Mares vs. Geldings

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

Follow Allison on Twitter: @allisongriest.


  1. As a full-blown gelding-o-phile, when I first started to respond, the answer was reeeeally obvious. Team Gelding. All the way.
    But, I dare say, I think I could love a mare–the right mare–as much or more. I leased a really finnicky yet delightful mare who taught me the value of subtlety and of Not Making Idiot Decisions and the importance of a cost-benefit analysis before you rush headlong into an argument. And I swear she was reading my mind through the saddle by the end of the lease. And the bonds I’ve seen friends have with mares are equal parts intense and sweet, nothing like the goofy love of a gelding.
    That said, being the kind of rider who prefers to package and (gently, kindly) shove, and who appreciates being able to seek forgiveness via neck scratchies post-silly-decision, my heart (while open to a future mare) belongs to the big-boned, athletic goofball who doesn’t even know where his tail is and would eat himself into a coma on a box of treats and then maybe also eat the plastic box. Bonus points if he’s a little bit of a wuss.

  2. I used to board my mini gelding with 20 other minis! Nearly all were mares. I have noticed that half of the mares were quiet, respectful, and if you got a little to controlling, would put you back in your place if needed. A quarter of the mares would be miss independent, and would boss the other horses around. And finally the other quarter of mares would just want to curl up in your lap and go to sleep like a kitten. My gelding is very reliable and has always caught me when i have fallen in the middle of a jumping class. Geldings are very reliable (usually) because the have a sense to to protect. I can’t base everything i know about geldings by my horse, mainly because he HAS fallen asleep in my lap, he does have his stallion moments every so often (usually after baths), and wraps his head around my shoulder when i kneel down and hug his neck. So to sum up my horse, he has CONVINCED himself I am his mother. LITERALLY!

  3. I have 5 mares all with very distinct personalities. Yes, nothing like calling them by names or my general reference of girls they all come running from 80 acre pasture just to greet me. I love their attitude let’s me know they have fire in their hearts and let you know exactly what they feel and think.My mares work better then most geldings iv been around because I have that bond and trust. Team mare.

  4. In the saddle the stars I have ridden have all been mares, serious, focused, alert and intelligent. However, on the ground I will always prefer a gelding’s big heart and unforgettable love. Just like people they are all different.

  5. I do agree with the mare-bonding. Maybe its a girl thing, but i feel more of a bond with my mare than I do my gelding. There are a few mares out there that give all mares a bad name.

  6. I was riding a very interesting young gelding for about a year in Precision mounted drills and that horse was the most scatter brained creature I’ve ever met! I’m not saying all geldings are like this, but Jericho was something else! He just wanted to run, all the time, no exceptions. My mare, who soon became Jericho’s replacement when she was finally trained, however, is the complete opposite. She pays special attention to adjusting her speed to accommodate our teammates, she always picks up on the lightest cues, and she knows when she needs to book it and when she needs to slow it down. Don’t get me wrong, she can be a real brat sometimes, you’ve always got to watch her ears, but that’s what’s so great about her! She always let’s me know what she’s thinking. Everything is a conversation with her. For the focus, the passion, the fire in their eyes, the sass, and the class, I have to vote….. Team MARE!!!

  7. I have a mare I’ve bonded with but she is the kind that will work all day but really would rather be eating. She isn’t the easiest to catch but once you have her she is all yours… Now I have the pleasure of working with her daughter (3) who Started out as a sassy spoiled unpredictable brat… Now after lots of work is the most loving, loyal, rewarding horse I have ever had the pleasure to work with very excited to see where we go slow but steady of course… Now our geldings, loving and cuddly, always bring the heard in and my lead gelding is the father of my 3 yr old (now gelded) and will leave the heard for you if you asked him too.. He is very sensitive to everything and everything means something to him… So teaching him things he is less forgiving ..what an exciting life we all lead.

  8. The only mare I’ve had the displeasure of riding was a biter who tried to dump me off on a busy highway. Thankfully, my gelding is the most darling horse I’ve ever met. Yes, he is a lover to everyone (we call him our pocket pony – he wants to live in your back pocket), but he looks forward to my husband and me. We always get an eager “hello!” when we go to the stable. And he certainly has his own opinions about life – sweet? yes. Reliable? Maybe not so much.

  9. So far I have only owned 4 horses, however out of those 4, 3 of them were mares. I currently still own two of those mares. I have also ridden many mares and geldings that I did NOT own. I have worked extensively with 6 mares, counting both mine and other peoples. Out of those only one did I have a problem with. Luckily she was not one of my horses. On the other hand of the geldings I have ridden I only got along with 2 and most of these geldings I had worked with extensively as well. I have ridden more geldings, but I have gotten a long better with mares. Just from my own personal experience I would probably buy a mare before a gelding, unless that gelding and I had some kind of magical connection. I did have that with the one gelding I did own, but have only seen something close to that in one other. I cannot really comment of stallions because I have only ridden one and it was nowhere near as much as these mares and geldings I am talking about. I have worked with around 5 stallions on the ground, but my stallion experience is still kind of limited. So I cannot really say one way or another with them.

  10. Have owned 3 horses thus far, 2 mares and one gelding. The mares I found the hardest to get along with and the gelding and I clicked. Probably not helped that I was in my early twenties with the mares and I don’t think mature enough to handle all our moods!


  12. Over the last 50 years I’ve had both, mares and geldings. Looking back over the experiences with them, I must say I prefer the mares over the geldings. One mare that I had, I got as a four year old and kept her well into her twenties when she finally passed away. She was the best of the bunch, but there were at least two other notable mares. The gelding I have now has much the personality of those mares (unpredictable at times-and loves to follow me around the corral-but that could be just looking for a hidden treat). He does nicker, but it’s because he’s telling me that it’s feeding time (whether it is or not). I don’t think I would enjoy him as much if he didn’t have the “split personality”.

  13. I have a mare, my first horse and probably my last, as we are of similar age (in horse and people years), with about the same working life left. She is a calm, quiet beginner’s horse who never spooks. She gave me a lot of mischievous trouble at first, but after four years of learning, we have finally bonded. Now if only I was a better rider…

  14. Mares for me! I currently own three mares and a 7 month old filly, and 4 geldings. The mares are all affectionate, work hard to please in the saddle and on the ground, and the filly is a real character but extremely affectionate yet respectful, and also much more focused than any of the geldings were at her age. Two of the geldings are great athletes who are stars in their disciplines, but at home, they are bossy to the mares in the barn and pasture, pushy to fences and gates, and a whole lot more challenging to co-exist happily with. Our best horse ever was a QH mare who we raised from birth. She was a fantastic athlete with tons of cow sense, a steady disposition she continued to exhibit during the 34 years I was privileged to be her owner. She taught many little girls to ride in her last decade.

  15. I have owned and raised a number of Arabian horses. I have seen mares who could care less who rode them. But I prefer my geldings(32 and 22)who have never been horses I could hand around. Because I have a balance problem, I appreciate that they are rock solid during mounting and on the trail. They have very different personalities, yet both get on well in any group. Mares that I rode often were more focused on the other horses and wanted to “buddy” up with someone on the trail. Probably my fault. If I live long enough to need another riding horse, I will chose by the horse and not by their sex.

  16. I currently have two Mustang Mares. One I’ve had for over three years, the other, about three months. Both love me, maybe too much. BabyGirl, the one I’ve had for three plus years is very petite and prissy. Would never pee or poo in her stall and has two places in the paddock/small pasture to go. She loves being brushed and be cleaned up. A real lady.
    Pearl on the other hand, will eat anything and, a lot of it. She is always muddy and seems to enjoy it. And she will poo anywhere. She stands in her stall trough eating and pooing at the same time. I never have to muck BabyGirl’s stall, I get two wheelbarrows a day out of Pearls. Lol
    BabyGirl is 6 and Pearl is 5. Both have had very different lives. BabyGirl has been pampered and allowed to experience things in a positive way. Pearl was gathered at a little older age and then adopted by a person who either didn’t know what to do or life happened or something and eventually was abandoned in a rented pasture, repo’d by the BLM and adopted by me three months ago. I think/pray, she enjoys her new life. She seems to.
    I like the geldings but ya gotta love the affection and, attitude of a mare.

  17. I would love to own a gelding becaused there well behaved but i have a 2 mares Belle and April and i love them to death so i will stick with mares 🙂


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