‘Beautiful but deadly’…
…Just some of the words used by a selection of my followers to describe a typical chestnut mare when I asked them recently.
I have a vested interest in this debate as we currently have in training 2 beautiful mares owned by Lochlane Stud, who happen to be chestnut. Both are fantastic to work with and we really have no issues with them whatsoever. I’ve worked with many horses that have been far more challenging in lots of different ways (incidently, none of which I can think of were chestnut mares).
‘Tell a gelding, ask a stallion, discuss it with a mare’. Anyone who rides a variety of horses will have discovered that mares generally require to be ridden with a little more tact than geldings - their bodies are full of hormones telling them that there are far more important things to be concerned about than trotting in circles in the arena. This doesn’t mean that they are more difficult, they just need a different approach to geldings in order to get the best out of them. Perhaps it’s just people new to dealing with mares that attribute the combination of chestnut and mare to the commonly more challenging experiences? Perhaps not.
My job has allowed me to ride a huge variety of breeds, ages and colours (!) of horses. Mares, geldings and stallions. There are extremely compliant ones, fearful ones, insecure ones lacking in confidence, immature ones that need longer to develop before work commences and cheeky ones who are just looking for nonsense. Of the hundreds of horses I’ve worked with, though admittedly I haven’t kept meticulous records, I’m not aware of any colour/sex combinations to be particularly wary of.
Of course, this prejudice against red-heads isn’t limited to horses, with humans with the same hair colour often subject to what seems to be seen as acceptable mockery. Teasing is one thing but I wonder whether it’s based on history’s records of redheaded humans as witches, people of moral degradation and associations with hell’s fires! This somehow seems unjust and surprising that such silly beliefs live on in this day and age.
The reality is that there is no real way of knowing whether difficult horses who happen to be chestnut mares, proportionally outnumber difficult horses of different colour/sex combinations. My personal suspicion is that they won’t, that this is just as silly a suggestion as red-headed humans having stolen the fires of hell. However, my humble opinion does not change others’ contradictory views and, as a well respected riding coach recently advised a client of mine not to waste any more time or money on her horse and to give her away because “no-one is ever going to want to buy a chestnut mare.” Thankfully, the two horses we have in for training aren’t for sale, but this ‘advice’ or opinion is at best a pity and at worse, really concerning. Any form of prejudice isn’t helpful to anyone, particularly to my client who had gone looking for some specialist coaching and help.
I’d love to hear from you all on this topic - what are your experiences of chestnut mares?