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post #31 of 69 Old 01-16-2011, 06:36 PM
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post #32 of 69 Old 01-17-2011, 06:26 AM Thread Starter
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Women think differently

My ageing terrier bitch sits at my feet as I write this article - if I move so does she. My Rottweiler has had his breakfast, his milk and his walk. Now he is back on his bed waiting to see if I am going out in which case he’ll be at the back door before I am. The house is quiet. My wife has gone over to see to the horse which will take out almost four hours of her day.

In theory the horse is mine but my wife gets on better with her than I do. I chose the mare when my stubborn gelding Joe was passed on, but she doesn’t want to do what I bought her for. The mare is a sports horse and has little aptitude for hacking about. She wants to work out in a flat, calm, quiet, rectangular arena - learning new tricks. Out in the country lanes there are bogeymen and she wants to go ‘OO’ every home a bird flies up from the hedgerows. Then she’ll spook and jump three feet sideways just to make sure I am awake.
She gets bored unless she is learning something new.

And ‘No‘, for sure I can’t tie her up whilst I go into a pub for a glass of wine.
But the big problem I have suddenly realised is that she doesn’t like to be ridden the way I ride her. She doesn’t want her head - she prefers to be ridden ‘collected’ and ‘on the bit’. And I mustn’t wiggle about. And when I get tense, because I am expecting the silly bitch to spook yet again, she picks up on my tension and asks what is the fuss all about. Mind you, she can have her moods because her hormones are playing up or even just because she feels slighted. If she doesn’t get her daily ration of exercise either under saddle or on the lunge line she’ll be difficult and throw a hissy fit.
Oh my, can she play up when she wants to.

So the end result has been that I have found her a young female riding partner who has the ability not only to ride her in the arena down at the stable yard but also in competition. And the more rosettes the mare earns, the further she drifts off from me. But there is some pleasure for me in being an owner, especially a winning owner of a beautiful horse. As a dapple grey mare with a pretty head and compact conformation who can prance, she looks magnificent. I could enter her for Playboy any day.
It is the age old syndrome, an old man with a young filly.

I have never owned a sports horse before, but there again, I have never owned a mare before. Whenever we have gone off for competition I have prepared her for the day and loaded her up into the wagon. When we have arrived at the venue I have brought her out of the horse box and shown her around. Then her young clever rider has mounted up and has done the business in the arena. When she has performed, then I have taken her back and it is me that has untacked her, given her a brush down, thrown a blanket over her and given her some treats. I am, after all, the soft touch. She knows it.
I don’t shout at her. I rarely raise my voice. I don’t hold grudges against her. I do use my strength against her but when I do she knows there is a reason. And I have never ever carried a whip when near her because the tone of my voice is enough to convey my message.
And on a couple of occasions, when things have gone seriously wrong, I have had very good reason to accept that she never wants to hurt me.

But I can’t say that the mare replaces in my life my gelding. He was difficult and very strong. Again he never tried to hurt me but he would do all those things that stubborn, crafty, bolshie cobs will do when they want their own way. I did use a crop on him because at times it was the only way to get him to listen but it was always ‘man to gelding’ stuff. There were no long held grudges. He would shove me, I’d shove him. He would disobey, I’d react. He knew he was pushing his luck and he’d expect me to react - and if I didn’t, then he would try to walk all over me. But when we were at the top of a ridge looking down a crumbling pathway knowing that we were going to slide down the trail rather than walk down, then I knew I was in safe hands on My Boy. We could walk at trucks and cars. We could lead a line of horses and keep them in order. And in a race through the woods with a mate, my Boy would cheat to stay in front.

Of course I had to convince him that goats weren’t of the tribe of the Devil and that donkeys weren’t the descendants of lions for then he needed me for protection. On the whole we had a deal: I fed him and let him have some of his own way, he’d behave and does his best for most of the time. But don’t expect perfection.
My wife at the end would not ride him.

The interesting thing was that he would from time to time allow himself to be cuddled. He’d watch to make sure that when I first arrived on the yard I said ‘hello’ to him rather than any other horse. He could be obstinate and hold back but I did have to approach him and if necessary walk right across the field to put his halter on. But then he’d come easy enough. I guessed it was his way of showing the other horses in the field that he had his master taped or it could be simply because I was late or out of routine.
My wife would not play these games with him. She simply didn’t understand.

So back to the present. The mare needs a different home and soon I’ll have to find her one. She is a woman’s horse. She doesn’t like getting dirty. If she had a mirror in her stable she’d always be looking at herself in it. She won’t be groomed with fly spray unless she likes the perfume. She nags if she feels the routine has changed. She simply loves routine. And she is aloof, almost snooty. I suppose that is what makes her so competitive, she thinks herself to be the best. Geldings she looks down on; mares she competes with. Her rider should wear white breeches, a white stock and white leather gloves. And the tack must shine.

A new owner will have to be a woman who has an interest in dressage. She will have to be knowledgeable and patient; a woman who will ride a fast, sharp, intelligent horse on the mildest of bits, without carrying a whip. The new owner should be up to Novice standard in dressage and follow the tenets of Natural Horsemanship. She‘ll preferably have her own land and keep her horses in at night. And when eventually this sainted buyer comes to call, at some stage she’ll sit on my mare and I’ll know instantly if they match. I’ll see it in the way my mare carries the woman and I’ll watch to see if the horse wants to put the human to the test.

I‘ll not sell the mare on to another man - men think differently.

If I were to get another horse and I don’t think I am going to take on responsibility for an animal which could easily live longer than me, then it will be something placid. Maybe a stocky Dales or even an old fashioned Friesian, but certainly a gelding with some miles on the clock. Something hairy with a touch of cart horse in its blood. I want it to be self confident and easy to please. I’ll do it his way - sometimes. Somehow we’ll find a compromise. If he’ll stand and wait, then I’ll take him along. If we reach a dodgy bit of terrain, I’ll let him do it his way, cause that’s what I will keep him for. In my pocket there will always be a handful of treats and when we go to the pub I’ll bring out to him a packet of potato crisps, cause horses like them, especially the beef flavoured ones.

I might even buy him a Western saddle - that would put the cat amongst the pigeons in the snooty county of Gloucestershire just around the corner from where the Berkeley hunts and titled ladies keep their horses.

But mares - no, they are too tricky for an old man to handle at his stage of life.
Ah, perchance to dream.

Last edited by xxBarry Godden; 01-17-2011 at 06:32 AM.
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post #33 of 69 Old 01-18-2011, 09:56 AM
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Aye, but I have known plenty of brave, rock-solid mares who will get you down the dodgiest of trails alive and plenty of neurotic prima donna geldings and stallions. :)
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post #34 of 69 Old 01-18-2011, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by thesilverspear View Post
Aye, but I have known plenty of brave, rock-solid mares who will get you down the dodgiest of trails alive and plenty of neurotic prima donna geldings and stallions. :)
And I've known plenty of women who could ride anything you put in front of them, but don't want anything to do with a touchy prima donna alpha mare.

I really think you have it all wrong Barry. Your approach to horses is not a "male" thing and the women's approaches that you have observed is not a "female" thing. They are quirks of the people you have known and their own proclivities and training. I like riding nearly every type of horse, but really get a thrill out of the difficult horses, especially those stereotypical tricky mares, precisely because working with them is a two-way conversation, one that requires building a bond based on trust and affection and generous love. It comes as much from spending the time on the ground loving them as it does from working them in the saddle. Simply telling them, do x, doesn't work. A pop with the whip makes them angry rather than compliant. I know other women who only like the stereotypical teddy bear geldings who, once they know what you want, do what they're told and if they don't, a pop with the whip makes them do it. Our diametric preferences in horse temperment obviously don't come from our ovaries, they come from our personal temperaments.

Likewise, I know women and girls who see their horses as their friends and family members, those who see them as a tool that can get them somewhere and some who see them as a little of both. I know males who are incredible riders and trainers for whom a horse is a horse - no special bond, just get the job done, and have known others who bonded closely with their animals. On the other end, there countless examples of disgusting and exploitative male and female horse traders and trainers who beat and mistreat and neglect their horses. It is how you are raised and trained to have a relationship with animals and later with horses, that defines wheter you will treat them like a friend, a tool or a commodity and this, along with the training you receive, will to a large extent affect your training methods. Sex has nothing to do with it.

Your mare didn't not work out for you not because she is a mare and you are a male, she didn't work out for you because she is unsuitable for your skill set and interests. You made a bad buy for you. Would I be right in thinking your wife talked you into it or fell in love with her flash so ignored her temperament or got her to help out a friend that was selling her? But there are plenty of men who would love to ride a fiery, clever mare that loves the show ring just as there are probably even more women for whom she would be an abominable match. That doesn't mean, however, that a clever, dead quite, trail broke quarter horse mare wouldn't be an incredible match for you any more than it means a super-sensitive, irascible draft-x gelding would be. You have to abandon your preconceptions so you can find the right match.

Last edited by PoohLP; 01-18-2011 at 10:33 AM.
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post #35 of 69 Old 01-18-2011, 10:42 AM
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That's a great post.

Science (I hate it when people say "science" like it's this huge monolithic entity, but it makes the sentence work better) waffles endlessly over the effects of hormones or brain chemistry on human behaviour, trying to find evidence that males behave in one way because of something inherit in the male brain/body, and females behave in another way because of something inherit in the female brain/body. Research, for the most part, has not been able to significantly untangle physiology from socialization.

The point is, I agree that you don't interact with horses the way you do because you're a bloke. You do it because of how you are, how you were brought up, and a zillion other variables which affect your personality and your views towards horses. The same is true of your mare. She doesn't behave the way she does *because* she's a mare. She does it because that's just how she is due to her experiences, etc.
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post #36 of 69 Old 01-19-2011, 11:15 PM
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I don't have an opinion about men versus women, mares versus geldings but the relationship with your gelding that inspired you to write this lovely description of Your Boy is one that I dream of. I have a 12 year old trail mare (Tennessee Walking Horse) that I'm still bonding with, and a 5 year old gelding that I raised from a foal who would do anything for me (except, as in your case, face the donkeys instead of peering over my shoulder from behind). I would feel honored to gain that type of relationship.

Thank you for your post..what a tribute.
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post #37 of 69 Old 01-20-2011, 05:28 AM Thread Starter
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I don't disagree with you that I made the wrong choice of horse in my mare but my wife can't be blamed even though she was there at the time when I chose to take the mare home. I bought the mare because she seemed to fit the job specification in so many ways. Her temperament is divine, she is good looking, she moves well and she has that 'je ne sais quoi' which gives her the sparkle to perform well and win in the arena. The biggest problem I had to face in her, but I did not know it at the time, was in the left overs from a very bad fall from my cob which had left me with tension issues. The mare sensed my tensions and that brought out her own skittishness. I persevered with her for almost twelve months but during that time I came off several times and for no good reasons.

The young woman who rides her now in dressage has the 'feel' for her but on some days the horse is almost unsafe to ride. Certainly she is unsuitable to ride the busy lanes around where she is stabled. You can tell it is a bad day from the moment you bring her in - there is a mood in her and she is like a bomb about to explode. She is looking about her, her held is held high, she is sniffing, she's rigid and she's not listening. Until the mood has abated, it’s best to let her be. If she has to be worked then the only way we have found to cope is to push her hard in the arena on the lunge before attempting to put a saddle on her. I have no idea what causes her moods but when in this mood, she may come off the ground off all four feet and fly three feet sideways before the rider has a hint of something is about to happen.

We took her out for a competition just before Xmas. That morning she had had one of her hissy fits. We worked her hard for an hour before setting off, and then she was down the queue in the class which meant a fair time waiting to perform; so around the warm up arena she went, time after time. She won both of her classes with scores of 70% and 73.3%. The spraunciness she needed to look good before the judge, came along with the mood she was in.

The young woman rider just laughs, but I can’t cope with it. I don’t have a passion for dressage nor a tolerance for hissy fits. The mare seems to look forward to her sessions in the arena going round and round in circles.
But if I put up in the arena an obstacle course with two dustbins for her to knock over then she’ll freak out from ten feet away. If I ask her to ride over a sheet of plastic, you’d think the plastic was a flying carpet. It is more important to me that I can trust the horse to carry me in times of stress. I want to feel able to squeeze between the hedgerow and the oncoming truck. I want to drop the rein and for the horse to stand by whilst I gossip to a neighbour. I want the horse to kick out at the barking dog and not for the horse to bolt down the lane at the sight of a dog‘s nose poking through the railings.

Of course it is all a temperament thing. Man and mare are unsuited and she doesn’t give me what I seek from a horse. But to be fair to her, I don’t give her what she wants either. She’ll tolerate me on her back but I was not trained to ride her in the modern neo-classical way. She’ll pick up my cues but when I give her some length of rein, she’ll drop her neck for a stretch and then expect me to take it up again. She actually wants to ride on shortened reins in an outline and all the time. When the young woman rides her in the canter in an outline, I have to admit the pair look good. But looks aren’t everything and a horse’s role in life is to carry its rider safely. The mare and her rider could do well in competition this year but it will be nothing to do with me watching from the side, other than that I have recognised and accepted our mutual incompatibility.

Strangely at the yard, there is this common little cob with a shiny black coat and a little feather. There’s an irregular shaped white blaze on his face. He is a little devil really. When he feels like it, he’ll drop a shoulder and give a little buck. And his trot is short, and choppy like that of a pony. He’s uncomfortable to ride. He can be lazy and needs to be tapped from time to time. You fight him to take the bit in his mouth. If you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to, then there is always a tussle. But he always wants to come out and play. Indeed if his female owner neglects him for too long, I feel sorry for him and play with him myself. The end result is that if he sees me coming from a distance, there is always a little whinny and he runs off to the gate of his field. I feel real mean if I pass by and leave him standing there. I’d never have bought this little chap (he is about 15 hands) but I have to admit to myself, that I prefer him to my own mare. She’s aloof and must be asked whereas this little chap is raring to play, any day any time, but only so long as the games we shall play give him a chance to score.

Perhaps that’s it. My own horse doesn’t really need me, but the little gelding does. She will wind up in a competition yard and eventually they will put her to foal. She’d make a good match with a Lusitano stallion. Her dapple grey coat and her good looks will see her by in this life whereas the little gelding will wind up neglected in a grassy field - if he’s lucky.

I suppose the writing is on the wall. I have stopped seeking a cure, I am now looking for a solution. Some day in the not too distant future, the mare and I will get a divorce.
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post #38 of 69 Old 01-20-2011, 07:38 AM
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So why not sell the mare to a rider more suited to her and buy yourself a middle aged cobby thing, draft cross, Highland, or whatever, who will be a sensible, solid trail horse?

I find there's not much point in keeping a horse you don't get on with. Some horses and some people just don't click. Horses are EXPENSIVE and if all the training in the world (if you even want to try that) isn't going to improve your relationship, then isn't it better to have a horse who you can enjoy?
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post #39 of 69 Old 01-20-2011, 08:06 AM Thread Starter
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It is not the time to put a horse on the market when down South they are being given away. She's not a ride for anyone but a very competent rider.

One day after a competition someone will come up and say what a lovely horse she is and that they want to buy her. And if when I watch the suitor handle her and ride her, it seems to me that they are compatible and could become a pair, then I'll pass her on. Price will not be the main issue.

Caviar is an acquired taste, as is the wine to go with it and so is the mare with my name on her tag. Until then, as long as the money lasts and my wife agrees to ride her then she can stay where she is.

She's got two capable female riders to argue with and she is safe there for the time being.
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post #40 of 69 Old 01-20-2011, 05:34 PM
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I can understand the bias toward either a mare or gelding, since I've always had a deeper bond with mares. It is almost indefinable, but I prefer a male dog and a female horse. To me a female dog can have a sweet personality, but good male is golden down to his core. And while geldings can be sensitive, they just are never as...silly as a mare. For some reason my female-ness relates directly and deeply to the female-ness of my mares. Their moods can change with the wind. Geldings are goofy and grumble about things, but mares need a special kind of empathy and understanding. Your sensitive mare you describe is a variation of the personality I love. There is no point trying to dominate a mare like this, as you say. All the "let your horse know who is boss" theories can go out the window. They KNOW they can kill you in a heartbeat. You can't buffalo them like a gelding. Yet within all their power they have their own fears and fragilities. You must treat them respectfully for them to trust you. They will do what you ask, but only if you are 100% confident. If your little toe is hesitant about going over a jump, they will lose trust that you can get them safely to the other side. They will always react to sudden changes in their environment for as long as they live, even if you try to expose them to every possible contraption or piece of plastic known to man, or ride them daily past the gates of hell. If you don't talk to them regularly while you ride or communicate through the bit they lose confidence in your leadership. Go ahead, shank them if they don't stand still, smack them, beat them, but it will only make their minds shut down and then they'll do things you really won't like. If you want to work with them you have to accept that sometimes they will find a calm demeanor impossible and realize that movement is what soothes their soul. One day you will be able to stop them from a gallop with a touch on a mild snaffle, and the next there will be no bit on earth that could stop them. So you might as well just ride in the snaffle. Why does this attract me to them? I don't know exactly. It is amusing to see my mares avoid a puddle as a prissy girl would, "It might ruin my nails." Every day is different and I think as a female I can feel that way too. Moods change. A certain type of reactive, sensitive mare is to me the most beautiful, brilliant horse there is. I find the way they think is fascinating and hilarious.
One day when I was galloping on the beach, my mare felt safest following directly behind another horse. The sand was flying up in our face, and even with my head down it stung my eyes, so I closed them. I squinted at my horse and noticed she was galloping with her eyes closed too!
Another day I was in my mare's stall when someone turned the horses loose to run into the barn. It was dinner time and there was a full pan of grain in the stall. I wasn't ready for them to come in, so I stood in the doorway and waved my arms to shoo my mare away. My mare would never intentionally hurt anyone. She looked over my shoulder at the pan of grain, closed her eyes, put her head to the side and ran over the top of me. It was like she was pretending I wasn't there. She sure was surprised when she opened her eyes and saw me knocked down on the ground. Pure silliness. I laughed my head off.
So find the gelding you love, spend time with horses that fulfill you. There will be some woman who will think your mare is wonderful, and she will probably ride her down the road the way I would, laughing about which things make her spook and leap to the side, and accepting that falling off once in awhile is a way to have a good story to tell to friends.
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