Even in this modern age, certain cultural and societal stereotypes surrounding gender still haunt us all. One of the most popular notions is that men are rational, unemotional, straight forward beings that cannot understand the depth of feeling women experience. Women on the other hand are highly emotional and prone to more irrational behaviour. Does this sound familiar? Now girls, how many of you recoil in horror at being seen as less rational and capable of logical thought than your boyfriend, husband or brother?
Unfortunately, the equestrian world is not unscathed by this stereotype that still floats around despite it being 2016, it seems we have extended our ideas about gender in the human world and transferred them onto our horses, which ultimately perpetuates the myth of the ‘touchy’ female whose far too emotional to be as chilled out as the more relaxed man. Mares are considered moody and temperamental, whereas geldings are generally considered much more laid back and a bit of a breeze compared to their ill-tempered, unpredictable or “evil” counterparts. We are all guilty of buying into this idea and we ignore the possibility that “moodiness” in mares is possibly just a form of communication as opposed to an aggressive attitude problem.
Simone De Beauvoir, a well-known French feminist examined how women are “imprisoned within the limits of their own nature”, as they are described within a set structure of ideas that originated hundreds of thousands of years ago. Mares are being similarly imprisoned within an idea of “moodiness” that won’t seem to shake. Horses embody features that can be aligned with the societal and cultural perceptions of a human woman. In art, literature and theory women have been linked closely with the earth and the elements, due to the cyclical natures of their bodies which alludes to movements of time and season changes. Horses are also tied to the natural world, living off and within the land originally and then helping us to build and shape our world through their loyal servitude. All horses are sensitive creatures, exquisitely adjusted with their intuition and gut instinct, dually in touch with their physical body and emotions.
From this perspective, to limit your mare, labelling her as simply “moody” is an extension of the human belief that the female species is emotionally unpredictable, unable to keep feelings and actions in check, therefore perpetuating the myth that to be emotional is a negative. And the male attribute of being rational is positive in comparison. But what if we remove this idea and see mares for what they are, instead of assuming that they are just being disobedient?
We should take a fresh approach to our mares, instead of hanging on to these preconceived ideas, let’s try and understand the flat ears or the little kick when we tighten the girth, the frustrated buck when we ask for a movement or change of pace. Like stallions, mares are entire and the hormonal changes that occur throughout the year makes a difference to their overall temperament. Now Ladies, I’m sure we can understand the monthly sore back and short fuse, so when your mare displays signs of irritation, we should question whether she’s just showing signs of being in season. Often mares experience back pain during this time, which makes the simplest of tasks, such as tacking up, a bit more challenging. Surely we should have thought of this? We should try and treat our mares with sympathy rather that labelling them “moody”. Perhaps we can start to deconstruct or at least think about different ways to approach fixated ideas about gendered stereotypes in the future, and empathise with our mares instead of perpetuate the idea of the “moody” female.
Have you had positive or negative experiences with mares? Do you agree with the idea that mares are viewed in a certain way and this may have something to do with our human stereotypes? Or do you think it’s all a load of tripe? Whatever your opinion, I’d love to know!
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