If you’ve been hanging around the stables for long enough, you’ve probably heard riders using the term “gelding” to refer to male horses. When it comes to horses, it’s important to understand the nuances of their anatomy and how it affects their behaviour. This is particularly true for a strong and hard-headed horse like a stallion.
But what is a gelding? And how is it any different to a stallion horse?
In this article, I’ll answer these questions and tell you everything I know about these horses. So, if you’re looking for a new male horse and can’t decide between a gelding horse or a stallion, you’ve come to the right place.
What Is A Stallion Horse?
A stallion horse is a male horse that is still intact. In other words, it hasn’t been castrated and has the ability to breed and sire offspring. Stallions are admired for their strength, stamina, and fantastic potential for excelling in competitions.
One of the defining characteristics of a stallion horse is, of course, its ability to breed. Typically, only very specific male horses are kept for breeding purposes.
Breeders may choose to breed a horse based on various considerations. A horse’s performance record, desirable traits, and genetic lineage are taken into account to improve the characteristics of future generations.
Stallions tend to be more muscular and have thicker necks than geldings
What Is A Gelding Horse?
A gelding horse is a castrated male horse; its testicles have been surgically removed. This procedure is usually performed to eliminate the horse’s ability to reproduce and modify its behaviour. Geldings get their names from the process of castrating male horses, which goes by the same name – “gelding” a male horse.
Usually, a gelding horse is a better choice for a reliable and trustworthy riding companion. Thanks to their calm temperament, these horses are similar to mares when it comes to riding and certain disciplines.
Jim, one of our homebred Clydesdale geldings. Geldings are more calm and easier to train
Stallions Vs Geldings: A Comprehensive Comparison
A stallion and a gelding represent two very distinct categories of male horses. For riders, breeders, and owners, understanding the differences can be helpful in choosing a suitable male horse.
Some of the most common differences between these horses include:
Different characteristics of Stallions and Geldings
A stallion is a male horse with all its reproductive organs. These organs are responsible for producing testosterone, which contributes to more pronounced physical features. For example, stallion horses have cresty necks, muscular builds, and a more robust overall appearance.
These secondary sexual characteristics, including a thicker neck and more prominent jaw, give stallions their masculine look. Generally, their primary use is to breed with mares and sire offspring.
Geldings are castrated, which means that they lack mating urges and the ability to reproduce. This is a direct result of not having reproductive organs and the associated hormones that are needed for breeding purposes. Their physical appearance may be less stallion-like and instead resemble a mare.
Unlike stallions, geldings can’t reproduce with mares. However, they are extremely social around mares and can still make for good roommates in the same pasture.
Topper, our hombred Welsh x Clydesdale shares a home with June, a mare, with no problems
Compatibility and social integration
Stallions usually exhibit territorial and dominant behaviour due to their breeding instincts. When introducing them to other stallions or other horses in a herd, you must take precautions to ensure smooth social interactions.
Generally, their urge to establish dominance can lead to challenges when integrating them into a herd.
For the most part, geldings have a less dominant nature. They are much easier to integrate into existing groups and socialize with other horses.
In fact, geldings often form stable relationships with other horses, whether they are geldings, mares, or mixed-gender groups. Ultimately, their reduced hormonal influences contribute to a more peaceful social dynamic.
Ally (left) a colt foal, lived with Freya and Belle, two fillies, until he got too boisterous
Behaviour of Stallions V Geldings
Stallions, driven by their hormones, can be more aggressive and territorial than mares and geldings. You may also notice stallions displaying breeding-related behaviours like vocalizations, posturing, displaying, and mounting.
Because of this, working with and handling stallions requires experience and knowledge. Plus, you’ll need to be extremely consistent in setting boundaries to manage their strong instincts.
Geldings tend to display calmer and more consistent behaviour. In fact, their personalities are much like those of mares. So, if you’re used to the temperament of a mare but want a male horse, a gelding may be ideal – provided you don’t want to breed it.
They are less distracted by their mating instincts – so ideal for working purposes. They are also easier to train, handle, and ride, making them fantastic riding horses for beginners and more experienced equestrians.
Competitions and classes for Stallions and Geldings
Certain equestrian competitions and shows have separate classes or divisions exclusively for stallions. These specialized categories allow a stallion horse to showcase its appearance, athleticism, and (surprise) breeding potential.
It may seem obvious, but stallions are also champions at racing events and other disciplines requiring pure, unbridled strength.
Geldings usually compete in equestrian disciplines alongside mares and other geldings. In general, a gelding can participate in most competitions and classes without restrictions based on gender.
Of course, you’ll never find a gelding horse competing in stallion-specific divisions or being assessed for its breeding potential. This is important to keep in mind if you’re looking for a new horse!
Geldings and mares can compete together in ridden classes
Handling Stallions V Geldings
Handling a stallion requires knowledge and experience and, above all else, an understanding of their unique behaviours, needs, and safety precautions. As a stallion owner, you must provide your horse with firm and consistent guidance. This will help to establish appropriate manners and boundaries.
Proper training and socialization from a young age is advisable if you want well-behaved and manageable stallions.
Geldings are much easier to handle than stallions. (and most horses, to be honest – mares can be feisty too!). This makes them a great choice for riders and handlers with different training levels and expertise.
While you should always focus on training your horse, your gelding will likely be more predictable, cooperative, and willing to work than a stallion. Geldings are also sometimes more popular than mares. This is because mares on heat or pregnant can be temperamental or unable to work or train.
Can I keep a stallion and a gelding horse together in the same pasture?
Yes, but it depends. It’s possible to keep a stallion and a gelding together in the same pasture. However, you must consider factors like the horses’ temperaments and overall compatibility before doing so.
Stallions and geldings can coexist peacefully, but it depends on their personalities and the way that they are introduced. New horses should always be introduced slowly and given enough space and resources to avoid fighting.
Does a gelding horse have different energy levels than a stallion?
In general, gelding horses are much calmer than their stallion counterparts. They have more consistent energy levels, although slightly lower than those of a stallion.
Stallions have incredibly high energy levels. This is never more evident than during the mating season, when their focus may stray to reproduction rather than work or training.
Is a gelding horse more likely to have medical issues than a stallion?
A gelding horse isn’t more likely to have medical issues than a stallion. Although their risk of reproductive-related conditions is lower, a gelded horse has the same medical needs as any other horse.
The likelihood of a horse having severe medical conditions is relatively low. Of course, this depends on how they’re managed and possible underlying conditions or poor genetics.