The Red Mare Diaries: The Chestnut Mare Stigma

The Red Mare Diaries are written by Katherine Abel

Lots of people I know are into geldings. Geldings of any color, even chestnut! Mares seem to be a little bit less desirable. Hormones? Whatever. Dressage people also aren’t too keen on Thoroughbreds in general, for some reason. Wasn’t dressage popularized by French Thoroughbreds? I have a chestnut Thoroughbred mare, and when I talk about it, people scrunch up their faces: “Eww, a chestnut mare? A chestnut Thoroughbred mare?”

I’m not exaggerating. I used to have a roommate (a horrible roommate, I might add) whose dad had worked on the racetrack. Evidently, he had been killed by a chestnut TB mare, and thus the girl had written off TB mares forever and ever amen. A groom I know claims that a scar on her face was bestowed upon her by an unruly chestnut TB mare. I asked someone to hold Bonnie for TWO SECONDS for me once, while I retrieved my whip, and she said “Really? You want me to hold your chestnut mare?”

Beware the chestnut mare?

But wait, horses hurt people ALL THE TIME. They are big animals; they have a strong startle instinct because they are prey animals. Those instincts exist in all horses. What’s so memorable about getting injured by a chestnut Thoroughbred mare? Mares in general might be a little more hormonal, and Thoroughbreds have a tendency to be hot. Who cares about the color? Ugh.

Horses are dangerous. All of them. The peaceful warmblood gelding, the uppity Thoroughbred mare, the vengeful pony.

Bonnie is a delightful mare. She never pins her ears at humans or horses. She is subordinate to the cob gelding that she spends her nights with! Yes, the Red Mare is hot to the leg, sensitive about everything, and very forward, but she is not crazed, mean, or even moody. She is interested in people, comes when she is called, and stands quietly while kids play with her dangling tongue.

She gives every bit of herself when I work her; she’s always listening and trying to please. Is she perfect? Of course not. No horse is. She spooks, she will occasionally bolt, and she’ll scurry if the whip surprises her. Even when she’s having a bad moment, though, she’s not mean and she’s never a bully. She is, however, extremely smart and a fast learner.

Today, I had an awesome ride. While working on leg yields at canter, Bonnie got a little bit too into leg yielding and started to do it on her own when I asked her to go down the quarterline without a yield. When I corrected her, she was confused (“but wait, I thought we were leg yielding darn it!”) and she became strong and charged forward in her frustration. She was never bad, though: ears were up and there was no bucking or unruly behavior. Horses ARE allowed to communicate that they are confused or frustrated!

Later, when Bonnie was really on the aids, working nicely, and warmed up, the neighbors drove a broken, clattering stock trailer right next to our fence. Bonnie stayed focused on me and didn’t glance at the clanging abomination, which was a mere 30 feet away. Color me impressed.




Filed under Bon Appeal, Dressage, Stereotypes

4 responses to “The Red Mare Diaries: The Chestnut Mare Stigma

  1. Oh, do I feel your pain. We have a Paint (chestnut Tobiano) mare. She is no worse or better than my big, brown Thoroughbred gelding–and is in fact better trained and more responsive in general.

    But she gets far less slack around the barn than he does.

    Horses of all shapes, size, colors, and opinions hurt people all the time. Thoroughbreds can be flighty, but I am more worried about riding the “dead broke” horse and getting caught unawares.

    Our motley herd stands behind you and Bonnie 100%.

  2. Funny, I always liked them. I know everyone else didn’t, maybe that was the attraction. They were always a hoot to ride. Widely varied complex temperaments, all brilliant.

  3. The only time I’ve been really hurt by a horse was a little chestnut pony mare who kicked the tar out of me when I got between her and the child she was charging for a bag of carrots.

    That said my horse is an ottb (grey gelding) and I adore him. He is very sensitive and smart, often a challenge for me to ride. I wouldn’t trade him for the world šŸ™‚

  4. DIane

    I have a wonderful chestnut warmblood mare. I am familiar with the whole chestnut mare prejudice. Do I believe it? Not sure–there could be personality traits on the same genes for coat color; on the other hand, mares can sometimes be a little more complicated than geldings in that you have to ask them for things in different ways. But I feel a strong connection with mares that I don’t with geldings so it’s mares for me, chestnut or not!

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