Riding Mares

Why ride mares? Why not ride mares?

Growing up, we rode anything with four hooves. We used the word “horse” for all equines, regardless of gender. More recently, in dealing with horseman from other countries I find them using more specific terms.

A “horse” for instance is a stallion, as distinguished from a mare, or a gelding.

In countries such as Spain and Portugal mares have been used traditionally only as breeding stock. It has been explained to me that in past centuries, because those countries were supplying war horses, work horses and just plain transportation horses to the known world, every mare was required to produce a foal every year.

Now, with the advent of infernal combustion engines, horses are not as much in demand. We find ourselves more focused on quality than quantity. In fact in Portugal this emphasis is reflected in the practice of only giving potential stallions a limited number of certificates with which to register their foals. Consequently the breeder should want to bring only quality producing mares to their stallion.

One of the best ways to determine a mare’s quality is to train her to work under saddle. That way the breeder knows from experience which mares offer the best ride, athleticism, and personality to their offspring.

In the USA, one ranch that has practiced this for at least a century is the King Ranch in south Texas. Mares on that enormous spread are started into work right along with geldings and stallions. When a steed is ready for work, he or she is assigned to a kineno, as the hereditary cowboy of the ranch are known.

When a mare shows outstanding qualities in her work, she is selected out of the working string and placed in the broodmare band.

It is a point of pride to have a favorite mare stolen out from under them in this manner. I guess that’s women’s Lib. for equines!

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