Gender Dynamics Copy
Gender and Breed Dynamics
Equally relevant to our work is an appreciation for the differences that can exist in behavior among the genders and sometimes among different breeds. In both cases, of course, there are always individuals who don’t fit the general guidelines.
For the genders, we can look at geldings, stallions and mares. Most domesticated males are gelded, or neutered, because it generally makes their dispositions more docile. They are sometimes described as “less sensitive” than stallions and mares. They are still horses though and like any horse, they are highly sensitive creatures.
Stallions require a higher level of skill in handling due to their strong drive to breed and protect. However, since in so many cases the stallion handling is done by professionals and with greater attention to perfect manners, they are often perfect gentlemen, and may be much easier to work with (once trained) than a spoiled or mistreated gelding or mare. Stallions can be less predicatable than other horses and are often stimulated by any change in their environment. They can express themselves in a forward manner that may be mistaken as aggression. It is best when working with a stallion to have a handler present who is familiar with the animal and to keep yourself alert to your body position and the horse’s posture. If there are mares in the vicinity while you are massaging a stallion, watch carefully for any escalating excitement on the part of the stallion.
Massage itself may be too stimulating for some stallions, and they may gain an erection from certain strokes or sustained contact. If this happens or the stallion begins to act excited, change the stroke you are using and maybe the area that you are massaging or even pause temporarily until the horse settles down. If a stallion is acting aggressively or his behaviors are escalating, it may be appropriate to stop the massage for that day.
Mares can cover perhaps the widest range of behavior from sweet and maternal to, well, the other end of the spectrum, especially at certain stages of their cycle. (Hence the term “mare-ish” to describe behaviors such as snapping, biting, kicking, tail-swishing, pinning the ears back and squealing.) Some mares, especially if they have extreme behaviors or are used in competitions, may be given various supplements, medications or implants to counteract the influence of their hormones on their behavior. Mares may respond to touch along their back and hindquarters with signs of agitation or discomfort and these reactions may vary depending on the stage in their cycle. Other mares may have the docile and reliable temperament of a gelding.
Massage can be of tremendous benefit to those mares who vacillate between moods and can provide relief for sore muscles and internal organs. Again, when working on a mare that shows any of the above behaviors with regularity, remain alert to your body position in relations to theirs and keep an eye on their posture for warning signals that they are becoming increasingly agitated.