Building A Better Relationship: Mare Versus Gelding Logo

Question Category: Building a Better Relationship

Question: Hi Julie,

I was in attendance at the Murdock’s clinic on Thursday night. I heard just a bit of a statement you made about mares. Something to the effect that they can work twice as hard for you or against you. I have a 4 yr. paint mare that was about ruined by a wannabe Pat Parelli trainer. He had about 4-5 sessions with her and after that she was turned into an unrideable outlaw. Thank God, I was able to get her recovered to the point of riding again with the help of Raian Kaiser, with the T-Tellington Touch method. I have never seen a horse that at 3 yrs could be ridden bareback in the pasture or in the round pen with just a saddle and no bridle go to the complete opposite. I was just sickened at the way this guy abused her. So, to make a long story short, do you suppose she did not agree with this guy and just made up her mind she wasn’t going to have whatever he was selling? She was always a eager learner, now she is slowly getting back to her old self but she still has some defensive posturing like throwing her head if she feels like she wants me out of her space, which I help her through by not allowing her to remove me from the space around her head. I really love this little mare but I never really had a mare as my main horse before, so I am pretty ignorant on the psyche of the mares. Really enjoyed your session with the little Welsh pony, he certainly responded well to you. Too bad the weather didn’t cooperate I would have loved to see you work with the quarter horse type. In parting, I wanted to say that a senior former Parelli trainer had helped us start our two paints under saddle at two and they just loved him to death. They practically smelled him to pieces when he walked into the corral, and he was the one that started the riding training on them. So, just wanted your input and suggestions when you have the time. Would love to work in the saddle with your instruction. Let me know if you’re ever in the Longmont-Berthoud area again.


Answer: Nita,

Thanks for coming to the demo the other night and although it would have been nice to be outdoors, I was glad to be able to work inside. Who would of guessed that we could do a groundwork demo in the middle of a huge retail store!

First, let me say that just because this guy professed to be a Parelli trainer, doesn’t mean he was one. And, as I find myself saying a lot these days, a little bit of information can be a dangerous thing. I am sure that Mr. Parelli himself would not approve of the way this horse was handled.

Unfortunately, I hear more and more stories like this all the time. Sometimes when people are armed with a little bit of information, but do not have the experience and judgment that comes with working with hundreds of different horses, they make terrible mistakes. Because of Parelli’s popularity and saturation of the market, there are a lot of self-proclaimed experts out there that have really done nothing more than watch a video or two and practice on one or two horses. This can give a person the very misguided impression that he knows what he is doing. Then along comes a horse that is a little bit challenging or has a different sensitivity level and things can go bad in a hurry, as it did in your case.

We get horses in training like this all the time that have been overwhelmed and confused by these training methods. Usually, it is because the handler did not recognize the sensitivity of the horse and was not capable of giving clear communications to the horse. At some point, the horse becomes overwhelmed and his mind shuts down and he becomes reactive and flighty, rather than thinking, “What am I supposed to do and what response will get me out of this predicament?” If the handler does not recognize that the horse’s mind has shut down and keeps pounding away at the horse, serious damage to the horse’s training and attitude will result.

My comment about mares is that mares are more likely to form bonded relationships within the herd. This is a fact of horse behavior. So on the one hand, this can make your relationship with your mare much more meaningful and rewarding. On the other hand, if you betray her or give her a reason to distrust you (as the Parelli guy did), she will hold it against you much more than a gelding or stallion. Bonded relationships are a double-edged sword. In general, geldings are much more forgiving than mares.

If you have made a mistake with a mare, which in this case was your mare and someone else’s mistake (but one for which you were responsible), you have to make it up to her. It sounds like you have already done that and are well on your way to mending the fence. In your case, the mare will probably carry that baggage with her forever, but she will probably also distinguish between you and someone else that may be likely to treat her that way again. It is true that a mare will work ten times harder for you than a gelding, but if you betray her, she’ll work ten times harder against you. Sounds like you are on the right track with your mare. Take her slowly and build her trust and faith in you and you’ll be just fine. Hope to see you at a clinic sometime.


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