In the eventing competition, the mare Amande De B’Neville won gold while geldings not only claimed the silver and bronze positions – Toledo de Kerser and Vassily de Lassos respectively – they also occupied the rest of the top 10 placings.
An analysis of the top 10 placings in each discipline from the Tokyo Games, which reveals that there were more geldings finishing in the top 10 and more geldings entered overall than mares or stallions, could support the view that the reliable and non-hormonal nature of geldings means they are better suited to performance careers. Mare enthusiasts would be quick to point out that two out of the three gold medals and a silver medal were won by mares – interestingly, all ridden by female riders – and that this is an example of the determination and try that a great mare offers when it matters most. Neither view considers the possible biases or preferences of the individual riders and the impact this could have had on which horses they selected to train and ultimately campaign for the Tokyo Games.
When comparing the Olympic disciplines, in which horses often compete well into their teenage years, to those that typically involve retirement at an earlier age, such as racing and the western discipline of cutting, a greater number of mares competing and attracting top sale prices can be detected in the latter group. Sports such as these that allow a mare to post elite-level competition results as a young horse, and retire to the breeding barn before she reaches an age at which her fertility starts to decline, tend to see a greater proportion of mares targeted towards a performance career first and a breeding career either second or concurrently, compared to those that involve a performance career that is likely to span more than one decade. While the widespread adoption of techniques such as embryo transfer has allowed competition mares to reproduce and continue competing, a mare that has a long performance career is still less likely to produce as many foals as one that retires young.
It’s therefore no surprise that the top-priced horse at the recent Nutrien Classic sale in Tamworth, New South Wales, was a mare. Having changed hands for $550,000 – a record price for a horse sold at public auction in Australia excluding thoroughbreds – three-year-old quarter horse Bad In Black will now embark on a career as both a broodmare via embryo transfer and a performance horse in the cutting, campdraft or challenge arenas for new owners Terry and Ginette Snow of Willinga Park. At the sale in February 2022, over 600 quarter horses and stock horses were sold with 8 of the top 10 prices being paid for mares. The average price for mares was $33,862 compared to $18,752 for geldings and $37,766 for stallions. The premium paid for mares came as no surprise to those involved in the cutting horse industry; mares and stallions are so prevalent in the cutting pen that there are gelding incentives in place at the annual National Cutting Horse Association of Australia Futurity show for three-year-old horses.
On the other side of the globe, at the December 2021 PSI Auction in Germany, while the top priced horse Londina S was a 7-year-old show jumping mare who sold for 1.95 million euro, geldings certainly made their mark. Fürst Bayram, a 5-year-old dressage gelding achieved an incredible 1.7 million euro, selling to emerging dressage rider Yara Reichert, who was clearly undeterred by the horse’s inability to reproduce.