Not everyone can be a mare person. Let’s face it, just not happening. The legendary “mare face,” the attitude, the challenges, the tantrums, the extraordinary amount of work to get them to love you. Sometimes, it might not even seem like they care about you at all. But for those people, the world has geldings. For me, there’s really no option but to have a mare, or more specifically my mare. (Let it be noted I do like geldings, just really like owning my tantrum throwing brat.)
I got Bella when she was just over two years old. I was the first person to put her on a trailer (with help) and the first person to walk her through various steps of life. From teaching her to lunge to putting a saddle on her. When I first got her Bella’s automatic reaction to all things she was unsure about was to simply plant her feet and grow roots (this was obviously more ideal than her simply deciding she was going the opposite direction with or without you). I spent hours and hours on the ground with her simply trying to build up a relationship. If she hadn’t been my very first personal horse I probably would have gone nuts. Up until I got Bella I’d ridden almost nothing but geldings. I thought I was a gelding person, because I never really thought about it.
Typical me, once I did think about it I realized this love affair with mares goes back much farther than when I first bought one. Back in elementary school I rode at a summer camp with horses (shocker). The first pony I really truly ever fell in love with was a mare. She was a small thing and I only got to ride her a couple of times, but I was head over heels in love with Pepper. She was adorable, she was bay, and she was everything I had ever dreamed about. Pepper is the first pony I ever jumped on (if you want to call an 18″ cross-rail a jump) and she completely won me over. After that I fell in love with gelding, after gelding, after gelding… and still never remember feeling quite as in love as I do with Bella.
She might not have the biggest and goofiest personality in the world but she’s mine and after being together nearly seven years I can read her pretty well. She’s my girl, and yes we’re talking about a mare who lived with the name “Bratty Bella” until I bought her. We’re talking about the mare who drove me to the point of claiming I was going to sell her hundred of times in the first four years we were together. Everyone knew I was full of shit. Even I knew I was full of shit. I like that she’s stubborn. I like the conversations, discussions, and arguments. I like having a horse who humbles me from time to time.
Not everyone can own a mare but those of us that do, and those of us who bond with them, know that there is nothing that a mare won’t do for you when there’s a level of trust and respect there. Bella has always taken care of me. In the times where I got nervous that’s my fault, because I’ve fallen off before, because I know that I am constantly in need of improvement. Because I worry every time we hit a sticky spot and Bella tells me “no” that I’m going to somehow unravel years of hard work. It’s usually only later, in reflection, that I realize she’s always been a punk ass. The horse has always challenged me, not because she doesn’t trust me but because she’s a mare. I ask her to do things that are hard for her. I ask her to use herself, to work, think, and try her heart out. Of course an overly opinionated mare is going to make you work for it, and hope that if she throws a big enough tantrum that you’re just going to say “okay” and give up.
Having a mare means bettering yourself, something I’ve strived hard to do. I’m not going to say that geldings are easy (trust me, I’ve ridden plenty of difficult ones) but you hear so much more about how good geldings are. You hear so much more about geldings packing their riders around with little fuss. This would be because most mares do have a little bit of a fuss about them. I’ve sat on multiple mares where I’ve been warned that they typically don’t like anyone but their owners riding them. I’ve sat on so many more mares are picky about exactly how much leg pressure you use, how much contact you keep with their mouth, where you put your weight on them. Know how often I’ve had those troubles with geldings? Maybe one in ten, compared to every other mare.
Bella herself doesn’t particularly like new riders. The weight difference, the contact with her mouth, the leg pressure. It’s all different for horses and she doesn’t adjust well. She’s capable of handling it but unless you really want to figure her out, you’re going to end up with a fight on your hands. It’s always a little bit gratifying for me, it always reminds me that no matter what that’s my horse. This is why I’m a mare person. Because I like the challenge, because I don’t want to just sit there and be a passenger on a horse who is going to take their time to put every foot down right and put me in the best position possible. I like the horses that make me work for it, who push me to really think about everything I’m doing. Bella’s made me into the rider I am and accepting that let me accept her for what she is. A mare.