blanket gender statements is not very useful.

  10. You are so right in the three points to a horses attitude.
    I had a choice between a choice between a gelding and a mare.
    The mare had this personality that It seemed to be corrected to
    me as a woman. There is this silent communication I have with her
    and she is a good girl. The gelding is a different breed and more
    expensive but the one one friendship just was not happening. He
    was all business then out to pasture. But I wanted a pal a friend.
    My mare is a vocal girl and likes to she say how she feels and
    ends up which a nibbling companion that is next to her pen int
    the barn. With that in mind she wants to be the big mare in the
    pasture and pasture can be shared with gelding but she’s not
    compatable with other mares in the same pasture. She has no
    issues if someone is riding her a behaves a lady but her ears
    tell it all when she riding with other horses. The more you
    have experiences with all horse genders, you gain a sense of the
    personality of, breed, training and eniroment . My mare has a
    huge personality and she is fun and loves to eat.

  11. Callie, I’m responding to your video on horse gender and personality. I really appreciate your insights and am looking for a few ideas to help me with the mare I’ve been working with since May, we only do ground work-no riding, and three weeks a month we have fun and develop better understanding of each other. But one week a month, Sparrow is very cranky, strongly drawn to visit with the gelding on the other side of the ranch, and more or less unwilling to do the things we do the rest of the month. She has been under exercised for a couple (more?) years, and probably over fed, and I am trying to create a consistent fitness program with lots of hikes. Sadly, it feels like we lose most of the ground we gain each month in that one week. Is this just one of those things and it’s best to just accept, or are there things I can do during that one week a month that are likely to be pleasant for both of us? Thanks, you are my go to expert! Jessica

    1. Hi Jessica,
      While there are medical and supplement options available that may help Sparrow be less cranky during this time, I don’t have much personal experience with these, so this could be a question for your vet.
      Otherwise, I accept that my mares will occasionally be more pre-occupied with the other horses, act a bit differently, etc. I am insistent that they still work but may do a bit less than I normally would.

  12. A very informative video…thank you. I have owned, ridden and trained all three genders. I personally love riding stallions, as once you get into their minds, I find them to be much more attentive and willing to please than either mares or geldings. (granted most stallions are not for the inexperienced…and ones unmanageable with ill manners should not be kept as stallions(just my Honest Opinion)) We currently own two Quarter Stallions, a Caspian Stallion and a Pinto Mini Stallion…also 5 mares and two geldings. They all have excellent ground manners, are well trained and have quiet personalities. (The Quarter Stallions, One QH mare and one Paint Gelding have actually been shown) My grandkids ride all the horses including the Quarter Stallions, and they are helping me start the Caspian stallion under saddle. the Grandkids have been riding since they were 4. The oldest is 11 now.

    1. Gina said ” . . and ones unmanageable with ill manners should not be kept as stallions (just my Honest Opinion)”
      Having learnt to ride on stallions (Libyan Barbs), and managed a Shire stallion, I totally agree with you! The apple don’t fall far from the tree, and it’s hard enough trying to breed good horses out of good horses, never mind trying to breed good horses out of bad ones.

  13. When I first bought my stallion, people said, “You can’t have a stallion.” Why not? I thought. I always like challenges. Well, he became the best teacher of my life. Over the course of events I developed a fear of him, but when my mare became lame, I looked at him and said,”Well, i guess it’s you and me, buddy. You know I am afraid of you.” He said, “I know it. Match me.” “How do I start?” ” Pick up my feet. ” I pinched his hocks and……..nothing. Then he said, “Make me pick up my feet.” Without thinking, I just pushed my energy down into the ground and moved my weight into his shoulder and only touched his hock. He picked up his foot.
    Then he said, “Touch me all over my body.” So i moved my hands over him avoiding one particular part. Then he cleared his throat “aaaaaahm…..all over my body” as he stuck out his shaft. ugh!! Touching that huge piece of equipment, must have been an initiation for me. I got curious and found myself examining it. This curiosity laid the foundation for a developing relationship based on trust and the learning curve. Through curiosity I could ask questions. It opened me to his incredible majesty where I could honor his dignity, his equipment and his rights as a co-creator with me. We could have a conversation and sometimes an argument. Respect was always present. Then one day as we were coming back from a ride, he said, “You realize now that it was not my power you were afraid of, but your own.”

    1. Janice, what you described about your experience with your stallion reminds me of something said to me by one of the best teachers I ever met (he was actually an RAF radio instructor, but that’s irrelevant).
      He said “My job is not to show you how good I am – but to show you how good YOU can be.”
      And he did.

  14. I have 2 geldings, both OTTB’s and my husband has a mare. My two geldings are so different. My older horse likes his routine and when his routine is changed… He can actually be a little hot like Cali described. Then my other gelding is level headed goes with the flow. Travels well alone. Loves to check out new places and is one of those horses you can have in a field for months and grab to ride… But some of that came with training.

    My husband’s mare… I swear.. Sometimes she has multiple personalities. But I have to say, she looks out for my husband. He only has one lung and when he can’t catch his breath… She will slow down no matter what they are doing. He becomes her biggest priority. Something I don’t really get from my boys…

  15. great video, thank you as always for sharing!
    I have two of each, the girls do seem to be more affectionate……and a bit trickier,
    all good fun though!

  16. I primarily ride a rented mare, who is also a draft breed. I just love her and we work really well together. Lots of people see it…They comment and think she has been mine for years. But I have only been riding her for 3 months! I don’t attribute it to the fact she is a female (in fact, there is a gelding at the same barn who I have NEVER ridden who always takes an interest when I am nearby and I love watching him and interacting with him from the ground) I just think there are animals with whom you are “simpatico” . I don’t know why it happens and gender is irrelevant. You can just sense when you both “get” each other.

  17. I totally agree with you. Environment can make a huge difference. The horse I had as a child was quite a handful, but she had been abused by a prior owner and had trust issues. She was very sweet though when she trusted you and wasn’t spooked by something.
    The mare I lease now is part of a mixed herd. She is neither at the top or the bottom of the herd. She is very sweet, but can definitely be moody at times. I find her to be very smart and willing to learn new thing most days, but on occasion I just find it better to stay with the basics or expect to not make any progress on something new! As you have taught, I always end on a positive experience for both of us and I find she is much more willing try hard the next time.
    I would find it interesting to hear your comparison of horses verses pony, including safety for young riders.

  18. Very good video. Thank you. I own four stallions and two geldings and one mare. All Tennessee Walking Horses. I prefer the stallions ( two) for the show ring as they bring so much beauty and presence. And one of my stallions is my top trail horse as well. He was a breeding stallion on a farm for five years and is very socialized. When I bought him he was 8 years old and barely green broke. I finished him on out and he is just the sweetest thing and acts a lot like a gelding. He is so good I bought one of his foals that is now three years old, still a stud and as laid back and easy going as his sire. I am hoping when he is finished out he will be as easy to haul, handle and ride with mares and geldings as his sire is. My two geldings are top trail geldings and are totally awesome. The one mare I have is “farmed out” and not on the same property as the studs. As long as a mare is not living with us, the studs get along and the aggression level goes away almost. My stallions put themselves in and out of the barn and their paddock by themselves by voice command without a hand or halter on them and they are walking within three feet of open space from one another getting to or leaving the barn. And this calmness and tolerance carries over to other places (like trails and shows) that I take them too. But let a mare live here and it is a different story. I like mares as well but not as good as my stallions and geldings. I run my geldings and stallions (except for the two show studs) in the pasture together and all is well. I think all three genders are good in their own way and disagree with those who don’t think mares make good mounts. Mares are particularly good in the ring in the Walking Horse Industry and can give the stallions and geldings a run for that blue ribbon, but still a lot of trainers can’t get along with them and discriminate against them. I think it’s probably b/c mares are more sensitive and intelligent. Just my thoughts. I love my stallions and then chose geldings over mares, but I have had some fantastic show mares in the past and love to see a good one no matter what discipline she is in.

  19. 1. Where did you develop your EXCELLENT teaching skills? College? HS?
    2. I raise and train Belgian Malinois (For police) and the giant Anatolian Shepherds (For herd/flock protection); this video clearly shows the similarities between all mammals in regard to breeding/genetics, training, environment and hormones.
    BTW, I am a VERY ‘newguy’ to horses (4 lessons!) and already hooked for life! My goals are (1) “Ride like a General” in cross-country and (2) jumping. (3) Become a true HORSEMAN
    I dream of galloping a Stallion MUSTANG across rolling hills!

  20. When people try to tell me that stallions can only be handled by experts, because they can be dangerous, and that you can’t mix them up with mares, and how aggressive they can be, etc, etc, I just tell them how I learnt to ride.
    It was when I was in the RAF, and was posted to Malta. I signed up with the Services Saddle Club, and had my first lesson on an Arab mare, a retired polo pony. My second and third lessons were on a Libyan Barb gelding. From then on, I learnt on Libyan Barb stallions who were also used for playing polo. I think I can best describe it as like learning to drive in a Ferrari – you learnt very fast, because those horses gave you greased lightning feedback, and they also made you VERY aware that they were NOT cuddly toys. But I’ve never since had the opportunity to ride horses which gave so much, if you only approached them in the right way.
    I can vividly remember a girl who regularly rode one of the toughest cookies in the yard. She was about 8 years old, but small for her age, and her feet barely came below the bottom of the saddle flaps – but she had proved to that stallion that she deserved his respect, and that she would always treat him with respect, so they got along just fine.
    Oh, and another thing that blows people away – and has taken some people to the point of calling me a liar. At that yard in Malta, there were 26 horses, of which 16 were Libyan Barb stallions (these are TOTALLY different to what are called ‘Spanish Barbs’ in America); the rest were 6 mares and 4 geldings. We routinely had group lessons and group out-rides, with stallions, geldings and mares all jumbled up in any order, and they never gave us any problems. Why should they? Those stallions saw mares every day of the week.
    Then I came back to England, and went for a ride at the first English yard I’d ever been inside – and found they spoke about stallions as if they were all psychopaths! But when I realised that those people thought it normal to keep stallions in virtual solitary confinement with almost no turn out time, I asked “Well, what do you expect? Stallions are family animals, who normally live in a herd!”
    My views were confirmed when I spoke to a lady who breeds ponies in Devon. Her stallions live in pastures with their mares and foals, and never cause any trouble – to a point where she says visitors are astonished to see how relaxed and well behaved her stallions are. But, she said, the biggest shock for visitors who see it is when the current crop of foals get big enough to start getting on their mothers’ nerves. When the stallion sees the foals getting above themselves, he just rounds them up, takes them to the far end of the field, and starts playing tag with them, getting them all racing round him like crazy – and all the mares give a sigh of relief, and fall asleep!
    And the stallion keeps the foals going, playing games with them until they are tired enough to wander off and go to sleep near their mothers – then he goes back to grazing.
    The lady said “It’s just like a father taking his kids to the park for a kick-about game of football on Sunday morning, so that his wife can have a peaceful lie-in!”
    Not quite psychopaths, then . . .

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