Writer needs some expert "horse knowledge"
 
 

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Writer needs some expert "horse knowledge"

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        10-20-2013, 11:58 PM
      #1
    Foal
    Writer needs some expert "horse knowledge"

    Hi Everyone,
    I hope you donít mind my visiting your forum to ask some specific questions about horses. Iím writing a novel mainly for kids- but which I hope will also be enjoyable for adults- in which part of the plot takes place on a ranch. The story is not about ranching per se, and not about horses, but whatever I write that has anything to do with these subjects, I want to sound authentic; I wouldnít want people like you who are knowledgeable to read it and say what? Does this guy know anything?

    The ranch in the story is pretty large, about 7,000-8,000 acres. They raised some cattle, some sheep, chickens, and had a small contingent of horses. I am not being specific about the state/location of the ranch, but I would say itís "Western." Northern California or Colorado would be likely bets. I want the winter to be chilly, but not snow-covered, which would complicate the plot.

    The ranch in question was abandoned four years ago due to a "situation" in which a family lost their ranch, which is to be turned into a nature preserve. No one is allowed on the property, and the changeover process has dragged on now for years. Apparently one of the prize horses was left behind in the move, and is loose on the ranch, fending for itself. I want the horse to be a truly splendid, beautiful, immensely valuable horse; the kind that would just leave you in awe at the sight.

    A) So that's my first question: what kind of horse would have that effect on someone, and also be at least "reasonable" that it could be found on a western ranch? Understand: it could well be an "exotic" breed that was brought there by expert horse people to be raised, even as sort of an experiment.....something like that. I think it's obvious I do not want this horse to be typical in any way.

    B) Would a horse like that, abandoned and left to fend for itself for several years, be able to survive? Fwiw: the property has plenty of water and grass....

    C) Sorry if this is really naÔve: would such a horse, previously tame, but without human contact for all that time- revert to wildness, or at least be very skittish upon encountering humans again? Are there other issues I should be aware of?

    If someone can give me guidance on this, I would genuinely appreciate it.

    Take care,
    BJ
         
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        10-21-2013, 12:18 AM
      #2
    Yearling
    I think it's great that you're researching before diving in! Great questions too!

    As for what breed you should make the horse.. this one is totally up to you. The typical horse you'd most likely find around a ranch is a Quarter Horse, and depending on breeding and training they can be very valuable. But, if you want something more exotic and out of the ordinary.. maybe pick a different breed. I'm partial to Arabs, but you will get people saying left and right which horse they think fits the bill, but it's ultimately your decision. You could make any horse have the above characteristics you described and have it be believable.

    With plenty of water and grass a horse could survive, yes. Depending on the surrounding environment and predators, it may not do so well completely alone, but horses are resilient creatures.

    I wouldn't say that it would revert to being wild, but would definitely be skittish and wary around people again, yes. In that situation it would take a lot of time and patience and consistent, fair work with the horse to build its trust and relationship with a human again.

    Hope this helps. There are many here willing to answer all these questions and any more you may have!

    Happy writing.
    bjnick likes this.
         
        10-21-2013, 12:18 AM
      #3
    Trained
    Wellllll, since it's fiction it can be whatever you want it to be.

    I'd go for more northern CA rather than CO, especially if you stay in the valleys you won't have to have snow in winter. 7,000 to 8,000 acres would have plenty of grazing for the horse since you stipulate plenty of grass and water.

    A lone horse surviving years all by himself? Pretty doubtful but ...it's fiction, could be done. Chances are it would not survive, horses are prey animals and alone in a sort of reverted to wild setting with predators, it would be pretty vulnerable.

    Phenomenal horse that would stop you in your tracks, depends on your taste. Are you wanting a big bruiser of a horse? That would imply probably a TB cross with a heavier breed, Draft or Warmblood type horse. Just a great looking horse but not necessarily huge? Could be an Arabian, or Quarter Horse, or Paint...just depends on your taste.

    Would it be skittish after being alone for a long time? Maybe. Depends on how much of a people horse he was to begin with. Would he be totally wild? Kind of doubtful unless it was a stallion with a mare and young horse band to care for, he could get pretty wary in that case. Gelding? Probably not. Mare? Maybe, they can be pretty opinionated. My horses are all so spoiled and attention seeking, I can't picture it! LOL!
    bsms and bjnick like this.
         
        10-21-2013, 12:24 AM
      #4
    Green Broke
    Increase the size of the pasture in which the horse resides. It needs to have running, aka "open," water year round.

    No snow? That may complicate where you can have the setting as far as CO or CA, especially with place being isolated enough that the horse is there without notice.

    Whether is reverts to a more feral state can depend on the horse. Lots of latitude there.
    smrobs, smguidotti and bjnick like this.
         
        10-21-2013, 12:32 AM
      #5
    Showing
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bjnick    
    a) So that's my first question: what kind of horse would have that effect on someone, and also be at least "reasonable" that it could be found on a western ranch? Understand: it could well be an "exotic" breed that was brought there by expert horse people to be raised, even as sort of an experiment.....something like that. I think it's obvious I do not want this horse to be typical in any way.

    It is entirely possible to have a quality QH stud that would have that effect. There are some out there that have those massive flowing manes that look amazing and breathtaking when they arch their neck and puff up. The problem with putting an "exotic" breed of horse on a ranch is just that it's not common for that to happen. I mean, on a hobby ranch folks will have just about any type of horse that they want, but if you're talking cattle ranch, most folks go for a stock type horse; AQHA, APHA, ApHC, or even a grade of that breeding or some type of draft crosses.



    Plus, it all depends on your perception. For me, I would be much more awestruck to come across a horse like this running feral than any sort of exotic breed...and this general type of horse would be much more likely to be found on a western ranch too.
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    B) Would a horse like that, abandoned and left to fend for itself for several years, be able to survive? Fwiw: the property has plenty of water and grass....

    Yes, easily. Horses are natural survivors and, while his feet would likely be in really rough shape, his body would probably be no worse for wear providing that he'd had access to grass and water the whole time. Of course, that's providing that he hadn't tangled with a fence or a predator or any number of other things (everything LOL) that can injure, scar, or cripple a horse in a heartbeat.

    C) Sorry if this is really naÔve: would such a horse, previously tame, but without human contact for all that time- revert to wildness, or at least be very skittish upon encountering humans again? Are there other issues I should be aware of?

    This depends solely on the horse and the level of training he'd had previously. If he was a completely broke and reliable riding horse, then he wouldn't go completely feral. He might be cautious when first approached by humans again, but not afraid and once he was caught, all his previous training would make itself known. Pretty much anyone who's been around horses for decades has seen similar instances. Heck, my own horses, while they do get handled, there are a couple that haven't had a rider in years...but I know that I can walk out, catch them, saddle up and ride off without so much as a humped up back.

    If someone can give me guidance on this, I would genuinely appreciate it.

    Take care,
    BJ
    Having grown up in a ranching/farming lifestyle, I'm more than happy to answer any questions that I'm able .
    rideverystride and bjnick like this.
         
        10-21-2013, 12:36 AM
      #6
    Foal
    I too think it's great that you're doing your research! I'm a publishing student, and I currently am writing horse-related articles for authors to use as part of an internship, so I appreciate your hard work :)

    People will have their own opinions, but I think a paint or an Arabian could fit the bill for what you are describing. A lot of people appreciate the color of paints, and Arabians are unique in appearance and very proud in their posture. Also, if you have read books like the Black Stallion, where a boy and an Arabian stallion wash onshore of a deserted island- they somehow managed to bond and take care of each other in order to survive!

    I agree with the general consensus that a lone horse would probably not fare too well, unless it joined up with a herd. It would depend on how used to human interaction it was. If it lived in a stable and was fed grain and hay and did not really have to fend for itself (as most very valuable horses are), it would probably not know how to behave on its own in the wild. And this would also determine its reaction upon seeing humans after being alone for so long. Typically very valuable horses are going to be protected and handled regularly, and while they might be untrusting of humans after going through an experience like that, I don't think they would "revert to being wild" since they were never really wild to begin with. If I turned my mare that I've had for 12 years out into the wild and she somehow lived for 5 years until I went back to pick her up, I really doubt she would be afraid of me. She would probably still come when I called her!
    bjnick likes this.
         
        10-21-2013, 02:12 AM
      #7
    Green Broke
    Any horse of any breed can be spectacular. It depends on what kind of image you want to portray. I'd probably stick to more well known breeds, or when people read what you say they won't be able to imagine it.

    If you want something very fine and dainty I'd go with an Arabian.

    If you want something more "fairy tale" I'd go for a Friesian (black) or Andalusian.

    If you just want a standard horse on a ranch I'd go for a Quarter Horse. All of these could be very valuable and take your breath away, given it was the right horse. You can also make the horse seem unusual using colouring rather than breed. Like you can have a standout Paint pattern or a lovely Appaloosa. Google image search - Paint horse or Appaloosa for examples. In fact, you can search any breed for examples.

    The horse could survive and could be rather "untame". Obviously they'd need enough feed and water. Chances are though, after that time, he wouldn't be all magnificent and shiny. Probably dull, wormy with super over grown feet but I think it would be forgivable to forget that.

    Feel free to ask anymore questions, people here are always happy to help!
    upnover and bjnick like this.
         
        10-25-2013, 02:55 AM
      #8
    Foal
    Thank you all so much for these great responses! I thought I'd gotten stiffed......no responses.....but finally decided to check the forum and realized that the responses were not being sent to my inbox. So what a treat to come here and discover all of you very helpful, knowledgeable horse experts. It's so obvious in everything you say how much you love them.

    There's a lot to think about here, for sure. Some observations:

    * I really need for the horse to be spectacular, and some of your suggestions I'm going to look into really closely. The sub-plot with the girl who discovers the horse, is NOT going to be a "Horse Whisperer" sort of thing, but it is going to be very emotional for her, and her reactions are on the level of the horse being so beautiful and breath-taking it is almost heart-stopping for her. She will be incredulous: How on earth could THAT horse possibly be here? Abandoned? A horse like that? How could the owners not have known?

    I think the breed must, as one of you stated, be a breed that is instantly recognizable as "exotic" or "dramatic." Arabian, Andalusian, those are beautiful, exotic-sounding names that people recognize, even if they wouldn't necessarily know what they look like.

    Btw: I looked at some Andalusians, and.....wow. I also saw a "half-black Arabian" that I thought was stunning....easy to see why people love horses! There is just something about a fine horse.

    * In terms of expense, what would be the high end price for a really top-flight "exotic" breed? I saw some going for $20,000-30,000. Could it be more? $50,000 or more? Not to focus on money, but in terms of the readership, the high numbers would be impressive to drive home the incredible value of such a horse.

    As more questions occur, I will definitely ask. You've all made me feel very welcome and I genuinely appreciate it.
         
        10-25-2013, 03:08 AM
      #9
    Trained
    Price of a horse is highly dependent on training and soundness. A horse being abandoned for years and not having his/her feet done would likely deteriorate in soundness. As well aging for 4 years would decrease value.

    However, prior to being abandoned, an FEI level dressage horse could easily be worth $100,000. Possibly the rancher's daughter was a dressage rider who tragically died at some point and they kept the horse around. Could be an Andalusian or Lusitano stallion imported from Spain or Portugal as a GP prospect? And those breeds tend to be very sensitive, but quite hardy as well as beautiful.
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        10-25-2013, 03:46 AM
      #10
    Green Broke
    A horse with plenty of grass and water could go feral and survive just fine. I know from experience.....there are feral horses on the national forest out here and they look much healthier than a lot of horses in people's yards. I'm not exaggerating either. There are some scraggly, poorly fed backyard horses around here and the feral horses are slick and shiny and fat. Contrary to popular belief the don't need a farrier either, their hooves are just fine.

    And I would be inclined to believe that a horse feral for several years would be skittish of human contact. The feral horses out here seem to fall into two catagories.....skittish and very fearful, or walking right up to you looking for treats. The walking-right-up-to-you type I'm sure are getting fed by someone in the winter months. And unfortunately people also dump tame horses out there from time to time.

    So I really can't see why a horse with water and grass couldn't survive indefinitely on a ranch. How many large predators are there out there that will take down a horse? Very few. A young horse or a sick horse, sure, I could see mountain lion grabbing one. But a big, healthy horse with plenty of room to escape? I can't really see what would prey on one. A mountain lion would prefer smaller, easier prey. Bears would rather find something dead. Wolves.....not too many of them left in the wild in ranching country. So I don't see predators as a major problem for a healthy horse.

    Your plot reminds me of the book Gypsy From Nowhere. The girl finds some horses on a relative's ranch and tames the filly she names Gypsy. She wants to keep Gypsy but the horses were originally stolen and the owner comes to retrieve them. But I think she got to keep Gypsy because the owner was more interested retrieving the the broodmares. I believe they were Morgan horses.

    And you know what, if a girl loves horses, they ALL look beautiful to her! A girl without a horse will see beauty in every horse she sees. It does not have to be the most heart-stopping horse out there to be beautiful to a horseless girl!
    bjnick likes this.
         

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