When you are looking for your first horse, you might wonder, should you buy a gelding, a stallion, or a mare? Certainly, it’s unlikely a stallion would make a good beginner horse. There are a few rare circumstances when a beginner might ride a stallion. Very high-end riding stables might put a beginner on a stallion in a very controlled environment. However, for the most part, stallions can be too self-interested and can become hazardous in the hands of someone who doesn’t understand how to handle them.
For most riders or owners just starting out on their own, buying a stallion could be a disastrous move even if the idea of owning a stallion seems romantic. In fact, experienced riders and owners refuse to have a stallion because even the most well-behaved, well-trained ones can become very temperamental and without proper handling, dangerous. You can read more in the article Should a Beginner Rider Buy a Stallion.
Mares or Geldings?
That leaves mares and geldings. For a beginner rider, there is a slight bias in favor of geldings. The reason for this is that geldings tend to have fewer mood swings than mares because they have no heat cycles. Many people feel mares can be moody. This may be most obvious in the spring, during the natural breeding season brought on by more sunlight. Of course, nature designed mares to come in heat in the spring so that foals would be born in the warmest part of the year, eleven months later.
During this time, some mares are very “hormonal” and will have their minds on something other than their rider or handler. Mares can cycle at any time of year, and the accompanying moodiness may also appear to a greater or lesser degree. Not all mares are difficult during this time. A lot will depend on their training and basic temperament.
And, if a mare becomes terribly moody, she may be suffering from cystic ovaries, or other health issues, which require the attention of a veterinarian. But moodiness aside, many mares make great beginner horses. And although mare-ish-ness is inconvenient, it’s rarely dangerous, especially if there is no stallion around.
Many people advise beginners to buy a gelding to avoid having to deal with a moody mare. However, depending on the horse’s individual training and temperament, and how late in life the horse was gelded, a gelding may or may not be the best choice. Geldings gelded late in life may still retain some of the behavioral characteristics of a stallion, although they are physically unable to reproduce. These horses are not a good choice for a beginner. A gelding that has been so since early in its life will likely be the steadiest. These horses are better suited to beginners.
When choosing a gelding, there is one thing a buyer has to watch for and that’s a ridgling. If a horse is very stallion-like in its behavior but appears to be a gelding, it may be something called a rig, or ridgling. And you can learn why first-time owners should avoid these horses in Rigs, Ridglings or Cryptorchidism.
In times past, before modern veterinarian medicine ensured gelding was done properly, a horse left with some testicular and epididymis tissue may have exhibited stallion-like behavior. This is where the term ‘proud cut’ comes from. Today, it’s unlikely you will find any truly ‘proud cut’ geldings. They are more likely to be cryptorchids.
Making the Choice
You definitely don’t want a stallion. So should you choose between a gelding or mare? If you have to choose between two horses whose temperament and training are equal, you may want the gelding. But, if a mare seems to have a much better temperament overall, and her training is better, the mare may be the better choice.