Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mares- You Gotta Love 'Em!


I have always been fascinated by the mare/gelding thing. Meaning, why some people claim they will never own mares, only geldings. Or why some people only seem to have mares, like my sister Paint Girl, who owns three of them and has, her entire life, only had mares. Well, except one Shetland Pony gelding that I passed down on to her.


Maggie, the Morgan mare I learned to ride on.

Myself, I have had four geldings, and only one mare- the very last horse I owned before my 16 year horsey-hiatus. When I went on the hunt for a horse again two years ago, I did not necessarily intend to get a gelding. In fact, most of my prospective searches turned up Quarter Horse mares.

The book
Mares! (Ya Gotta LOVE ‘em) is a must-read for anyone who has ever owned a mare. The book's subtitle is "Fifty Stories to Aid and Inspire Mare Owners." The book's tales are compiled by Betsy Kelleher.


Here is the review of the book:

Mares often require special handling before their best side is evident ~ Betsy Kelleher


In Mares! (Ya Gotta LOVE ’em), Betsy Kelleher has assembled a diverse collection of tales representing different breeds and backgrounds. Each of the fifty stories has one thing in common – they are an inspired tribute to the elusive Mare. The book is also about women, and the essence of being female is an interwoven theme. The original true stories, written by 38 different mare owners, enlighten and entertain while introducing us to the seeming paradoxical nature of mares – from stubborn to loving to dangerous to protective and loyal.

Mary Wynn Craig’s Lisa, the quarter horse with the permanent scowl, will capture your heart. Trainer Ron Meredith includes an excellent article on Gender Differences: Training Mares. If you’ve ever loved and lost any horse, you’ll cry when young Erin Landers tells the tale of Duchess, her very first horse. You’ll root for Factor, the thoroughbred brood mare, in Chiropractic Saves a Life. Helen Farley sticks with her little bay Abby, despite repeated admonishments about mares being no good, in the touching Kindred Females.


This book acknowledges the unexplainable moments present in the lives of horse owners and encourages us to find God at work even in more difficult situations. Some of the stories are completely zany and others touch on profound sorrow, yet lessons of love and hope show up in each tender tale, alongside practical tips for handling your mare.


Mares! will leave an impression on every horse lover and is an irresistible read for those moments when you just want to take care of you.



Betsy Kelleher’s first riding horse was a Percheron mare from her grandfather’s work team on an Iowa farm. She writes a monthly column for the Illinois Horse Network newspaper. Her website, Sometimes God Uses Horses shares her columns, horse photos and information about her books.


Reviewed by Carol M. Upton: http://www.dreamsaloud.ca/. Be sure to check out Carol's site, she does some pretty amazing work and is a horse lover herself!

Copies of the book are available from the author, who right now is offering a Christmas special! If you buy one book, you get one one half off. She has another book out, as well. Check it out at
www.goduseshorses.com.



So tell me- are you a mare or gelding fan? Does it even matter to you? I'm curious about your experience, have you typically owned more geldings or mares in your life? Was that intentional or random?

52 comments:

  1. Great topic! I've always owned geldings as well, but recently started a 14-year old ex-broodmare under saddle. I'm slowly becoming a mare convert. Here's why: I notice that geldings seem to be more true blue in their personalities. I feel like they usually seem to stay consistant with one personality type, i.e. grumpy, playful, sweet, etc. Mares on the other hand, seem to come with a wide range of personalities. Gypsy *the girl I just broke* is loving, sweet, playful, goofy, serious and crochety - she has a wide range of personality traits. She's like a box of chocolates, I never know what I'm going to get with her. Those are my two cents :)

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  2. Kinda funny, seeing that our two newest horses are geldings, but I've always preferred mares. I think if you have a good connection with a mare she will try 120% for you.

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  3. Interesting book, I shall look into it :)

    I have only had one horse, my mare but I now that I think of it I have mainly ridden mares so I am just pretty much used to it. Over all I don't really care, each horse is their own and I love them all... well... unless they attack me or something... BUT besides that I like them both equally.

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  4. I've had mostly geldings in my life. The horse I'm riding in the picture is a mare and my favorite horse right now. She's on the list for a blog post. I love her!

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  5. Currently of my herd of 14, I have only two mares, both rescues. I typically lean more towards the geldings. I'm the crochety one of the herd and the geldings know it. My mares are sweet, old dears ( 27 and 31+) that everyone loves. The more I'm around them, the more I love them.

    The mares however are much more vocal and will squeal at the smallest greeting. I've not ridden a mare on any trails but prefer to stick with geldings who won't have a mood swing during the middle of a ride.

    I do like jennyben79's comment that mares are like a box of chocolates. I'd have to agree. My "girls" surprise me all the time.

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  6. Oh yeah, the infinite battle. I personally have no preference, a good horse is a good horse to me. But strangely, I have managed to ride/show only one gelding in my 20 years of horse experience. I mean, I have ridden several geldings for a few hours or so, on one ride, but only gelding has ever been "my horse" for a period of time. I do have to say he was the funnest horse I've ever ridden (and the fastest). I've only owned three horses, all of which are mares, and I've leased several mares. The closest bond I have EVER had with a horse was with a mare, the most amazing horse ever. Right now, I have an amazing bond with my mare, Maria, although it hasn't quite reached the level as the previous mare. Ironically, Maria is quite the "mare". Extremely personable and opinionated, and ever the hussy!

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  7. I have had both ,learned ot ride on an old ranch broke gelding, my "best horse " for years Catana , was a mare , as was my first horse Togy ,and you have read about Sunshine. That said I now have a terrific litle gelding ,Johnnie, my next saddle horse to start will be a mare. To me a horse is a horse , and if you work with them , accepting them for who they are and work with the positive a mare or gelding can give you the world.

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  8. I don't know why I have always had mares, I just think that is the way it worked out. I have no preference, and I have never had any bad "mare-ish" behavior from any of my mares. I think I have been pretty lucky that way.

    At the farm, we have some mares that I would not buy, only because I know them so well and don't care much for their behavior. Your favorite "Miss Cranky Pants" is definitely one of those mares with that kind of behavior. We also have some geldings that are just as cranky, so I just think it is a toss up on the mare/gelding debate. I know everyone has their own opinions on the subject.

    Even though I haven't had a gelding since I was 8 yrs old, if the next horse I fell in love with/own ends up being a gelding, then that is fine with me! I love all horses, even "Miss Cranky Pants"!!

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  9. I've only ever had geldings and all of the horses I've ever rode and enjoyed were gelding but lately I've been thinking my next horse might be a mare. We'll see!

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  10. I've not owned a mare, but I've hosted them and most of the 37 horses at Heather's are mares. There's definitely a difference. Anthropomorchically speaking, the mares seem to take themselves more seriously than the boys. Every male of the species I have met, whether stallion or gelding, has an aspect (however small) of goofiness that I find endearing.

    Oddly, all 5 of our other animals are female, so I guess I should never say never.

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  11. Well...I now have one of each! I do beleive mares are more senstive to their surroundings. They also seem to hold a grudge longer...and have that ME first attitude, kinda just like us "human Mares". I have really noticed that Mares are from Venus...Geldings are from Mars Holds true to form with equines too. I will post about this later now that I have one of each!!!

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  12. I've always been a mare person though I have owned geldings as well. I've had 6 mares and 4 geldings since I first started owning horses. Here's my own personal opinion on the difference between a mare and a gelding. A gelding is more steadfast - they will always give you the same behavior and will never give more than 100%. A mare, can be pissy, charming, whatever the mood strikes her, but when it comes down to it a mare will also give you 120% of herself (athletically and emotionally) when the chips are down. That's why in competition you often have to be more careful to make sure you don't over train and over use a mare, because they will just keep going until they drop. Geldings have self-preservation and will let you know when their tank is dry.

    That has been my own personal experience.

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  13. I've ridden and loved both mares and geldings - I have a wonderful 29 yo QH gelding (Noble) who is the sweetest, best horse you could ever imagine. But there's something special about mares, and I always feel honored by their trust - it's harder to win. I'd say I have a bias towards mares, although I'm pretty happy whatever it is as long as it's a horse!

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  14. When I started seriously riding at 40+ I rode anything put under me. The trainer we were taking lessons from had both mares and geldings as schooling horses so it was usually luck of the draw. Later when my daughter started getting more serious about riding, we leased a gelding. While she would ride the gelding, I'd often be riding one of the mares but found myself drawn more and more often to the gelding.

    When we bought our first horse, it was a gelding though we weren't specifically looking for one. Second horse I said we definitely wanted a gelding. They make me feel safer. I always know what to expect and what I'll get.

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  15. I mostly always had geldings but now two mares. I've been lucky to have good experiences with both.

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  16. I like my mares... I took riding lessons on mares and my first (& only!) horse was a mare. Buttercup is tough as they come and gives it her all whenever we are at work. There are a ton of people who don't like her and her sometimes witchy attitude but I love it. She's plain awesome IMHO.

    I leased a gelding for a couple of years but he and I never had that connection that Buttercup and I do...

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  17. I'm a mare lover, and when my last mare was in foal, I did a daily "let it be a filly" chant. Of course it was a boy! It didn't make me love him any less, though, and he turned out to be a great gelding.

    My current horse is a mare, and I love her. She's so full of try and so forgiving of my mistakes.

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  18. Great post Pony Girl! I don't own a horse so can't post an opinion, but enjoyed reading the input from everyone else! It helps me in deciding "down the road." Good to hear all the pros and cons about Mares. Thanks everyone!

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  19. Anyone who follows my blog knows about my mare. My Windy, Windy, Windy. So I guess I'm a mare gal. BUT BUT BUT, if I were looking today for a horse, I would not necessarily be looking for a mare or a gelding. Once a person gets past the "I will never own a mare" thing, they now can find THE BEST horse without worrying about mare or gelding. We have 4 mares and 1 geldings (used to have more geldings) and recently I thought "How did that happen?" But what happened is we have 5 good horses and their gender did not make them that way.

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  20. My very first horse-of-my-own was a mare, and even though I've had geldings, mares are far more interesting. We have 27 mares right now (yeah) but I have to say my favorite sex for competition is a stallion.

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  21. I've had, and loved both... However, my S.O. prefers geldings, and since he starts them, we at present own two Q.H. geldings. :)

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  22. Mares, hands down. Mares have more complex personalities. Most of them only work for one person and that person only. You gotta get to know them, know their tricks and they'll work their little hearts out for ya.

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  23. Since I am a first time horse owner of a gelding, I can't give mush of an opinion. I do love my boy, and since I am a new rider, I think gelding was a good choice for me.

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  24. {Everyone}~ Really loving the feedback on this post! Great insight from everyone!

    {Desert Rose}~ Had to chuckle at your "Mares are from Venus...Geldings are from Mars" line, hee!

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  25. Growing up I had a gelding pony, Pepsi, and a mare and a gelding that I took turns ridingas a teenager in 4-H.
    As an adult I have 3 mares. I dont know if it was on purpose or just chance. But I will stick with mares, I dont relish the thought of having to clean a geldings sheath regularly LOL mares are easier. LOL One out of my three is marish, one is a little kicky squealy, around new horses, and the alpha mare you wouldnt know she was a mare, except that she is bossy LOL.

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  26. I can't speak t the ponies, but I have always preferred girl cats and dogs. I don't know why!


    As to the train ride, it really was the Polar Express. They run it every year where Horse Dreams lives. I guess they do this other places as well I've heard from other bloggers. That's why the kids were in their jammies, because that's what they wear in the book/movie. The adults however were to chicken to play along!

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  27. I've only had geldings. The people I know that have been seriously injured by a kick or bite, it's been mares or stallions so I'm just a bit leery of them although I would never rule out a horse simply based on it's gender. I think mares are good when they are not in close proximity to another mare. They are just so darn competitive with each other.

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  28. I have both and they each have their strengths and weaknesses in gender and individuals. It just depends upon what you'll be doing with them and how they've been trained from the very beginning. I believe mares are often misunderstood because people don't know how to read their behavior properly....so therefore, they get pegged as difficult, marish or the like. If you really don't want to worry about female cycles and are not going to breed a mare, then a gelding is a good choice. On the other hand, I'll have to agree with Angelia Almos 100% as she explained the difference very well. A mare will give you all she has! They do tend to be more sensitive and that's why you see them a lot in the performance rings. I'm sticking with the theory....there are no bad horses regardless of gender....just bad trainers. On a slightly different note: human attitudes will carry over to the animal....I've observed men who have issues with women and will have a preconceived opinion about mares! There's some food for thought!

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  29. This is fascinating - I have had both mares and geldings (and one adorable stallion) and I love them all. Mares can be gentler, no doubt, but also fussier too. I have never ever chosen an animal (equine anyway) on gender. My Yvette is the sweetest thing - but then so is my Tradesman.
    :-)
    BB

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  30. I had to come back to see what everyone said. Great post, PG!

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  31. When I first got involved in the horse world, I chose a gelding because that was the horse I developed an attachment with. My friend is a breeder, so she prefers mares, yet I found all her mares to be aloof and pissy. I mentioned to my trainer that I prefer geldings, and she said, "Me too. You have to be careful how you ride a mare, but geldings just don't care. You can make all the mistakes needed while learning to ride on a gelding, and they tolerate it."

    However, still my next two horses ended up being mares. I found that I can develop deep connections with them too, and they seem more confident. Even though my filly spooks a lot, it's not anywhere near as bad as it was with my gelding when he was her age. My experience is that mares can be more difficult to ride, but they also teach you to be a better rider. I don't know how much of that is just my experience vs. how much is an actual rule of thumb. We know that mares have the hormone fluctuations. I once said to a man who kept stallions, "You must be very good with horses to keep several stallions at your place."

    He looked at me funny and said "Actually, stallions are very sweet and easy to work with. I'd be afraid to keep mares."

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  32. Both of my makeover horses were geldings...but I LOVE mares! I'd never adopt a gelding over a mare, ever. The girls are sensitive and, yes, sometimes cranky, but so much smarter!

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  33. {Nuz Muz}~ Great anecdote about the guy and his opinion on mares/stallions! These insights from you all are so fascinating, especially since I personally have such little experience from mares. Maybe my next horse should be a mare! :)

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  34. I always prefered mares and was looking for one when my gelding fell in my lap. I like him, but I still would like to get a 2nd horse that's a mare.

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  35. Wow, I have really enjoyed all these comments! This is so thrilling, speaking as the one who put the "MARES, ya gotta love em" book together. I started a blog not long ago, at betsykellehermarebooks.blogspot.com and this is the kind of discussion I was hoping for on that blog! But hey, this is great!

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  36. Most definitely geldings!! We have had a lot of problems with mares. I am, however, thinking of ordering this book for my bro-in-law. Thanks for the heads up.

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  37. Hey Pony Girl, so good to hear from you!!! Thanks for your kind words about Nick. We have our appointment for surgery on Jan. 5th. It was that or next week and we didn't want to go Christmas week. He's doing fine in the meantime as long as no one gets on his back. The hock problem is the main problem with the back problem being a byproduct of the hock problem. There, did that make sense? lol!

    I have had mares and geldings and I guess I don't have a preference. I think mares can be a little more moody at times but I have never had any bad experiences with them. My first and second horses were both mares. Right now I have all geldings, didn't do that purposely, you know how they just sometimes get dropped in your lap.

    Again, so nice to hear from you!!! Merry Christmas!!

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  38. My first horse (had him all through my childhood) was a gelding. He was a great steady-eddy horse. Now, I have 2 geldings and 3 mares. I'd say that I've noticed that geldings seem pretty simple (not stupid - just uncomplicated). Each mare I have is different (one is confident, but lazy, another skiddish, but with tons of heart), but one thing I have noticed is that mares seem more interested with their place in the herd and in the social hierarchy. My mares have tended toward being a little more herd bound, while my geldings seem to not really care as much, and especially seem to be more adventurous with trail riding. None of my mares are "marish" or moody...but they just seem more complex...more layers to their personality.

    I don't think I can have a preference. I like them both. They are both great compliments toward one another...the species of "horse" is not complete without both!

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  39. I don't have a lot of experience with geldings, but the ones I've been around have all been pushy, in-your-face, in-your-pocket ponies. It kind of freaked me out. While the goofiness and nuzzling behavior is cute, it's also a little intimidating for me. I'm sure some mares can probably be the same way, but I've not met any yet.
    The mares I've been around all seem a little bit stand-offish, independant and more respectful of my space.

    Sometimes I wish my mare would be more affectionate, but I also like that she's not as needy and she respects my space. Something I've been appreciating even more since my injuries.

    I'll have to check out that book. Gotta love a mare!

    I do.

    ~Lisa

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  40. Oh and I was just thinking more about this and why I seem to gravitate towards mares more than geldings and I think another reason is the 'girlfriend syndrome'.

    I don't often hear of mare owners calling their mares their daughters, but I do hear many calling their geldings, their sons or their boy.

    Sometimes I'll overhear someone calling their gelding their buddy, but rarely if ever do I hear that term being used for a mare.

    Instead I'll hear mare owners call their mares their partners...or their girl-friend...as in what I call my mare, "Hey Girl!" or "How ya doin' Girlfriend!" or "Hey Lady!".
    (I also call her Baby Cakes, too. lol!)

    Another thing I was thinking about is when I handle or work with my mare, I don't treat her like she's my pet, or like a child. It's more like she is an equal and a partner and I am working *with* her.
    She's so smart that I honestly think she would be offended if I treated her any other way.
    lol!


    ~Lisa

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  41. I love all horses. I do notice differences now that we have two geldings. We always had mares. Both have their positives and negatives. I think mares are more aware - which can be good and bad. Geldings are so comical, I think. Almost like cartoon characters. Pie and Sovey are smart, just goofy. Mares aren't goofy. At 42 years old, I kinda like goofy!

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  42. {Juliette}~ So true! I think My Boy can be goofy. He has kind of a goofy, cute expression. I don't think Paint Girl's mares fall into the goofy category at all. Isn't that funny? They are more serious. Brandy is, anyway. And Fritzy is bold and friendly, but not goofy.

    {Lisa}~ Interestingly, my gelding is not affectionate or in your pocket! Although since I've had him, he's become more "friendly." My sister's mare Fritz is in your pocket. Sometimes you have to reach in and pull her out, LOL!

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  43. Great Topic - I really figured the gelding lovers would out number the mare lovers, but that does not appear to be the case.

    I've owned, ridden, trained, raised, and shown geldings, mares, and stallions. (Even stood a stallion for a short while)

    My first choice would be a stallion. I absolutely love their personalities. I think the hormones are a big part of this, but there is just something about handling a well mannered stallion. They are incredibly smart and very observant of their surroundings.

    My second choice is a mare. Again, it has something to do with the hormones. I find that I can identify with mares the best. I once read that a mare will love you if she has a use for you in her herd, and that a gelding will love you no matter what. My mare respects that I am the aplha, and that I provide her necessities, but she is also my "girlfriend" as someone previously posted. She likes to hang around me out in the pasture, but she isn't all over me like molasses on sweet feed. I also agree that a mare will try harder than a gelding.

    Geldings are last for me....having worked with stallions, geldings really lose something when they lose those male hormones. I find that they tend to be piggish and complicate herd dynamics. I've known many more geldings to be herd aggressive than I have mares. The mares seem to set the pecking order, and life goes on....whereas the geldings have to constantly test that pecking order and cause trouble. I've owned geldings that destroyed tank heaters, turned lights on, opened gates, shredded trailer mats, and stood on fence panels. Of all the mares I've owned, I had one that liked to scrape her teeth on the tin of the barn; every other one was easy going and nondestructive.

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  44. what a totally fascinating post and remarks. I loved reading all of them.

    I've owned 7 mares and 2 geldings. One mare I had bred 3x, resulting in one colt and 2 fillies.

    So I guess I gravitate to mares. Originally it was because if she goes lame, you can breed her, tho that no longer holds water as it is now cheaper to buy than to breed your own.

    Anyway, my mares mostly aren't mareish, they are pretty steady mounts and only squeal and behave like a horse when they are not being handled. On lead or under saddle they behave like I'd expect any of my horses to do. My horses all tend to be very aware of me, and want to actively interact with me. I'm sure that would be the case, mare or gelding.

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  45. Wow, this is interesting. I've had good and bad with both mares and geldings--never owned a stallion though. I don't think I have a preference.

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  46. When I learned to ride, it was only on geldings. When I went to buy my own horse, I wanted a gelding, but ended up with a mare! At first I poo-poohed all the "Marish" behavior comments that it always seemed like people had! But after last summer, I think that my mare too can be a little marish on certain days! Oh dear! And OH WELL! I love her anyway, and maybe more because of it! Girls are complicated and if that makes us cranky sometimes, then that is how it will have to be!
    PS I love Etsy very much, and I want that horse tee from Stevester so bad!!!!!!!

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  47. Have you noticed how each mare is different from others? Some are affectionate and others aren't? Some are bossy, some not? Every horse is an individual, just like people, and gender is only one piece of the complete personality! Even though mares generally have greater sensitivity and try harder, geldings are more steady. But not always. We should choose a horse not by gender alone. Or maybe let the horse choose us.

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  48. What a great topic! I just ordered the book-- thanks! I have only ever had mares. I have 5 right now. I absolutely love my mares!! I remember a saying that went something like: tell a gelding, ask a stallion, but discuss it with a mare... I agree with much of what others have said. My mares have a different flavor every day so I never get bored with them. They really do require a relationship to get the best out of them but they are all heart and will give everything they have once you have their heart and mind. I love the way they look over their shoulder and give me the evil eye if I mess up while riding. I love the challenge their mare attitude presents. Mares forever for me!

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  49. There is a song called "Mares" by Mary Ann Kennedy. I love that song and it makes me get tears in my eyes.

    I have loved all my mares But I have also met mares I wouldn't want to own, just like I've met some geldings the same. I do believe it is about the individual. Funny on the comments Re geldings being consistent. I've thought that myself; if a gelding is grumpy, he is grumpy all the time. :) I do really love the optimistic goofy types of geldings though, but I also love complex, thoughtful, moody mares.

    I truly don't have a bias one way or the other, and in fact a couple of my all time best horses have been geldings, but somehow in the last twenty years, every time I go looking for a new horse I come home with a mare. I am looking right now, and am wondering, will this be the new era of the gelding? :)

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  50. What a great post! Loved reading all the comments - we have two geldings and a mare who tends to be squealy, but honestly, I've only noticed she is that way when NOT under saddle. I love our paint gelding to death, he sure does have a lot of personality, but I agree with the other comments - it really doesn't matter the gender, it's the horse's overall personality that matters, and that varies from horse to horse.

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I love hearing from my readers!! I truly enjoy all of your feedback, advice, helpful tips, and stories. You all make me laugh and I learn so much from you, too. I will try to post replies to your comments as often as I can.

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