About Stallions & Women
An ancient Arab saying puts it this way: “I’d rather face an angry lion than an angry stallion.” Tornado III was our stallion. He was taller even than Doc, our 17.5 HH palomino, and, um, broader. We could ride Toe but, once astride, you had to stay on through his first 15 minutes of bucking and rearing; after that short display, he was a good ride, never gave trouble after that first little bit of show (and, given his size, it was an impressive show). Lots of chuckling and head-shaking went on (on our parts, not his). So much for what we knew then, now some forty years ago. Deb Harper has helped me understand, by example and by action, what Toe was trying to tell us all those many years ago: ”I will tell YOU when I am READY to be ridden…and you will not be comfortable on my back until I give the say-so.” Respect…that’s what we lacked, simple respect. We had a QH mare named Fleche D’Or (Golden Arrow) who also wanted respect. Each and every time you bridled her, she’d grit her teeth hard against the bit for at least 30 seconds; you just had to wait a bit, and then, with no urging at all, she’d just release and take the bit as easy as butter; after that, she was the easiest horse for neck reining that I’ve ever ridden–and she was the only one we could harness up to sleigh in the winter. Respect, and understanding the nature of the beast (and that’s the beast inside us, not them) are the keys to understanding stallions, their behaviour, their willingness to bond with us, their ferocity in a fight once the lead herd mare indicates that danger is about, their absolute need to hold their position, and our need to show some respect for an equine that is willing to die, and will, to protect his family.
I stole the following from Deb’s blog just because it’s such a clear and instructive exposition on the nature of stallions and on traditional views of the stallion which need to be discarded, and viewed afresh. Thanks, Deb. (I couldn’t “borrow” the great pictures but you can see them on Deb’s blog.)
A Word about Stallions. I love them…by Deb Harper
Throughout my horse career I have often heard the old wives’ tale about how women shouldn’t handle/own/ride stallions. Like having testicles made the horse evil or something. I have trouble not cracking a tooth whenever I hear a comment such as that…. Sometimes I believe that a good horse-woman is EXACTLY who should handle a stallion.
I have owned two and I have ridden/driven/trained/handled/ shown several animals with the extra body parts. Arabs, Morgans, Haflingers, Clydesdale, Miniatures etc. My once-in-a-lifetime horse, my best teacher, was a stallion and part of me died when he did. My current stallion, Sky, is also another brilliantly talented teacher.
Take a look at the show jumping world or the dressage world….Many of the finest stallions are ridden by women. Where did the theory arise that stallions had to be man-handled and therefore handled only by men? And why did lead shank automatically grow a chain on the end to go over the nose or through the mouth and become a ‘stallion shank’…that’s another pet peeve of mine….testicle equals chain? I don’t think so. Whenever I have had stallions in for training, I tell the owner to take the chain home…it has no place here. And they get turned out in a field or paddock every day…not locked in high walled stalls cut off from the world. My personal stallions were stabled or pastured beside miniature horses because I believe strongly that they need to feel like they belong.
Stallions aren’t for everyone, and a lot of the stallions out there shouldn’t be breeding progeny – but that’s another blog subject. I just don’t think that stallions need force to be kept in hand and that’s what the old wives’ tale means….that women aren’t strong or forceful enough to keep a stallion under control. Good horsemanship isn’t about domination- it’s about partnership. And maybe if people worked harder on their communication skills and learned how to read their horses they’d realize that force isn’t required.
What I like about stallions:
1) The “look-at-me” attitude to life (the p r e s e n c e)
2) The ability to bond with their handlers on a different level because they live a more isolated life
3) The intelligence and the need to please
4) They are cleaner in their stalls and paddocks
5) They have an amazing look in their eyes
What I dislike about stallions:
1) The yucky stuff down the front of the hind legs
2) The fifth leg that sometimes appears
3) The fact that they ogle every horse in case it might be a mare
4) You have to think ahead when you are in a horse show line-up or crowd
5) You don’t let your guard down…nature can trump manners
My Morgan stallion had a miniature horse buddy “Riverdance” that went with us the shows. I used to ride Lad and lead River from the saddle. My stallion used to play with toys and people used to stop on the side of the road and watch him. He had his own set of groupies that used to visit him. My five year old niece used to have lunge line riding lessons on him. (As she got older, she learned how to clean a sheath on Lad for her stable management project for a course she was taking….) I have a picture of my cat sitting on his back while I was soaking his hooves in a tub [see Deb's blog].
I remember one time while at a breed demonstration with 2 Haflinger stallions, after the day was finished, I saddled up the older stallion and ponied the younger stallion off his back, to give them both a bit of exercise after being cooped up in stalls all day, and the next thing I knew I had stirred up a small crowd of on-lookers because I had two stallions together. I know of people that drove a pair of stallions, or a stallion with a mare. I myself drove a Clydesdale stallion with another gelding in a Lady-to-Drive class.
I think its all about attitude and expectation. I expect not to have problems because I have worked hard to have a rapport with my horses, any horse….with or without testicles. I once was showing Lad at the big Provincial All- Morgan show and I had River along for company. During the lunch break (He went Grand Champion Stallion at this show and was later named Carriage Driving Champion too) I was walking them both around the show grounds…stallion in one hand, miniature horse in the other. Someone had heard that I was showing Lad at this show and ventured up from the States to look us up. (I think they owned a relative) and they walked into the horse show office to ask where I was…the secretary said “Oh…You just passed her…she was out there walking a big horse and a little horse together”…and the people caught up to me at my trailer, sputtering that they walked right past me but didn’t think it was Lad because he was a stallion and couldn’t be the horse walking with a mini. Yep. He was.
When author Cynthia D’Errico came to BC for a book signing, I invited her out to the farm for some natural horsemanship playing. After Sky (my Welsh stallion) and I gave a liberty performance, I handed the rope to Cynthia…”Here…have my stallion”. She was initially dumbfounded….She was used to seeing stallions with chains over their noses and being yanked around ”People just don’t hand over stallions to strangers”. Well I do.
What I love about stallions is their need to belong and what you give out to them is returned 10-fold in dedication.
N.B. IN CASE THE CAPTION DOESN’T APPEAR UNDER THE PHOTO ABOVE, IT WAS TAKEN WHILE DEB’S STALLION (AND HEART OF HEARTS), LAD, WAS HAVING HIS FEET SOAKED WHILE B.J. THE CAT RELAXED ON HIS BACK. YEAH, HE LOOKS DOWNRIGHT FIERCE…PROBABLY DUE TO BEING HANDLED BY A WOMAN.
Amen, Deb,…and thank you.