An Alpha Mare Discussion

Zelda giving me the stink eye

Zelda has been testing me. I was traveling for a few days last week, and when I haven’t been working her regularly, she forgets that I’m not Curly and she tries to boss me around. She will drag me toward the best grass, try to nip me when I put her saddle on, refuse to stand by the mounting block, and pretend to be spooked by a shadow. She does what she wants when the thought cosses her mind.

Zelda having decided that she doesn't have to be alpha
Zelda after deciding that she didn’t have to be the Alpha mare.

I will give her credit though, for not holding a grudge. Although it takes me several tries to assert convince her that I’m in charge, once she decides that I can be the alpha, at least for a short time, she’s pretty cooperative. Transitions every ten strides? No problem. Walking nicely beside me without trying to eat grass? Yes, Ma’m.

The trick is to use the same herd dynamics that she does: issue a swift display of dominance that is easily understood, then go back to business as usual. And by dominance, I mean more bluster than correction. Something loud rather than something mean. A growl, a slap with a crop, or, when she tries to bite me, a pinch on her nose.

Just as a point of reference, here’s how she treats Curly (who is her BFF). She never hurts Curly, but she sure does put on a display. Of course, Curly is clever. She pretends that Zelda has scared her off and then sneaks in behind her and grabs the hay.


2 thoughts on “An Alpha Mare Discussion

  1. Good for Curly! Sorry to say, but I stick with geldings. I really would rather not argue with a mare every other time. I’ve heard it said: “One orders a gelding, asks a stallion, and negotiates with a mare.” with geldings…for instance with the OTTB I leased, it took a 45 minute arguement in a small paddock. I wanted to put his blanket on, as it was going to rain, and he said no. I stood over his freshly deposited hay, and he started running circles. Every time he stopped, I approached with the blanket, he’d bolt to the other end of the paddock, and I stood over his hay. This went on for 45 minutes til he was wet and disgusted..but he let me approach with the blanket. by now it was raining, so the blanket was useless…but even so, I touched him with the blanket as if to say, THERE, I WIN and let it go at that. Pressing the issue…AND making sure he knew it was MY hay…were the keys.
    From that day on, I had no more troubles. He’d accepted that I was the alpha bitch oops did I say that, and I never had another bit of trouble. From then on, IF it was needed, all I needed to do was give him the stink eye\ and he’d back right down.
    On the other hand, my friends with mares…have this argument about once a month. Sorry. I admire women who ride mares. They have far more…I don’t know the word right now, but I admire them.

  2. Until Zelda, I always preferred geldings. I took on Zelda as a project for a friend who wanted to sell her and the first couple of months, I absolutely hated riding her. She tested me every single time I got on her back. She squealed, she bucked, she tried to rub me off on trees, she made each ride a challenge. And then one day she decided that she could work with me and she turned out to be a whole lot of fun. If she gets too much time off she needs a reminder, but mostly now she’s quite good about doing what I want :). My gelding is pretty easy. He’s a pleaser. He can get anxious and insecure, but he wants to do whatever you ask.

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