Useful Reference Works
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Horse Sense: 1. Some Notes On Gender
STALLIONS - Also called studs, which are whole, non-castrated males. Nowadays stallions are seldom used as working saddle horses, although some studs DO make fine working horses. However, it takes the right stud and the right handler to make a dependable work team. A stallion can be rather high-strung and unpleasant around other horses, as he may tend to see them in narrow terms of whether he wants to fight them or breed them. This of course could be very dangerous and injurious to other horses, or even other riders. (I once had the shocking experience of riding a mare, when a stud horse also under saddle decided he wanted to get friendly.) In times when stallions were ridden into battle, their dominant, aggressive spirit was thought desirable and channeled to good use, but it can be a detriment to casual riding. If there is a mare in season, his mind may drop you-know-where. Or, he may spend the day prancing and snorting and trying to show all the other horses what a bad dude he is - wearing out himself AND his rider. Furthermore, in days when horses were the power behind most transportation, a stallion would often be unwelcome company. Too many people and boarding stables simply would not want to risk the trouble of a fractious stud horse among their other animals. Again, there ARE quiet, well-mannered, even-tempered stallions out there. Yet the workaday, dependable horse remains ... the gelding.
GELDINGS - A castrated male horse, of any age. These were and are the standard work horse of the Western world, generally not ruled by mating urges or fighting instincts. However, occasionally you will find a gelding that will mount a mare in season, and some that just plain act "studly." These latter types may have been gelded fairly late in life, retaining stud-like behaviors and attitudes, which is a condition known as "proud cut."
MARES - The female of the species. In Western society, mares were usually reserved for breeding purposes, and occasionally as a ladies' riding animal. Mares were not traditionally used for work or riding animals, for several reasons. One, mares can be distracting to other horses, given that they come into season about once a month or so, from spring through fall. This can and does create disruptive behaviors among the other saddle stock ~ even geldings. Two, as the mare comes into heat, she can become highly irritable and restless around other horses, and unpleasant to work with. (You might even say she has PMS!) Not all mares do this, but many do. Three, geldings can become so firmly bonded to a single mare that if she strays during the night ... the entire herd goes with her, unlike if a couple geldings were to wander off alone. This would be disastrous on a long journey in the wilderness. Thus, although not all mares show cranky estrus cycles, and not all mares disrupt herds of geldings, it was a general rule that mares were not the favored work animal. (As a note of interest, I am told that the Arabs felt exactly the opposite, and preferred to ride mares above all other choices!)
NOTE: In wild horse herds, an older, dominant mare will be the actual the boss of the band. The stud seeks mainly to keep other males from breeding them. The boss mare is the one who decides when and where the herd will move, with the stud following. Stallions may come and go, as battles for supremacy change the herd hierarchy, but the mares remain together, and will follow the matriarch, often for years. This pattern remains useful to stock users who travel with numbers of horses and mules, and who may keep one reliable, proven bell mare as a "magnet" to keep their animals together.
MORE ON GENDER:
A young male horse is a colt. (If not castrated, it is a stud colt.)
A young female horse is a filly.
A baby of either gender is a foal.
A mare is a female, while the word "horse" was almost exclusively used to mean a male horse, a gelding. Thus; "Was he riding a red horse?" "No, he was riding a red mare."
Oddly enough, however, "horsing" is a term used to describe a mare's behavior, when she is in heat.
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