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By Patti Schofler

n introduction to a new mare typically follows with questions like: “Is she marish?” “How are her heat cycles?” “Is she an ‘Alpha’ mare? A chestnut mare? A nightmare?” The negative stereotypes behind these ques- tions puts some riders into the “only geldings” club of horse people. But is this evaluation of the equine female gender fair?

A

To find out, Warmbloods Today invited trainers of four champion mares standing at the top of their games to discuss these leading ladies. Without hesitation, they glowed over their girls and raised them to pedestal sta- tus. They swore to their mares’ toughness and heart. They attested that their horses were fast learners who if treated with respect will jump through fire for their rid- ers. They agreed that their mares’ sensitivity and intelli- gence were positive attributes which required their riders be better at their jobs.

Show jumping Olympian Peter Wylde believes there are many misconceptions about mares, and amateur dres- sage competitor Gundi Younger is convinced her mare gives her as much as she does because she is a mare. None of these champions of dressage, show jumping and three day eventing train and compete with hormonal assistance because heat cycles don’t interfere with their work. None of their riders would trade them for a gelding or stallion.

“Mares are a psychological challenge,” says dressage trainer Nick Wagman. “If a gelding gets balky, you thump him with your leg or tap him with your whip and he goes off. With a mare you have to figure out a fair, disciplined approach to win her over otherwise she will fight or hold a grudge the rest of her life.”

to have that because it won’t change. They can be trained and obedient, but somewhat on their terms. Mares care too much and want things a certain way.”

With the ladies, everything is more. Even, our riders insist, their hearing and sensitivity to sounds is heightened.

Nick sums it up: “Geldings let you push them. Everyone is afraid of stallions. Mares are misunderstood. They are natural survivors because they are protectors of the young. This innate principal guides who she is. She has so many obligations other than being a sport horse.”

What makes a mare a champion? Perhaps the tales of these great gals will give incite into a mare’s special quali- ties that are often overlooked.

The Dutch Warmblood, UFORIA

Nick Wagman’s mare took him by surprise. On a visit to Holland’s Stal Korenbloem in search of a horse for a client, Nick was presented horse after horse after horse. The one that the Southern California trainer chose to try out didn’t meet his client’s shopping criteria, but nonethe- less drew him to the ride.

“I didn’t know if

I could afford her. I was terrified of the gamble.”

“You need to develop a partnership with a mare. You must be sympathetic to her, listen to her and be flexible. If not, she can become very ungenerous,” says Andrea Pfeiffer, three day eventing trainer. “The good ones have a high opinion of themselves and you have to allow them

Four year old Uforia (Negro x Montana) had been pulled from pasture and started under saddle only a few weeks before. “The weather was freezing cold. They were just still building the covered arena and snow was blowing in,” Nick recalls. “She was so scared and timid, but tried so hard to behave and was as sensible as they come.”

Taken with her, he came home wracking his brain. “I did- n’t know if I could afford her. I was terrified of the gam- ble. But in the video, there was a moment when I tapped her with the whip and she unintentionally did a step or two of piaffe. I thought, wow, there is something in this horse.”

His instincts proved correct. In March Uforia, now eight,

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