Eventing Nation: Beware the mare

When it comes to mares it seems like riders either love them–or avoid them at all costs. Lila Gendal shares her experience.

Top: Lila loving on her mare. Photo by Eliza Nardone Photography.

From Lila:

Girls tend to be tricky. A female’s agenda and feelings can, at times, be hidden. Girls play games and can be extremely difficult to read and understand. Well, the same goes for mares. Obviously not all mares are tricky, difficult or have strong opinions. Some are very easy going and almost act like geldings. Every rider has his or her own mare story. Many riders will tell people that they will never ride, own or compete a mare. Others get along swimmingly with mares and would own nothing but a mare. What’s your preference? Have you generally had good or bad experiences with mares? Do you prefer mares over geldings, or vice versa? Why or why not?

I have ridden my share of mares. I tend to get along with mares and have owned more mares than geldings. I would never say that I’m only ever going to ride mares, or I’m only ever going to ride geldings. A nice horse is a nice horse, regardless of its gender. However, I have to be perfectly honest — mares are not always a walk in the park. But if you find a really good mare that wants to play on your team, you will be one lucky competitor. I think a mare who trusts you and is willing to work with you can offer you a lot. Sometimes a gelding will offer you the same amount and might be more consistent, whereas mare can be more inconsistent, but might give you more at the end of the day, week, year or decade.

Valonia at GMHA last year.

I don’t think I have ever owned or dealt with a more dominant mare than Valonia, aka “The Beast.” Valonia thinks very highly of herself. She basically called the shots for the first four years of her life because she lived out in a herd where she was the boss and leader, which doesn’t surprise me at all. I brought this 17-hand mare to Tamarack when she was about 4 and a half years old, and I started her in the fall of 2009. I had to be very careful with her in the beginning because she demonstrated a very strong NO. NO, I don’t want to go in the wash stall. NO, I don’t want to go in the trailer. HELL NO, you are not allowed to clip me, and you can forget about trying to put shoes on me. Valonia and I have had our normal ups and downs, but the horse I have now has all been worth the roller-coaster ride along the way.

If you have a mare who you adore and believe in, then you should not give up. Mares are tricky and some personalities are stronger and more challenging than others. Some days you will wonder why a mare does such and such one day but not the next day. There might also be days where you thought you understood your mare and thought you knew her inside and out, and you realize you actually don’t. But, I guarantee, if you are matched appropriately, a mare who will play on your team is worth the wait.

Video courtesy of Thehorsepesterer


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