Combining my thoughts for today with the Daily Prompt:
My random photo for the word horse, is this beautiful one.
The reason I’m thinking about horses was because I found this article about George R R Martin never seeing a horse before writing the Song of Ice and Fire is satirical and quite funny. It nudged my into thinking about the horses in my own work. Now, horses do tend to feature in fantasy. They’re a large means of transport for people and for goods, but frequently I feel that they’re very underwritten.
Robin Mckinley in the Hero and the Crown does an excellent job in describing how Aerin learns how to ride bareback on a wounded horse, Talat. She describes the process that horse and rider go through together. Tamora Pierce also gives very good descriptions of who the horses ridden by Alanna and Keladry are and how the riders build bonds with them. With Daine, the bond with animal kind is explored more directly.
So what have I been doing to make sure that the horses in my manuscript behave realistically, as well as look the part? Well, as with most things I believe the best way to write accurately and believably is try whatever it is out. The manuscript features a lot of snow and so I took an opportunity to live in Canada a few years back. Horses are important to me, and so I’ve spent a lot of time with my Aunt (who fortunately for me, owns horses and isn’t averse to her crazy niece riding around on a pony pretending to be a knight…) I have to say that the hours I’ve spent at the farm have been invaluable and I learn something new every day.
Below is me on said pony – having a Black Beauty moment!
Speaking to my Aunt she despairs at how in films and books (not just in the fantasy genre) the hero will jump on the nearest horse and canter off into the distance. For anyone who has ever ridden, we know that this is a virtual impossibility. Yes in alternate universes and fantasy worlds the horses could have reached a point of training where they will follow whomever happens to be riding them over the hills and far away. But in reality, what herd animal is ever going to be happy running off into danger with a stranger? There’s no build of trust, no relationship. So is the horse simply submitting to the demands of the rider? If that’s the case there is only so far that you’ll be able to push it before it explodes (not literally) but has an almighty hissy fit in which endangers itself, it’s rider and anyone within a near radius, particularly other riders. Presumably, if you still have the horse on the end of the reins after this hissy fit, you’ll be feeling a bit shaken up.
Now all of these things of animal behaviour could be interesting plot point. Added problems in it the journey from A to Z. I’ll admit that I’m not exploiting the antics of the horses in my manuscript, but I’m making a concentrated effort not to make it look easy. My heroine needs to learn how to ride and she’s not going to be an expert after a day. She’s not been bought up in a stable and so she’s uncertain and she’s worried about riding, but she has to do it. The horse is nervous because she’s nervous and they have very little trust between them. But they’ll get there with time and patience. I only hope my reader joins them with an open heart. Because if there is one thing I definitely do know about the magnificent equine – is that they’ll find a way into your heart if you let them, and then it’s very hard to let them go.
Further research I’ve done into riding, other than riding, is to look through various websites of how far a horse could travel in a day. For anyone else for whom this information would be valuable one good website could be found here.
Last year I rode cross country for a day (man did that hurt) and a detailed account of my exploits can be found here: Day Two: Team Horse joins the Adventure. My current horsebound plan for this year, along with said Aunty – is to ride from the South Coast of England to Scotland. We anticipate this could take a few years…
What are you researching for your writing? How do you do it?