I love mares. A widely unpopular opinion to be sure, but it’s true for me.
I have both a mare and a gelded donkey, and while I love Murphy’s big heart and snugly nature, I am compelled by Molly’s spirit and independence.
It’s commonly believed and portrayed in Hollywood, that in the wild the Stallion is the leader of his “harem” or band of horses. This is untrue.
It is the mares that run the band. Typically one or two “dominant” or “matriarchal” mares are the ones who plan the route for finding food and water, decide when the band moves and rests, care for the foals and elder members of the herd, and decide which stallions to mate with.
Stallions, to their credit, protect the herd from danger but they too take their direction from the lead mare. They’re often solitary creatures, or they live on the outskirts of the herd & young stallions will often form their own bands. The stallion’s significance within the herd is not that which is portrayed in the movies.
Lizzie, the palomino mare pictured above, inspired this post. I’ve been riding her for a few months now and our last three rides have been bareback and have gone delightfully well.
This took some time…
The first day I attempted to ride her (bareback!) she intimidated the hell out of me. I put the saddle on, put her bit and bridle on, took the reins preparing to mount, only to have them wrenched from my hands as she vigorously shook her head up and down and pinned her ears at me.
“What the hell is this????” I thought to myself. Lizzie is supposed to be a highly trained horse that I’m just riding to exercise! I wasn’t expecting a grouchy, bitchy mare to show up. Yet here she was.
Intimidated and also unfamiliar with the English bit she “came with” I didn’t end up riding that day. The next time I saw her, she was on the docket to coach with me for my Equine Gestalt Coaching group. We’d never partnered together before so this would be an interesting experience.
We circle up in a group, in chairs, in an indoor arena with Lizzie at liberty (free) around us. The anxiety in the room was high. Lizzie was anxious as well and trotted circles or walked to the door to leave over and over and over. When we did try to engage with her, she’d pin her ears and shake her head. She was mostly not interested. But she WAS listening and she WAS watching. I could see her observing. I could see her intelligence.
We had two or three failed attempts at riding before I finally put my own western saddle on her and my training pelham bit that I use on almost all my horses and got up the gumption to get on her. I tentatively rode her for five, maybe ten minutes before calling it a day and ending on a positive note.
Over the next couple of weeks I worked her on the ground a lot, focusing heavily on building a relationship with her and framing myself as the safest and most comfortable place in the arena, instead of the door to go outside.
The day she followed me willingly, of her own accord, to the mounting block – I was thrilled. Still, she cried and screamed for her horsey friend for most of our session and several sessions after that.
Another day of coaching was upon us, and Lizzie showed up in a big way. She helped a young woman clearly see the path that would lead her to personal freedom, and the path that led back to a life of fear and anxiety.
The EGC session following that, she would scarcely leave the group, at times even trying to insert herself into the middle of our circle. Ah … progress!
And then, this happened last week. We had a quiet bareback ride in the arena, and when I dismounted and untacked her, I told her she could go roll.
I made my way to sit on the mounting block in the middle of the arena.
She followed me. I sat quietly. Slowly she leaned her shoulder into mine and rested against me. I leaned my head against her and we had a lovely moment of connection, of sisterhood, of mutual trust. I thought to myself as I sat with her “I love mares.”
With a mare, it’s not an immediate “love at first” sight, squishy, emotional, hug fest. For that, you need a gelding.
To love a mare, you must respect her dignity, her boundaries, and her status.
You must earn her respect. You must earn her trust. You must earn her affection. You must not attempt to control her spirit.
The magic is, once you gain her trust, her heart is forever loyal and you have a partner for life. This has been my experience with every mare I’ve been fortunate enough to work with. This is the bond I have with my girl, Molly.
Why do you love mares?
What lessons do the mares in your life have to teach you?
If you don’t like mares, can you shift your perspective and see what you may have to learn?