What’s The Difference Between Male And Female Horses?

Last Updated on July 20, 2021

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between male and female horses? Many horse owners and riders prefer one gender of a horse over another, but why?

The intriguing thing about male and female horses is that not only are they different in their physical gender, but they are also very different in other ways. They have different personality traits and behaviors, and often excel at different things.

Let’s take a look at what makes horse genders so different!

What Makes A Horse Male Or Female?

Horses, just like humans, have two genders – male and female. Which one of these horse genders they are is determined by their genes and reproductive anatomy.  Male and female horses are also known by many different names.

Female Horses

Female horses, like female humans, are the gender that can become pregnant and raise young. They have reproductive organs which allow them to carry a foal inside their abdomen, give birth, and rear the foal using milk produced in the teats.

Unlike other animals such as cats and dogs, mares are not routinely neutered unless it is necessary for medical reasons. This is because neutering a female horse is a highly invasive and difficult procedure.

Female horse

Female horses are known by different names depending on their age and reproductive status:

  • Foal – a horse aged one year or less (can be male or female)
  • Yearling – a horse aged between one and two years (can be male or female)
  • Filly – a female horse aged under four years
  • Mare – a female horse aged four years or older
  • Dam – the mother of a foal

Male Horses

Male horses are the gender that can father a foal. They produce spermatozoa from their testicles which impregnates the mare after mating. In the wild, a male horse would look after the herd and keep the females and foals safe. He would also fight with other stallions to protect his herd and earn the rate to mate with the mares.

In the modern-day horse world, most male horses are neutered. This is a surgical process to remove the testes, so the male horse no longer wants to mate with mares. This makes a male horse calmer and much easier to handle.

Male horses are known by different names depending on their age and reproductive status:

  • Foal – a horse aged one year or less (this can be male or female)
  • Yearling – a horse aged between one and two years (can be male or female)
  • Colt – a male horse aged under four years
  • Stallion – an unneutered (entire) male horse aged four years or older
  • Gelding – a neutered (castrated) male horse
  • Rig – a male horse who has been improperly castrated
  • Sire – the father of a foal

What Is The Difference Between Male And Female Horses?

As well as being quite different in terms of their reproductive organs, the gender of horse can also affect their personality and behavior. As most of us will only meet and ride male horses which have been castrated, we will compare those to female horses. We will then have a look at what makes stallions so different from geldings.

In general, the different horse genders have specific character traits and behaviors. Please remember that we are making huge generalizations here and that there will always be exceptions to the rule! Most of us will have met mares who behave like geldings and vice versa.

  • Mares

Mares, unlike geldings, have a hormonal cycle that can affect their temperament and behavior. It is these hormones that have given mares a reputation for being ‘moody’, although it can be vastly different from one mare to the next. Female horses also have a reputation for being bold, stubborn, and unpredictable.

Mares compete against male horses in competition and often win. The horse genders are not drastically different in terms of athletic performance, and it tends to be their temperaments that give either gender a winning edge in competition. The boldness and bravery of mares can often see them excel in sports such as jumping and eventing.

Mare Magic 32 oz

  • Geldings

Geldings tend to be quite placid and calm in nature, and it is easier to predict their reactions. Their mood and behavior do not alter much over time, and they can be very dependable and reliable.

Neutered male horses have an even and level-headed temperament, making them well suited to equestrian sports such as dressage and racing.

  • Stallions

When it comes to stallions, the hormones are still very active! During the breeding season, stallions can be very difficult to handle, becoming excitable every time they see a mare. This makes stallions unsuitable for all but the most experienced riders and handlers.

Which Is The Best Gender Of Horse?

Well, now you know the difference between male and female horses, which do you think are the best? Many of us prefer one gender to another, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Generally speaking, riders and trainers who are looking for a sensible and predictable horse will choose a gelding. This is often the gender of horse preferred for novice and beginner riders, and for sports where concentration and reliability are an advantage. Geldings are also great for relaxing equine activities such as trail riding, happy to wander along for hours at a time.

Which Is The Best Gender Of Horse

Mares are often chosen by riders or trainers looking to move to the next level, who enjoy a challenge and a bit of ‘fizziness’. Riders often find that mares are less forgiving of any mistakes, meaning the rider must concentrate at all times. And of course, with mares, we’ve got the added complications of the ever-changing hormones!

Male And Female Horse- Summary

So, as we’ve learned, male horses are quiet, dependable, and reliable whereas female horses tend to be more unpredictable and lively. Many trainers and riders prefer using geldings – a neutered male horse – for novice riders and beginners. Female horses – mares – can be bolder and more challenging, and often excel in competitive sports.

We’d love to hear about your preference – do you love fizzy mares or prefer sensible geldings? Or maybe you have any questions about horse genders? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!