Writer needs some expert "horse knowledge" - Page 3 - The Horse Forum
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post #21 of 50 Old 10-25-2013, 07:48 PM
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I'm a fellow author, and a native of Northern California. It is entirely possible to have a large amount of land/ranch in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It is a beautiful wild, open area with light snow only at the higher elevations and not too much weather to speak of. The heat in the summer is far more crippling than the weather in the winter.

As for the horse, it is very difficult to tell the value of a horse from looking at it, since so much of a horse's value is in pedigree and also training, not so much what they look like. On one hand, a very well put together horse that has very distinctive features/color will be striking in any breed.

That said, there are certain "breeds" you just plain don't see very often in California. Most horses are stock and quarter horses. So if you throw in a big graceful warmblood, something like a Hanoverian perhaps, then it is going to stand out from your typical quarter horse. It is not a horse that would probably have been working on the ranch, but would have been more likely a dressage/event horse that is "against the horse culture grain" and you will have to justify that in rodeo country.

As far as survival goes, a horse could survive out there but the biggest natural dangers are going to be mountain lions, (which are plentiful, relatively) rattlesnakes (Which are too plentiful in the foothills, frankly) and then feral dogs.

You could go a different route and have the horse be "famous" and distinctive by his distinctive markings. He could be a rodeo star or a barrel racer for example. Then he would probably be a quarter horse. If it's a stallion it will probably wander off the land. There are enough horses around in California, he'd have no reason not to wander to find a girlfriend, or a small herd of them. A gelding would be more inclined to stay put, or a mare. Either way, you are going to have to explain how this horse ended up with no one looking for it.

And finally, I would avoid the "girl tames the wild horse with her love and sparkles," just because it is an idea that is probably not going to sell well over the chapter book market.

As for a survivalist in the horse world, my Mustang could be tossed right back out on the range and I have no doubt she'd still be there five years later.
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post #22 of 50 Old 10-25-2013, 08:00 PM
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In Gypsy From Nowhere they dealt with the abandonment problem by having the horses stolen and then "stashed" on the family's ranch in some far-off corner somewhere. One horse (Gypsy) got loose and the girl found her. Then later I think she followed Gypsy out to where the other horses were hidden.
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post #23 of 50 Old 10-26-2013, 08:31 AM
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My brother taught writing at the university level and his advise to all his students was to know your subject inside out and backwards. That is why so many writers draw on personal experiences or spend years researching a topic. That often means hands-on experience.
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post #24 of 50 Old 10-29-2013, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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I've enjoyed reading all these posts, and they've been very helpful. I'm going to stick to the plan of having the horse "abandoned," but it's not something haphazard; I realize that no one would just "forget about" a valuable horse.

These particular horses were brought to the ranch to see if raising them could be profitable.

The situation in the story is that the family lost the ranch because of a situation with a missing deed, and they lost it to the family on the adjoining ranch, which is much larger. The siblings who inherited the ranch from their parents want to turn it into a nature/wildlife preserve with their names on it, and the legal situation with the adjoining ranch means the park would be even larger and more impressive- the ranch that was lost contains some really prime land with a beautiful river, a blue ribbon trout stream, etc.

The situation came to a head very quickly- and shockingly- and (it's involved) the other family was obliged to give up possession of the property at a time when the son, who was going to be managing the horses, could not be there (in the military, overseas.) I still haven't worked out all the details. Possibly they trusted someone to take care of the horses- actually take possession of them- and that individual screwed it up, was careless, etc. Or, there was a serious misunderstanding as to the number of horses, or something like that. I will work out that part.

Obviously, when the son returns and realizes one of his prize horses is unaccounted for, there will be hell to pay. All that I will figure out.

Still not sure where to locate the ranch, or whether I need to be specific.

As for the breed I want to use, boy, you've given me some great choices. Some of these animals are indeed magnificent. I'm fairly certain I'll go with Andalusian or Lusitano. Wow; I can't imagine encountering one of these in a remote little forest and not being struck by their beauty.

Have no fear regarding "little girl tames wild horse" or "Shattered girl comes back to life out of love for a horse," etc, etc. What it will do is simply rekindle her lifelong love of horses. It will be understated but emotional. And, I think I made it clear- the horse is NOT anywhere near the main point of the story, which has to do with she and her friends' attempts to recover the ranch for a worthy family that didn't deserve to lose it in the first place. But the horse subplot is important, and I want to get it right. For which I thank all of you. Wow, what a great community of generous people you are.
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post #25 of 50 Old 10-30-2013, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Chessie View Post

That said, there are certain "breeds" you just plain don't see very often in California. Most horses are stock and quarter horses. So if you throw in a big graceful warmblood, something like a Hanoverian perhaps, then it is going to stand out from your typical quarter horse. It is not a horse that would probably have been working on the ranch, but would have been more likely a dressage/event horse that is "against the horse culture grain" and you will have to justify that in rodeo country.

I'm also from Northern California/Central Valley. The weather were I am at is very little rain in the winter (compared to most states) no snow. California is pretty much a drought state. I get very little to no rain with blistering heat in the summer.

As for certain breeds that you don't see very often, depends on were you are. Hanoverians not really ranch horses, but I know several including a very nice stallion. I ride a warmblood and am not at a fancy hunter/jumper barn. Pretty common horses I see are off the track thouroghbreds. I see a lot of those. Quarter horses are all over, even if I don't care too much for them. My barn has a good selection of horses, Canadian WB, a few QHs, Arabians of course, TBs, drafts and draft crosses, plus a few Friesans.

Good luck with your book.
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post #26 of 50 Old 10-30-2013, 09:50 PM
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If a horse is well bred then someone knows horses should be able to look at one and know that it is of fine stock meaning that I think you really could take a horse of any breed that is of the finest quality and "abandon" it in a valley or a massive pasture. If there is plenty of grass or roughage and fresh water then it COULD happen.

If you are looking for a "wow factor" in the look of the horse then you'll want to go to a flashier breed such as the Arabian, Andulasion, Friesian, Paso Fino, etc. Those horses have the curvature in the neck and the higher leg movement, they tend to have long flowing manes etc.

If you are looking for a horse that would realistically be used on a working ranch, then you want to aim for a Quarter horse, paint, appy, mustang type breed. Each of them can also be very eye catching. I personally am drawn to quarter horses and paints and they really can have the long flowing mane as well as the flaring nostrils.

That of course, is just my opinion. The color of the horse to me is less important but I do like a color that shines such as a bay or a sorrel. The black and white paint that Joe Cartwright rode on Bonanza always got my attention but the buckskin that Marshall Dillion rode really made me a dreamer...

It all depends on your audience I suppose. If it's well written the reader will forgive some of the fantasy details that many writers slip into their books. I've read tons of the dime store romances where they make newbie comments that leads the reader to believe they don't know nothing about no horses! The thing is though, most of the readers don't know anything about them either!
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post #27 of 50 Old 11-01-2013, 02:00 AM Thread Starter
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Great message, great wisdom. Thanks!
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post #28 of 50 Old 11-01-2013, 05:38 PM
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Hi!! I hope you don't mind me adding my thoughts.

Whatever breed you choose, good chance is that some of your readers will google it just to see what it does look like. So you need a horse that looks like "WOW" to you and whatever non-horse person. You received good suggestions with Andalusian and Friesians, who are always a "safe choice" whenever you want something flashy. I would avoid warmbloods like Hannoverian and such, who can be 100.000$ worth of grand prix dressage horses, but if a random kid googles them, he/she'll see just a "brown horse" : On that, when you decide the breed, know that not all breeds come in all colors, many breeds lack the superflashy, super cool colors, or the flashy paint patterns. Like, you cannot have a buckskin tobiano arabian and have him be purebred, or a night black friesian with white socks and a nice star on the head.

Now if you want the horse-breed to be an "experiment", you need something a bit more exotic. I don't know how common they are (not very, I suspect), but I think you might have a look at the Akhal Tekč breed (it's spelt in many different ways so check that too)


It's the kind of horse that you see once in a book and remember for life, because they are actually shiny. You could make a great description of a golden horse literally shining in the field. They are very rustic horses, used to harsh enviroments, so it could be realistic that one survived and did well alone.

Honestly, way more realistic that one of the horses that are "awesome" for their mane, would have the mane survive rain, mud, plant seeds and the such and still look awesome. Long fluffy mane after a few years outside could become no mane at all, uneven mane with bits missing, very short mane, mane so tangled with plants that it has a little Tarzan hanging from it... stuff like that. And, if you make the horse black: No black stays truly black in the sun. If always fades a little to reddish brown, and it's not particularly pretty. True white is almost impossible to find on a horse, and "reasonably white" never means "reasonably clean".

Whatever you choose, remember to place the girl-horse scene as far as possible from a rainy day. Wild horses can and do look beautiful and reasonably clean, if it's been dry. After a rain, most horses look like this:


The price is a bit complicated. Some breeds are either exotic enough or fashionable enough to be worth "something" just for being of that breed, but I don't think that you could go over 10.000 (probably less, but again that depends on the breed)

The truly pricey horses are like that because they have both a stellar pedigree and they won an impressive numbers of competitions. It is quite unlikely that an exotic, flashy and "experiment" horse did something that amazing: the common breeds are common exactly because it's likely that they will do well in competitions. Exceptions do exist, but they are exceptions. Also, a thing I always HATED about most movies is the equation: "horse is fluffy and lovely = dumb kid will win the race, no matter the breed or soundness of the horse, against all odds". So please, please, make this horse awesome, but if could avoid making him and the girl win some unlikely race.
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post #29 of 50 Old 11-02-2013, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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Saddlebag, I agree with you; I'll just say that this is not my "subject;" it's a subplot, but nonetheless important, which is why I'm very concerned to get it "right." An author- a fiction author, that is- cannot be an expert on everything they mention in their story. But they do have a responsibility- I believe- to do their due diligence and research and make sure they represent accurately whatever elements they don't know well already. I would feel the same way if I had to mention in any depth something like tractors, or orchids, or a medical procedure, etc. Horses especially are a great example, since they have such an emotional appeal to many.
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post #30 of 50 Old 11-02-2013, 01:57 PM Thread Starter
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Farmpony84, Cielo, Everyone, thanks for your comments. I want to stay away from "normal" horses such as quarter horses and the others most have mentioned as being likely to be found on a ranch. I believe it; they can be very impressive. But as someone said just before, I want something that just screams "exotic," "out of place," as in "What would THAT horse be doing HERE??" That's sort of the whole point. An analogy would be finding, among all the trucks and tractors and working vehicles on the property, a Lamborghini. It's not impossible; it could be the proprietor has done very well, set their sights on one, and went and got it. But it would be a shock to see it there regardless, since it's rare and incredibly expensive, and in any case, has no functional value on a ranch.

In this case, somewhat similarly, the girl will instantly recognize this horse as something that is jarringly out of place here; and, again, a type that will take her breath away. Someone else mentioned that a reader would quite likely Google it, and that's a great point. I would! And if they do, they should see right away "Oh.....wow......I can understand her feeling that way."

Of course on this ranch, when it was in operation, they would have had quarter horses and the like, I would imagine. They are "horse people," and they would know the appropriate breed(s) for whatever purpose they are going to be used for.

I should have mentioned this before: although horse breeding is NOT the purpose of the ranch, I am going to bring it in as the dream of the younger son who was set to take over the property before things went bad. That is the reason for the exotic horse being there.
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