Writing a horse story and need help...

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Writing a horse story and need help...

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    02-11-2009, 08:50 PM
Writing a horse story and need help...

I'm a writer and a horse-lover. Sadly, I haven't been around horses much, if at all, in the last 15 years. Growing up, though, 99% of the books I read were horse stories. I rode when I could, both western and english, and I'm familiar with which end is the rump and which end is the muzzle. I also know about hocks and withers and picking hooves and that horses have one of the best smells on the planet.

This is where I need your help: I've undertaken to write a story where the MC, as a teenager, owned and showed her own horse. Which is something I pretty much know nothing about.

So I have some questions:

How advanced would her riding skills be by 16, if she's taken regular lessons for the past 7 or 8 years? I don't intend for her to have been headed for the Olympics, but I'd like to see her have been winning some ribbons and trophies, etc. at local shows and maybe even some bigger ones. Would she be considered an "intermediate rider", for instance?

Also, what's it like for girls who participate in shows? I imagine they're riding every day or every other day and they've got a show schedule planned for the summer, etc.? And if someone could give me synopsis of how a show day would go, that would be so helpful!

Her family is well-to-do and own a big house in the country with a pool and a tennis court and all that. I imagined her keeping her horse on the property and a private instructor coming to give her lessons, but am unsure if that would be realistic.

When she is 16, her father buys her a new horse for her birthday. Is it unreasonable for her to have "outgrown" her first horse at this age? Or would that have already happened when she was younger, say 13 or 14? Or would it be more reasonable for the first horse to be reaching retirement age? Or should I come up with some other reason to replace the first horse? Say maybe an injury or somesuch?

And what qualities would a person look for in a second horse? I found lots of info on the internet about buying one's first horse, but not about buying horse number two. And what about faults to look out for? (Besides the glaring ones like the horse is lame or prone to kicking its owners or somesuch... )

Um, I think that's about it for now.

Thanks in advance!

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    02-12-2009, 02:30 AM
Wow, I'll try a couple of questions because I know nothing about showing horses. Well, I call Hacking in the ring showing, not eventing or showjumping and the like.

1) At 16, if she has ridden extensively for 7 to 8 years and had the training you say, she should be an advanced rider in my book. She should be capable of competing at whatever level she wants (since money isn't an issue).

2) Can't really help you on that one. The only show day I took my kids to was the local show and it poured all day, we were up to our knees in mud and if it hadn't been their first / only show and other people hadn't been so kind and loaned us jackets etc, I would have just packed up and gone home.

3) Can I have her family?
I don't see that having a private visiting instructor is unrealistic but I would expect she would be more likely to travel to them - .

4) Not unreasonable for her to outgrow her horse at 16. I grew until I was 21 and no way would I now fit on the horse I had at 15.
To outgrow a horse doesn't only occur when you physically get too big, it also happens when your ability / ambition surpass that of the horse you have.

5) Money isn't a problem, I would expect they would go for a horse that has the attributes and training to take her to the top in showing right now (not training a youngster). I would see them buying a well credentialled (sp) horse that would get her straight into the top end of her discipline.
In which case I guess the faults wouldn't be there unless it was a dodgy deal with the horse being doped or something.

Hope you get some help out of the above.
    02-12-2009, 01:20 PM
Thanks, Makin Tracks!

This helps quite a bit!

I've been doing research online, but I've been finding it difficult to locate info specific to my storyline. (Maybe I'm just looking in the wrong places?) Anyway, that's why I thought to post here where there seems to be abundant horse knowledge!

Thanks, again!

    02-12-2009, 04:27 PM
1) I'd say that after that many years of riding she would be an "advanced" rider, and could possibly be winning ribbons and such at local, or even bigger shows, because I have been riding for about 3 years now and would say I might be an "intermediate" rider. And BTW, I only ride once or twice a week.

2) Showing for me isn't an every week type of thing. It is maybe three or so times a year, and can be very exciting. Sometimes right before the show, I get a little nervous, something like "stage nerves" but when I get on, and start riding, I have a blast.

3) Yes, I have heard of instructors coming to people's houses, but not many people to that. I think that that could be pretty realistic, though. This is just a suggestion, but maybe they can own their own fancy barn?

4) Yes, i'm pretty sure that at 16 she can still outgrow her horse.

5) Sorry, can't really help you out on this one because I don't have a horse of my own!

If you have any more questions i'd be happy to help! :)
    02-12-2009, 07:05 PM
Thanks, horsegirl123!

If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to ask!

    02-12-2009, 08:52 PM
Green Broke
Good for you for writing a book! So are you going to mention us in the back of the book? You know "thank you so and so for all of your help and extensive knowledge.... "

1. A 16 y/o who's ridden regularly for that long would probably be closer to an advanced rider and could most definitely be going to lots of shows and winning lots of ribbons/trophies. You can be a beginner rider and go to lots of shows, even the bigger ones. There are a lot of different levels of classes.

2. When you say "show" you need to decide what kind of show you're wanting her to be competing in. English, western, Dressage, Hunter/Jumper, breed shows, etc. They will be different in the way they function. The shows I go to (h/j) , generally you haul your horse there the day before and practice jumping over all of the fences. That night lots of people would be bathing their horses, braiding manes, cleaning tack, etc. Some people wake up really really early in the morning to do all of that. At some point before the classes begin most likely you would need to stop by the show office to fill out your entry forms and pay for everything. Then the day of the show you wait for your class to begin. Then warm up, learn your course, and then go and compete. Sometimes all of your classes will run together, sometimes there is lot of waiting in between. For dressage shows you are given a specific "ride time" that you will be in the ring. At our barn there are tons of kids who ride so they all hang out at the show all day, watch each other ride, cheer each other on, etc. You should look up some shows in your area and just go hang out for the day. See how things work, how people act, etc.

It's possible for a trainer to come out to their property and give lessons, but to do that they would need their own arena. If she jumps she would need her own course, etc. I know a lot of really really wealthy people who board their horses and come out for lessons.

At 16, she could have outgrown her horse. But most likely at this age she's probably at a place in her riding ability where she needs to get a new horse to move up, like one that can jump higher or is more competitive. It's very possible for her horse to be reaching retirement age.

There are no rules in looking for a second horse because there are lots of reasons why someone would sell a horse and replace it with another. I imagine at this point they probably have a better idea of what they're looking for so it might be hard for you to find a "how-to" article online. :) for the most part though, at this point the owner knows how to take care of one, probably is more experienced, etc. so they often don't need to be quite as beginner friendly. Most of the kids at our barn who are on their second (or third) horse need something that can jump higher and possibly more competitive at shows.
    02-12-2009, 10:33 PM
Super Moderator
I'm with upnover on this one. And I agree that she probably didn't outgrow the horse sizewise, but ability wise. I'd say she would either be looking to buy a young green horse that she can work with herself OR daddy's going to buy her a "made" horse that's ready to move up in the competition levels. Either way it's a good way for you to move ahead w/ your story. If she buys the younger greener horse you've got tons of issues and even though this horse may have the great bloodlines and looks, it's a baby which makes it the underdog. Of course you could even have that "twist" where daddy buys her a rescue that is shaggy and underweight that she has to win over and turn into a champion... OR you get the made horse that daddy wants her to move up and compete at higher levels when she just wants to have fun.....
    02-13-2009, 11:59 AM
Depending on how you defined it, she'd probably be intermediate to advanced. I started at the age of 9 or 10 and when I stopped at 15 (not cause I wanted to, but bc I couldn't afford to keep going) I was jumping 4.2-4.4 feet and was in the process of looking for a new horse (I'd sold my large pony, which can only jump up to 3.6 or so) that could jump higher.

What might ring most true would be that she'd been doing hunter/jumper, which is where a lot of kids start off competing -- it is also where you find a lot of kids with money ride, as it is all about how the horse moves and looks over jumps and on the flat. Ie., expensive ponies and horses are the rule, even for showing on the local level.

If memory serves, you can only do Hunter classes until you're 18, then you have to switch to Jumper (but, don't quote me oin that). So the natural progression would be for someone about the age of 16 to start switching over to doing Jumper, or maybe even start looking at doing something more demanding, like Eventing. It would be a good reason for her to get a new horse....maybe she's selling off her hunter pony/horse bc she's outgrown them, either size or skillwise and/or wants to develop her skills in a new discipline.

That would also give you a good hook for a barn story. Maybe she's changing from her old barn and instructor, where she was the queen bee and moving to a new, possibly more competitive, upper level trainer's barn where she's the new girl and lower level on the social totem pole. Barns are nests of social hierarchy.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to me for a kid to have the barn at home. Really, half the fun of riding is being out at the barn with your friends, and instructors. I think that riding at home would have been really dull.

Would it make sense for this to be the second horse? Assuming she started riding with her own horse at 7 (sounds like she'd have the money), she probably would have had a small or medium pony as a small child, then either a large pony or small horse when she hit 11 or 12. So about 16, she might be moving up to her first Warmblood or Thoroughbred...something big, 16, 17 hands, or higher, that she can aspire to jumping 5 feet or more and continue to grow on...maybe this is her horse she hopes to develop and move onto a higher level of showing. Of course, it would need to have the skill set to do what she wants with it too, so that would also be important.
    02-13-2009, 12:57 PM
Everyone's advice is soo good! Horsewriter, when you are done with this book, it would be really cool if you can share it!! :)
    02-13-2009, 01:56 PM
Thanks so much everyone for your comments! They've been EXTREMELY helpful!

Originally Posted by upnover
so are you going to mention us in the back of the book? You know "thank you so and so for all of your help and extensive knowledge.... "
How's this:

"And I'd especially like to acknowledge the members of HorseForum.com for their help in teaching me everything I needed to know to write this story."

Originally Posted by upnover
When you say "show" you need to decide what kind of show you're wanting her to be competing in.
Yeah, when I said showing, I meant hunter/jumper. Isn't that what you do at shows? (Just being cheeky... )

Originally Posted by PoohLP
Would it make sense for this to be the second horse? Assuming she started riding with her own horse at 7 (sounds like she'd have the money), she probably would have had a small or medium pony as a small child, then either a large pony or small horse when she hit 11 or 12.
I wasn't counting her pony as a horse. I'd imagined she'd had a pony when she was younger, then got her first horse around 12ish (when she had her growth spurt) and now is looking for a new horse at 16 (well, she's not quite sixteen...got that birthday coming up... ).

I figured the pony was probably a Welsh X. (Same pony I learned to ride on. )

The first horse, I'm not too sure what she'd be. I was thinking a TB X Arab X Morgan? Around 15.2 HH. A really good solid first horse, but getting up there in years, I'd think, especially for h/j (around 18 or 19 sound right?).

So her instructor wants to find her a bigger horse (16-17 HH), but preferably one that's already got some experience. He doesn't think Gwen (the main character) is ready for a project yet. But, of course, the horse Gwen falls madly in love with is a 4-year-old 17HH black TB X Hanoverian gelding who's barely started his training.

I'm going to stop there, because I don't want to give the whole story away...

Originally Posted by horsegirl123
when you are done with this book, it would be really cool if you can share it!! :)
Sure. When I'm finished, I'll post a note here and anyone who wants to read it can PM me and I'll email it to you. (I don't post my writing to open boards because of Copyright issues.)

Thanks again everyone!


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