Keeping Mares and Geldings Together– Does it work?
For many years I boarded at a farm where geldings and mares lived in mixed herds. I always thought this was normal. When I moved stables and as I grew up in the horse world, I learnt that keeping mares and geldings separate is actually more common – but why?
When I finally moved into my own farm, I had the chance to organize my paddocks the way I wanted. I decided to have some mixed herds. This was because I had some geldings and mares that really got along well, and it helped to keep the herd numbers even.
Everything was going quite well until…
Cooper had been in mixed herds of geldings and mares with no problems. He had even been in a mixed herd with this little palomino pony named Twilight with no issues – but something changed. We moved Twilight and Cooper into a separate paddock so we could monitor their hay better. Instead of a mixed herd, it was just the two of them.
Cooper fell madly in love with Twilight. This was to the point that he started charging the outdoor riding ring (which bordered their paddock). Cooper was running at horses from the other side of the fence, kicking out, and making it a dangerous situation.
We moved Twilight back in with the girls, but the problem still persisted because they shared a common fence line. The problem didn’t go away until we put Cooper in an all boys paddock that didn’t share any fence line with the girls. Then he finally went back to ‘normal’ and stopped being over protective. Twilight could care less during the move and once back with the girls she appeared just as happy and social.
The same thing happened with a horse named Tugg. He arrived with 2 mares that he had been living with. Since they arrived together, we kept them together in their own paddock that was beside the riding arena. Tug started doing the same thing as Cooper and charging the fence line and kicking out (even breaking fence boards).
We separated Tug into the boys paddock, and the girls into the girls paddock. Tug stood by the fence line and fiercely protected the section of fence that bordered the girl’s paddock, to the point that he sustained a pretty bad kick injury that needed stitches. The girls didn’t care and kept to themselves, the girls didn’t have any issues fighting.
We ended up sending Tug back to his home because we didn’t have the space to accommodate him, and the girls stayed without issue.
Over the years I have had a few more examples of geldings getting incredibly protective of their mares – but the issue only happens once a new horse is introduced to the herd (the gelding and mares can be happy in the field as long as no new members are added).
Over the years I haven’t had the same issues with mares – mares in general seem to be much better at adjusting to new members in the paddock (at least ours do), and even the mares that are bossy haven’t even been as bad as the geldings that got really protective and territorial. I’ve seen geldings be so aggressive that they relentlessly chase other horses in the paddock – but I haven’t come across a mare that will do the same.
So should mares and geldings be kept separate? Not necessarily. We have many mares and geldings that are happy living together and don’t cause any problems. Occasionally some geldings can get really protective of their mare – but usually this happens after a new horse is introduced – but if your space is limited and you don’t have the ability to separate horses not getting along – you may want to stick with all mares or all geldings, unless you know your gelding won’t become the dominant and protrective type.