Although I have 20+ years training and working with horses, I have actually personally owned very few that were used on a day-to-day basis for me to make comparisons. I seldom had horses in training for more than 8 weeks. Due to the short timeframe, most differences I saw were often chalked up to experience (ability to handle new situations), age, respect toward handler (jumpy or poorly mannered horses), etc. Coincidentally, I really only owned mares until I purchased my first driving team, consisting of Belgian geldings. By common standards, I would also consider my personal horses fairly well trained, dependable, and mannerly, improving with time and experience, of course. Even my mares never gave me major issues, and I seldom knew when they were cycling as I expected mannerly and respectful behavior at all times--not just when they felt like it. My current team of Spotted Draft mares really got me thinking, though, so I am curious on your opinions....for informational purposes mainly.
What differences have you noticed that are really to attributed to gender vs. breed vs. age?
To be more precise on why I got to thinking this, I have noticed a HUGE difference in my mare team compared to my gelding team. I don't know much about how either team got started, other than the geldings were farm-work trained while the mares were more hobby stuff. Both teams were "finished" by Amish horsemen. Both teams were purchased around the age of 4.5-5 years. Since I've had them, both teams have been exposed to similar situations....logging, carriages in downtown city, hauling random things around the farm, pulling different implements, etc. Despite the similarities, though, the mares are a whole different ballgame! Although pretty good and trustworthy overall, they are quicker to react and jump at things, are more sensitive to changes around the farm, are far more sensitive/overreactive to bit pressure, anticipate more, bicker more with each other, etc. I've also noticed they don't tend to handle stressful situations as calmly as the geldings did, and they tend to be quicker to head toss and paw when bored or stressed. Yet, I can't figure it out. Is it a mare/gelding thing, a Belgian/Percheron (my Spotteds are 7/8 Percheron) thing, a "I was a stupid/lucky newbie with the geldings" / "had more experience and more safety conscious with mares" thing, or something else entirely?
So, I am curious, what has been your experience?