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"bad" mares: Can they be reformed? Are they real?

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    "bad" mares: Can they be reformed? Are they real?

    Why does people give so much credence to mares being heinous employees while in season?

    Perhaps I have always had good mares, but I don't recall finding them unrideable while in season. I don't think I'm a fabulous trainer, but maybe I just delivered a "straighten up, now" message to a fussy mare that worked? I don't know.

    In short, does it work when you establish a relationship with a mare that lets her know that she had better punch the damn time clock and do her job, in season or no?

    Just wondering, as you'd think my long experience with horses would have answered this for me by now.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat

    #2
    Some mares are heinous employees when in season, same as people.

    Some mares are wonderful partners. Others are devil incarnates. Same goes for geldings.

    I've met both kinds, all kinds in the middle, and some so awful I wouldn't touch them with a 10foot pole. We had one mare dosed and drugged to high heaven in a barn I worked at because she was evil - and she was absolutely incurable.

    But, in my experience, the bad eggs are few and far between. Most of it boils down to poor handling and spoiling them, and nothing is worse than a spoiled mare!
    AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012

    Comment


      #3
      A lot of people just don't understand mares, especially the Alpha ones. I like them. They are less forgiving, but when one develops the right relationship, based on respect and deserving leadership, it can be a very special relationship indeed. Those that don't understand how to get along with opinionated mares may be forced to learn once most of their friends are post-menopausal women who are no longer subjugated by their 'be nice and get along with everybody' hormones.
      Are you feeding your horse like a cow? www.safergrass.org

      Comment


        #4
        I'm with beowulf.

        I also agree with Katy Watts. I think that mares in general are less okay (than geldings) with inconsistent handling and can turn into "bad horses" with a severity that's in direct relation to the amount of inconsistency in their handling.
        __________________________________
        Flying F Sport Horses
        Horses in the NW

        Comment


          #5
          I think too many people forget that when riding/handling a mare, you are dealing with an "entire" in the same way you are with a stallion. IOW, she has all her full range of endocrine faculties and how she interacts with humans and other horses is going to be filtered through that. As a result, she's far more tuned in to the "herd" hierarchy because more is at stake.

          Mares want to understand WHAT and WHY. They also want a firm but benevolent leader--an "alpha mare." Give them that and they will kill and die for you (certain of our old polo ponies come to mind!) But they will NOT be forced, banged around, or made to work in perpetual discomfort in the ways geldings cave to far more commonly. I've never noticed much difference in/out of season.

          ASK her; don't just TELL her until you know each other very well!

          Comment


            #6
            Also think some people forget that, for some mares, coming into season is much akin to that lady who always calls out a couple days during her own cycle because she's doubled over with cramps, headaches and generally feeling like shite.

            It does happen to some women, and I believe it does happen to some mares. I took lessons on a mare who was amazing, but when she came into heat she was a raging b****. After many years of her being like this, her normal back ouchy-ness during hurt started to get more pronounced, and her owner had her ovaries u/s. A week later they removed two HUGE tumors, one from each ovary. Vet estimated tumors could have been growing for years.

            This is obviously one example, and an extreme one, but I have known other mares who just, when they come into heat, REALLY come into heat.

            FWIW, my mare, who is my first mare (always said I'd never own one), is a total peach when in heat. She's is annoying as hell to her herd mates pees everywhere and on everything and nickers to anything that moves, but she is a total love to deal with, a bit moreso than she is normally!

            All horses are unique. Mares are no exception.
            Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

            Comment


              #7
              My mares do fine when in season and the only concession I make is this: if they are in full blown season I will keep them off to the side or very back of the field- we fox hunt. I feel like I have a responsibility to not incite bad behavior with another horse if my mare is winking.

              A few weeks ago I rode in a clinic and the instructor had her stallion in the arena with us to show us exercises. There were 9 mares and 2 geldings in the class and her stallion never once called out or dropped to get the mares attention. She said she rides stallions and geldings and only uses mares in her small breeding program. In her opinion mares require a much sharper rider because as LE mentioned above, you have full fertility factory underneath you.

              Comment


                #8
                I get that you need to treat a mare like a Sovereign Nation and I like that about them.

                I guess my question about the nature/nurture causes of bad behavior while in season comes down to this:

                If I built a fair relationship with a mare, would she sublimate her sex drive because I asked to her to, at least while under saddle?

                If I had a reputation for fairness with the mare but she previously had been known as bad or incorrigible while in season, would a CTJ meeting be in order? Or can a mare not be convinced by Jesus (or his agents) to just Man Up while she is in season?

                The point about the mare in pain and tumors is well taken. I wonder how common this is.
                The armchair saddler
                Politically Pro-Cat

                Comment


                  #9
                  I've seen plenty of geldings that were annoying, sensitive and spoiled. No excuse for them.

                  My mares (and I've had dozens of them) have all been total sweetie pies and I prefer them. The two I have now are the sweetest animals on the planet. They can be rude and mean to each other when in heat, but when I get there they know it's time to work and that's that. No difference in riding behavior, maybe an extra whinny or hard stare across the field, that's it.

                  My redheaded gelding, OTOH, is a total PITA. Hates being brushed, hates certain saddle pads, hates my leg if it's not in just the right place - and no hormonal excuses.

                  I have one mare that will tease to my husband. It's actually really funny and quite cute. She will trot behind him, rubbing on him, smack her lips and stop to pee. Wish I had it on camera.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by mvp View Post
                    I guess my question about the nature/nurture causes of bad behavior while in season comes down to this:

                    If I built a fair relationship with a mare, would she sublimate her sex drive because I asked to her to, at least while under saddle?

                    If I had a reputation for fairness with the mare but she previously had been known as bad or incorrigible while in season, would a CTJ meeting be in order? Or can a mare not be convinced by Jesus (or his agents) to just Man Up while she is in season?
                    These are all really fascinating questions.

                    My best answer (which is really a guess, since I have never personally dealt with such a mare, but have seen them successfully dealt with by professionals) is that yes, you can get such a mare to the point where YOU become her singular focus when she is with you, and that that dedication overrides every and all other earthly calling. This is under the very significant subtext that you have, as you said, built a fair and understanding relationship with the mare, that she knows you will address something if it is bothering her (and do so immediately, versus pushing her on through it or waiting until she blows up to notice the something to begin with) and that she is not in any pain whatsoever.

                    I think the bit in parentheses is a huge part of why so many people, with mares and geldings alike, struggle with their horses. I think, to deal successfully with these types of mares, you need to be quite a bit more skilled than your average horse person to get the kind of result you are discussing in your third question. Mares like that tend to also have more aggressive personalities on the whole, and many of them just really don't believe you're for real, even if they hear what you're saying.
                    Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not. Remember that what you have now was once among the many things that you only hoped for.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by mvp View Post
                      If I built a fair relationship with a mare, would she sublimate her sex drive because I asked to her to, at least while under saddle?
                      Highly unlikely. She's still a slave to the 4 F's. Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and Reproduction. If she is not doing any of those, then she will be a willing partner. No matter how fantastic of a rider you are, you can't overcome evolutionary biology.

                      Originally posted by mvp View Post
                      If I had a reputation for fairness with the mare but she previously had been known as bad or incorrigible while in season, would a CTJ meeting be in order? Or can a mare not be convinced by Jesus (or his agents) to just Man Up while she is in season?
                      A CTJ won't work. Imagine the last time you were in pain and struggling along doing the best you could possibly with AGONIZING cramps from your period and someone hauls off and yells at you and wants an all out CTJ because your best on that day isn't enough. You can't expect a mare who is going to be in the height of her sexual maturity to always be a willing partner. The more you tell her to "man up" the more she'll lose it.

                      Originally posted by mvp View Post
                      The point about the mare in pain and tumors is well taken. I wonder how common this is.
                      Being in pain during their cycles isn't uncommon, I often notice discomfort on the side that the mare is ovulating on and have even known mares to look slightly off behind as they become so unwilling to step up from behind. Not to mention mares that have been bred can have cysts in their uterus that are terribly painful and can cause them to be wildly unpredictable.

                      From what I'm hearing from you, you sound like you want a gelding in mare form.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by Abbie.S View Post
                        Mares like that tend to also have more aggressive personalities on the whole, and many of them just really don't believe you're for real, even if they hear what you're saying.
                        Interesting. I'd make this statement differently, not using geldings as a baseline.

                        So a gelding has been relieved of his balls and all of the DNA-spreading ambition they added to his personality. Geldings are live-in-the-moment hedonists. They want to get through the day and feel good if they can.

                        A mare still has here "genetic/keep the foal alive" imperative inside her in the form of ovaries. And really, does this come from the estrogen they release? Also, insofar as mares in nature make the executive decisions for a heard, I believe there was a strong selective pressure for intelligence, autonomy and foresight in mares. Were her only job to keep her baby alive or attract a male, the female horse might have been selected for a different mind. Instead, horses' natural history and the mare's place in it rewarded a very "adult" kind of psychology.

                        Insofar as the stallion's job is primarily to service mares and keep other colts out of his herd, surviving male horses were rewarded (with more surviving offspring) for a different mentality. For stallions, I think you must consider him to be willing to get into challenges with other horses, but smart enough not to waste his energy on battles he cannot win. He must read other horses (especially the ladies) and also be willing to risk his body in acts of love and war.

                        I think, then, that a gelding-type "roll with it" personality is the most artificial of the three.
                        The armchair saddler
                        Politically Pro-Cat

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by yourcolorfuladdiction View Post
                          Highly unlikely. She's still a slave to the 4 F's. Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and Reproduction. If she is not doing any of those, then she will be a willing partner. No matter how fantastic of a rider you are, you can't overcome evolutionary biology.



                          A CTJ won't work. Imagine the last time you were in pain and struggling along doing the best you could possibly with AGONIZING cramps from your period and someone hauls off and yells at you and wants an all out CTJ because your best on that day isn't enough. You can't expect a mare who is going to be in the height of her sexual maturity to always be a willing partner. The more you tell her to "man up" the more she'll lose it.



                          Being in pain during their cycles isn't uncommon, I often notice discomfort on the side that the mare is ovulating on and have even known mares to look slightly off behind as they become so unwilling to step up from behind. Not to mention mares that have been bred can have cysts in their uterus that are terribly painful and can cause them to be wildly unpredictable.

                          From what I'm hearing from you, you sound like you want a gelding in mare form.
                          Hold up! I don't want a gelding in mare form. See above where I said that I liked the adultness of mares. I agree, as I also said, that any question I had about teaching a mare to do her damn job while in season assumes she's not in pain. Surely you shouldn't be asking an animal to sublimate pain (though we do).

                          But I do want to know how much mares' "breaking the rules" during ovulation has to do with the way she is handled and ridden. This is the horse version of the question that we used to have about women and jobs or being president. You all remember the joke about a female prez declaring nuclear war because she was PMSing. No one now would think that was funny or acceptable. And I wasn't of any kind of generation or job where I got days off because of my period. If our species changed its ideas (and yes, some women really do have lots of pain or feel emotions more strongly), are there some horsemen who treat their mares like plain ol' working geldings and get performance from them, ovulation or no?
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I've owned a number of mares. All of them have been "sweeter" when in season. More like, "Oh, OK" vs "Oh, really?" Of course, the healthy hussies are messy during this time.

                            I'm constantly amazed by the number of people reporting bad behavior in mares when cycling. Not to say some mares don't experience pain during ovulation but IME, that would be rare. In addition, it is incorrect to correlate a mare in season with a women menstruating. A human female is not ovulating during menstruation.

                            I have run into a couple of dangerous mares over the years but they were dangerous all of the time. There are plenty of dangerous geldings around too. Temperament, like conformation, is inherited.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by SLW View Post
                              ... She said she rides stallions and geldings and only uses mares in her small breeding program. In her opinion mares require a much sharper rider because as LE mentioned above, you have full fertility factory underneath you.
                              And you don't with a stallion???

                              Comment


                                #16
                                Originally posted by mvp View Post
                                I get that you need to treat a mare like a Sovereign Nation and I like that about them.

                                I guess my question about the nature/nurture causes of bad behavior while in season comes down to this:

                                If I built a fair relationship with a mare, would she sublimate her sex drive because I asked to her to, at least while under saddle?

                                If I had a reputation for fairness with the mare but she previously had been known as bad or incorrigible while in season, would a CTJ meeting be in order? Or can a mare not be convinced by Jesus (or his agents) to just Man Up while she is in season?

                                The point about the mare in pain and tumors is well taken. I wonder how common this is.
                                I too like mares and the fact that you can't demand that they comply, or in the words of a trainer I once heard 'you train geldings and you modify mares.' I have a wonderful mare who when she is in season is distracted totally by her hormones. She has Donna Summer playing in her head and is NOT focused on her job. I've learned that I need to work a little harder to get and keep her attention when she's in heat, and somedays I'm not going to have her full attention. She's definitely the alpha mare in our herd, and I treat her with the respect she deserves.

                                Comment


                                  #17
                                  Originally posted by yourcolorfuladdiction View Post
                                  Highly unlikely. She's still a slave to the 4 F's. Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding, and Reproduction. If she is not doing any of those, then she will be a willing partner. No matter how fantastic of a rider you are, you can't overcome evolutionary biology.



                                  A CTJ won't work. Imagine the last time you were in pain and struggling along doing the best you could possibly with AGONIZING cramps from your period and someone hauls off and yells at you and wants an all out CTJ because your best on that day isn't enough. You can't expect a mare who is going to be in the height of her sexual maturity to always be a willing partner. The more you tell her to "man up" the more she'll lose it.



                                  Being in pain during their cycles isn't uncommon, I often notice discomfort on the side that the mare is ovulating on and have even known mares to look slightly off behind as they become so unwilling to step up from behind. Not to mention mares that have been bred can have cysts in their uterus that are terribly painful and can cause them to be wildly unpredictable.

                                  From what I'm hearing from you, you sound like you want a gelding in mare form.
                                  THIS^. My mare will occasionally have "a Day." It has no correlation with her heat cycle far as I can tell. But once in a blue moon she'll just be twitchy, reactive, humpy, mentally scatty, like she's saying "Don't TOUCH me, you are ONE more stimulus than I can handle today!!!" If you escalate and get strong, as your first impulse might be you will get LAUNCHED. You will not win that way.
                                  With a gelding, you would stuff him along and get on with it.

                                  What I do is remain firmly but lightly in control, doubling her a few times if need be, and then give her the opportunity to do something easy; let's start with going forward on a long rein as soon as she obeys. Then we do easy things, jollying her through her Eeeek! day as gently as it takes and as soon as she once again achieves relaxation, put her away.

                                  The next day she'll be a sweet peach again . . . Go figure!

                                  Comment


                                    #18
                                    I mainly deal with mare in my riding. I prefer them. Usually the cycles really aren't a problem the young ones my call a bit more hen in heat but nothing unusual. However I did have one pony mare that was unridable when she was in heat. She would get behind your leg so you felt like you were right behind her ears. She would spin, kick protest etc. She was as calm as could be the weeks she wasn't in heat and a great ride.

                                    I figured it was like this. There are women out there whose cramps are mild and it's no big deal. Others need mega-doses of ibuprofen to even function minimally. It's just the way mother nature doled out the symptoms. In college if I didn't work I didn't eat and I have 3 days a month where I couldn't do either even with Tylenol 3. Is it really fair to expect a woman who is throwing up for the first three days of her period to perform the same as a woman who just notices a minor twinge and moodiness?

                                    I think the same is true for horses. Some just feel it more to the point they can't just buck it up and get on with the job.
                                    "I am sorry, I lead a bit of a complex life, things don't always happen in the right order" The Doctor

                                    Comment


                                      #19
                                      I have only owned 2 mares--so I am no expert on this subject--but have some experiences to share on this!

                                      My first mare (who I still have and she is 20) is extremely sweet (all the time) with a great work ethic. When she is in heat--she is ridiculous in the pasture over the fence with the boys. But under saddle--she is very focused and shows no sign of pain when she is in heat. She is not the alpha mare--but has a quiet yet confident personality. She is the one that convinced me to get another mare . . . . . ugh.

                                      Mare #2 was a bit of a puzzle. She was aggressive in the pasture--and did have good days and "WTF"? days when being ridden. Extremely girthy, sometimes grumpy about being groomed. At one point--we thought it might be related to her heat cycles and did a repro exam. We did find one overactive ovary (in the dead of winter) but no signs of tumors, etc. Anyway--long story short--it ended up that she had an old injury of her SI that never healed correctly. The vet that diagnosed her injury did explain that during a mares heat cycle, there is increased inflamation in the SI area which can aggravate that injury further.

                                      Now that we have resolved her long-standing injury--she is a MUCH more pleasant mare. She loves wither and back scratches (grooms me too!). Completely digs her massages (she used to be one of the "difficult" customers for the massage person!) No more girthiness. Her agressiveness in the pasture has toned down a LOT. So, I believe a lot of her attitude was related to some chronic pain. She is definitely more alpha than my older mare--but the grumpiness and inconsistency under saddle are not an issue now that she is not injured.

                                      Comment


                                        #20
                                        My impression is that the majority of behaviors that get attributed to "in season" hormones are either non-repro pain issues (see slp2's example above of the SI injury) or general training/behavioral issues that owners prefer to sweep under the "marishness" rug rather than confront. Sometimes I wonder, too, whether some owners don't create the naughtiness they chalk up to estrus, by giving a good eyeroll and sighing "what a mare" instead of correcting bad behavior when it starts.

                                        That's not to say that mares don't behave differently at different stages of their estrus cycle. I've just found that in a healthy, well-trained horse it's nothing that can't be worked through by being sensitive and fair, but firm. Part of being fair for me is accepting that occasionally my mare may be a little tighter in her back or more distracted than usual, and I have to make of it what I can without overtraining to compensate. If one ride every few weeks falls a bit short of what I know she can do, it's not the end of the world. Heaven knows I'm not always 100% consistent either! I'd do the same if I were on a gelding that was having an off day -- part of the appeal of equestrianism is that it involves a dialogue between two individuals.

                                        Comment

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