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My journey with Belinda has begun. Photo by Justine.

I’ve been a horse junkie for as long as I can remember.

My first pony, a stubborn and pudgy welsh cross gelding named Roy, taught me how to fall off and how to get back on. Max, a careful and kind thoroughbred gelding, showed me what it felt like to win a blue ribbon. Tuffy, my paint warmblood gelding by Art Deco, taught me how to love with all my heart. Even Reggie, a spitfire Hanoverian gelding I trained for nearly two years, taught me to stay humble and to always be willing to learn new things.

I’ve been blessed to own and work with so many kind and loving geldings over the years.

Every animal I’ve ever owned has been a boy up until recently. Maybe its because I possess some of that “boss mare” mentality myself. My boyfriend likes to remind me that my little whippet dog, Josie, (my first “girl” pet ever,) gets her sass from me.

But now I’m officially a mare owner.

Belinda and I on her first day at the farm.

Belinda and I on her first day at the farm.

Belinda, a 14-year-old imported hanoverian mare, joined my family a month ago. While she’s easily the most laid back mare I’ve ever met, she is still, in fact, a lady, and that comes with a certain level of boldness and demand for respect.

Here are a few things I’ve learned already from being a first time mare owner:

1. You ask, not tell. Belinda is too smart for her own good. When instructed to do something, whether it be under saddle or on the ground, I feel like she always raises an invisible eyebrow at me, as if saying “you wish, honey.” There’s a certain level of respect that must be earned on both sides of the equation.

2. Passive aggression exists in horses, too. Getting to know and ride Belinda has been a learning experience for both of us. I’ve spent the majority of my time on green horses over the last two years, and Belinda is the opposite of that. When I struggle to maintain contact or sloppily bounce around during a sitting trot session, she’ll hold onto that and remember it for a later time, like throwing in a bit of a buck at a canter depart.

3. Girls are stronger than boys.  My geldings were wimps. Each and every one of them wouldn’t hesitate to limp up to me in the pasture, looking as pathetic as possible when inflicted with the slightest injury. The same went for under saddle work. They were all emotional, hurt or distraught when they did something wrong and needed to be corrected, or exuberant and expressive when they landed a big jump or lateral movement.Belinda doesn’t flinch at anything. She’s come in  from the pasture with a few knicks and bumps and doesn’t make a big deal of it at all. When I pat her for doing a good job under saddle, she pins her ears as if to tell me she already knows she’s perfect, and that I could do better with sitting tall the next time I ask for a flying lead change.

4. Affection is earned, not just given. Belinda, like most mares I’ve met, isn’t the type to just let me hang all over her. Sure, she’s up for a good grooming session, but she’s not going to lick my hands or nuzzle into my lap just because. When she does decide to be affectionate, usually after a ride while we’re alone in her stall, it’s because she wants to be. Those moments are the ones I live for, and it means so much more when Belinda decides she wants to snuggle with me.