One of the benefits of turning your stallions into geldings is that you can safely ride them and turn them out with your mares. As a whole, geldings -- which are castrated male horses -- and mares should get along relatively well. Unfortunately, personality problems can exist. Behavior monitoring and modification, on an individual basis, may be necessary.
Understanding Mares and Geldings
Mares are female horses who, for the most part, still have their reproductive capabilities. Mares can be spayed, but most horse owners choose not to perform the surgery because it is expensive and invasive. Mares still have all their hormones and reproductive urges, which can result in a horse being labeled as moody or temperamental to work with. Geldings are male horses who have been castrated, making them incapable of sexual reproduction. Geldings no longer produce testosterone and are considered to be more docile animals than unaltered males, or stallions. Mares and geldings can be kept together because no risk of reproduction exists and gender-based aggressive behaviors tend to be few and far between.
If you are having a problem convincing your mares and geldings to get along in pasture, chances are a herd dynamics problem, rather than a gender problem, exists. Horses are herd animals, and mares and geldings should get along pretty well without major intervention from you. It is normal for horses to spend the first couple of days after initial introductions sorting out herd dominance, so expect a few squeals, bites and kicks during the first few days you turn all of your horses out together. Pay attention to which animals are doing the majority of the kicking or biting and which animals are on the receiving end. You are going to have to focus on modifying the behaviors of these specific animals to make your mixed-gender herd a happy place for all your horses.
Handling Problem Personalities
Once you have determined which of your horses are the aggressors and which are taking all the abuse, you are going to have to determine the best method of handling their behaviors. Many operations split their horses into smaller herds based upon individual animals' dominance and behavior rather than on gender. This places aggressive horses with other dominant herd members, ensuring that a balance develops between the horses in the herd and preventing any one horse from becoming the target of abuse. When a dominant, aggressive horse is placed in a herd of similar personalities, she learns that her behavior will result in being kicked or bitten back. The behavior will sort itself out fairly quickly. Submissive, quiet horses do best when kept with other less-dominant animals.
Help Your Horses Make Friends
Introduce your horses to one another slowly. Letting your horses interact with one another for short periods of time over the course of several days can help introductions go more smoothly. Start off by introducing the horses from opposite sides of a fence. Gradually lengthen the amount of time they spend together. A slow introduction can help avoid problems by allowing the horses to get used to one another and accept each others' presence over the course of time. Feed your horses separately, ideally in individual stalls, rather than as a group in the pasture. Ensure an ample supply of resources such as hay and water, so horses have no need to fight with one another over supplies. If you see that two horses are spending a significant amount of time fighting, or that one horse has significantly injured another, you need to separate them immediately.
Pay Attention to Your Herd
You can't always make mares and geldings get along with one another. In some cases, all your horses will get along; in others, you may find you can make only eight or nine out of 10 horses live peaceably in one herd. This is why it is crucial to pay attention to the personalities, more than to the genders, of your animals. Watch your horses' interactions carefully, and identify those who are disrupting your herd's social harmony. You may have to separate dominant horses. If one very submissive horse has become the target of the rest of your horses, you will probably have to remove him from the herd to prevent him from being injured.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.