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Writer Looking for Horse Knowledge!

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  • "ranger's apprentice" + mongolian pony
  • Horse knowledge

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    11-21-2012, 07:09 PM
  #1
Foal
Writer Looking for Horse Knowledge!

Hello everyone! I'm Chloe, and I'm currently attempting to write a fantasy book with at least one horse featuring prominently. However, I know very, very little about horse care, horse training, etc., aside from a few little tidbits I've gleaned from books written with some knowledge of horse care and scathing reviews of books where the incompetence of the author basically forced his characters to commit animal abuse. That, or they were riding zombie horses.

I'd like to avoid that.

So what I do know is the phrase "rubbing them down", which I don't know the meaning or importance of but the character of the story did it with grass after a long ride (but not a long day of galloping. Really, Ranger's Apprentice is the only series I've ever read that seemed to know anything about horses). I know galloping for any long period of time is stupid and you have to walk and trot.

So really, anything from basic stuff to... anything else would be incredibly helpful. I'd like to avoid abused/zombie horses.

If you need it: the culture that the character and the horse come from are nomadic, based mainly on central Native American tribes and the Mongols. Horses are incredibly important, basically family, and thus treated very well. Children and foals are paired up when the child's about ten or so, and raised together.

Also, the place the two would come from would be similar to Kansas as far as geography and climate. What horse breed would fit for a land with hot summers and icy winters in a nomadic culture?

Anything and everything is wanted and appreciated! Thanks to any and all who obliges!
     
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    11-21-2012, 07:20 PM
  #2
Super Moderator
It is better if you ask specific questions. Your request is just a bit too open ended.

Do your people eat horses? Or drink mare's milk? Do they have any special tabboo? Do they ride the same way we do?

Why don't you write a fantasy about a society of centuars. That woudl be much more interesting. You could think about how the world would be adapted to fit beings that had bodies of horses, but heads and torsos of humans on top. The speed and power of a hrose, but the intelligence of a human.
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    11-21-2012, 07:36 PM
  #3
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny    
it is better if you ask specific questions. Your request is just a bit too open ended.
Okay... Hmm...

How long does it take for a foal to become full grown? How long would it be able to be a traveling horse before it can't really do that anymore? Would a child be able to do any training with a foal?

What does "rubbing down" mean? What's it's purpose? What's the purpose of a horse blanket? If you're only using one horse to travel long distances, how often would you need to take a break or slow to a walk to ensure you don't hurt it?

What's the best kind of horse breed for a flat plain with extreme weather?

And anything else you wish a writer would know before they wrote about horses. Have you ever read a book of any kind and had something be so face-palmingly wrong that you wished you could fix it? Mention it! I don't want to make the same mistakes! XD

Quote:
Do your people eat horses?
Since horses feature some prominantly, I don't think so. I figure they're treated like family, given special burial rites, and if one's killed, it's treated the same as if someone killed a human.

Quote:
or drink mare's milk?
Ehhh, maybe. I figured the nomads would be herders, and their flocks would include cows, sheep and goats as well as horses. Horses are just the most important.

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do they have any special tabboo?
Not that I can think of.

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do they ride the same way we do?
I picture them being very mobile, fast-paced warriors, focusing more on archery than anything else, so their riding would probably place a lot more emphasis on being able to steer and give commands with your voice and your legs.
     
    11-21-2012, 07:46 PM
  #4
Weanling
Yes! Good on you for researching the animals you want to put in your story. It really makes it hard for me to get into an otherwise good story when the animals and their care is inaccurate, especially because there is so much potential for adding depth and detail when you know what you're talking about.

I think you will find a wealth of information on this forum but I agree that specific questions would be best. There would just be too much to talk about otherwise. The members here are usually very eager to ramble on about horse care. ;)

One thing though; there's something you might want to consider before you match your young character to a young horse. Horse people have a saying: Green plus green equals black and blue! When a young or inexperienced horse and handler are paired together it typically results in disaster. It isn't much like raising a puppy. Young horses are unbelievably dangerous and unpredictable and it takes lots of experience to be able to handle them effectively. Young people are usually paired with a very old, experienced and time tested horse, sometimes a horse who was trained by their parents a long time ago, for their first mount. A young person and a young horse matched together would need close supervision from a seasoned trainer and there would likely be quite a few extremely frustrating moments along their road to adulthood. I was given a baby horse as my first when I was thirteen and it was hard to keep up with her without injuring us both!


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    11-21-2012, 07:59 PM
  #5
Weanling
Rubbing the horse down would basically be the equivalent of something between grooming and massaging and health check. Basically rubbing the muscles to avoid stiffness, checking the legs, hooves, etc. for injuries and the grass part in your example would probably be a make-shift brush to remove mud and sweat.

In a situation like you're thinking, they would probably not use blankets the way we do, they might throw a blanket over the horse after a long hard ride to keep it from catching cold while its muscles cooled down and sweat dried, but they wouldn't be turned out with blankets on.

I don't think you need to reference a specific breed, just think about the characteristics that make up a horse with speed and endurance like strong hooves and legs, not to heavy a build etc. Maybe look at what makes a good endurance type horse and go from there.

For traveling over long distance you're going to be doing a lot of walk and trot and not much canter or gallop at all. Again, research endurance riding to get a realistic idea of how much ground a horse can cover at various gaits and how long they can keep them up.

As far as pairing up a kid with foal, for the purposes of story telling I can see why you would want to do that, I would suggest you make reference to the fact that these kids are growing up with older, well trained horses, riding constantly, horse care and training is a way of life for them, not a hobby. I would also consider making them a bit older when they get their foal, and give them a mentor/parent who is right beside them to help with training etc.

Just some ideas.
     
    11-21-2012, 08:00 PM
  #6
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by WalnutPixie    
Yes! Good on you for researching the animals you want to put in your story. It really makes it hard for me to get into an otherwise good story when the animals and their care is inaccurate, especially because there is so much potential for adding depth and detail when you know what you're talking about.
Yeah... I was reading a critique about the Inheritance Cycle and it pointed out the stupidity of expecting a horse to be able to travel hundreds of leagues in less than a week. Hence "zombie horses".

Quote:
I think you will find a wealth of information on this forum but I agree that specific questions would be best. There would just be too much to talk about otherwise. The members here are usually very eager to ramble on about horse care. ;)
I included specifics in a reply to the first post.

Quote:
One thing though; there's something you might want to consider before you match your young character to a young horse. Horse people have a saying: Green plus green equals black and blue! When a young or inexperienced horse and handler are paired together it typically results in disaster. It isn't much like raising a puppy. Young horses are unbelievably dangerous and unpredictable and it takes lots of experience to be able to handle them effectively. Young people are usually paired with a very old, experienced and time tested horse, sometimes a horse who was trained by their parents a long time ago, for their first mount. A young person and a young horse matched together would need close supervision from a seasoned trainer and there would likely be quite a few extremely frustrating moments along their road to adulthood. I was given a baby horse as my first when I was thirteen and it was hard to keep up with her without injuring us both!
I figure the parents would watch over, teach, make sure nothing too bad happened, but bruises and broken bones (for the human anyway) would be "character building" and "lessons about respecting your horse". But that's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about; thank you!
     
    11-21-2012, 08:17 PM
  #7
Weanling
Aw man, I guess my computer re-posted when it crashed. Sorry about that! It looks like you've gotten some great information so far. I'll try to help answer questions too when I have more time.
     
    11-21-2012, 08:25 PM
  #8
Started
It takes about 2 year for a foal to reach full height and another year or so to "fill out" put on muscle. I would consider a 5 year old horse done growing physically. Mentally, it really depends on the horse. A lot of pleasure riders don't consider starting a horse until 3-4 years of age. If you are thinking the foal route be aware that many foals raised by humans have psychological issues (they don't know they are horses). I think you might be better off with a teenager character with a "wild" horse think of the legend of Alexander the Great and his horse, Bucephalus. Who was supposedly a horse only able to be broken and ridden by Alexander. This would also fit in with your premise of a nomadic tribe. I am not trying to tell you how to write your story but its just an idea that from a horse point of view makes a little more sense.

I would ask what sort of tack are you planning on them riding in? The tack is going to affect how they ride and will reflect what they do. For example, the knights of the middle ages wore heavy armor into battle. They needed large horses to hold the weight of armor and that's the origins of many draft breeds. So, your people are nomads so will they be using raw hide for tack? Or will they be using leather? If so how will they tan the leathers?

I would say that most horses could cover from 25 to 50 miles in a day. That's carrying minimal supplies and alternating between a walk and a trot with the occasional canter. I would also say that you could look at the history of the pony express and how much ground those guy's covered. When you are moving camp that distance is greatly reduced. The families that moved across and "settled" the west were only able to cover about 12 miles a day. They were moving stock and wagons. This is in part because they used oxen to move supplies and not horses.

Good luck with your story.
     
    11-21-2012, 09:42 PM
  #9
Weanling
This is what I had intended to post when my computer freaked out. Luckily I had been writing it in Word so none was lost! ;)


*Cracks fingers* Here we go.

Quote:
How long does it take for a foal to become full grown? How long would it be able to be a traveling horse before it can't really do that anymore?
A horse is roughly full sized at the age of three but they will continue to grow until their sixth year. They are officially adults at five years old and are generally considered physically ready to be ridden when they're around three. What do you mean by a traveling horse? If you are asking how long they can be used as a pack or riding animal, they usually begin at three and can last until at least eighteen and now days until they are 25 or even older. Someone on here had a fifty year old mare who was still happily giving riding lessons to children! It all depends greatly on how well they have been taken care of and how hard or incorrectly they are used during their lifetime. A horse living the hard life of a nomad would not last very long once their teeth became warn down in their twenties or so.


Quote:
If you're only using one horse to travel long distances, how often would you need to take a break or slow to a walk to ensure you don't hurt it?
You would walk most of the time, perhaps with a little trotting along the way, unless the horse had spent many months training to be able to trot most of it. You might want to ask more about that in the endurance riding forum. The cowboys in western movies always make it look like people gallop their horse everywhere but in practical applications riders almost never gallop at all.

Quote:
What's the best kind of horse breed for a flat plain with extreme weather?
You will find that an abundance of breeds are well suited but it might work even better for you to invent your own. If there will be extreme winters you would likely actually have large ponies rather than horses, with short legs and small ears adapted to the cold. They would be able to transform into veritable wooly mammoths in the winter time to stay warm. The horses might be gaited to improve endurance and the rider's comfort. Icelandic ponies and Nocota horses come to mind. You might also look into the ponies that Mongolian nomads keep.

Quote:
And anything else you wish a writer would know before they wrote about horses. Have you ever read a book of any kind and had something be so face-palmingly wrong that you wished you could fix it? Mention it! I don't want to make the same mistakes! XD
Ohoho, so many things! From Black Beauty; it is fine to let a horse drink water after they’ve been overworked, you’re just not supposed to feed them until they cool down. From old western movies; it is not ok to jump onto your horse’s back from a balcony (that would certainly result in an injury to one or both parties). Ditto for pulling on the reins a lot or using them to control the horse. Cues are actually given through the legs and weight distribution while riding with the reins and vocal cues being more of a reinforcement. Also, horses are very quiet animals. They don’t whinny and scream all the time like in the movies. Those sounds are added by the editors. They actually have a very complex, often silent language based on body language and can communicate an incredible array of things through a gesture with the head or foot, etc..

If you want to get an idea for how horses think and behave I would suggest that you get ahold of a copy of PBS’s Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies. It would be a great crash course.


Few! Happy writing :)
     
    11-21-2012, 09:48 PM
  #10
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyrael    
How long does it take for a foal to become full grown? How long would it be able to be a traveling horse before it can't really do that anymore? Would a child be able to do any training with a foal?
Most people won't start a horse under saddle until it's at least 2 years old. 3 or 4 years old is pretty common as well, but they continue to mature and fill out after that- with some breeds (especially the taller or heavier breeds) taking longer than others. Aside from physical maturity, the younger the horse is, the shorter its attention span is. With young horses, it's better to keep training sessions short and frequent rather than try to do long sessions with more time in between. Before riding, horses can definitely be taught ground manners and even tricks; with a foal, it would probably be mostly how to lead, accepting being touched all over, etc. A horse that's lightly ridden and well cared for could potentially be ridden into its mid-20's or later, but the harder it's used and the less optimal its care, the younger it will be before having to be retired- even as young as 15.

Quote:
What does "rubbing down" mean? What's it's purpose? What's the purpose of a horse blanket?
After a long, hard ride, horses get pretty sweaty, so it would be normal to hose off a horse (or in the case of your story, perhaps sponge them off or something similar). A blanket can be used to cool down a horse more slowly so they don't catch a chill, or can be left on during cold weather, but this is often more for the human's peace of mind, as a healthy horse allowed to grow its winter coat naturally can handle temperatures down to -40.

Quote:
If you're only using one horse to travel long distances, how often would you need to take a break or slow to a walk to ensure you don't hurt it?
Wild horses cover a lot of terrain, I've heard upwards of 20-30 miles per day, but they are foraging for food while doing so. A person riding wouldn't want their horse to be meandering around picking at grass. Instead, they might ride for a few hours at walk (3-4 mph) with some trotting (8-10 mph) then stop to water the horses, let them graze, etc. while also taking a break themselves. I would guess a horse that's conditioned to that kind of travel on a frequent basis could probably sustain 25-30 miles a day as long as it's easy terrain.

Quote:
What's the best kind of horse breed for a flat plain with extreme weather?
I'd avoid naming a specific breed; instead, just describe their characteristics and let the reader assume it's a horse bred for those conditions

Quote:
I picture them being very mobile, fast-paced warriors, focusing more on archery than anything else, so their riding would probably place a lot more emphasis on being able to steer and give commands with your voice and your legs.
Since you mention archery, you should consider whether or not the people in your book ride with stirrups, as the stability they provide to mounted archers has played an important role in the outcome of many wars throughout history.
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