1. katreya
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    katreya Member

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    Common mistakes writers make about horses.

    Discussion in 'Research' started by katreya, Jan 19, 2014.

    Hey guys… I just finished writing an article on mistakes writers make about horses, especially in fantasy movies. I've owned horses in the past and worked at racing stables, and I just wanted to know what other people think about it when they read about horses… do you know whether the author knows what they're talking about, or do you just nod and agree?

    If you guys would like to see my post it's here, and I'd love to see the general opinion when it comes to reading things like that in published books!

    Personally, it bothers me a little, maybe that's just because I know. If you didn't, I suppose it would not bother me to the same degree…
     
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  2. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I'm not sure this thread has been posted in the right category as it seems more like a discussion topic. I'll answer here any way. It's early morning here so if I waffle, forgive me.

    Yes, I can sense when an author has an understanding of horses, (or not) but that's only because I have some experience myself. Of course, a writer doesn't have to have experienced something to write about it, but if they don't do their homework and research the subject, or spend a bit of time around them, misinformation can jolt those aware from the story. Horses are often portrayed as endurance machines to the point of ridiculousness—simply not the case.

    My own personal bug bear on the subject of horses, is when a writer chooses to run a horse into the ground, purely to illicit an emotional response from the reader. These kind of scenes usually end in the horse being shot between the eyes, or some other means of dispatch. That's not to say it would never happen, but it's become something of a cliche in several genres.

    Tack and barding details, when not properly researched, can jar my reading experience too. When a historical piece mentions stirrups in an anachronistic way, I'll find myself shaking my head. It reeks of lack of research.

    Also when they are portrayed as surefooted as a mountain goat. I can't remember which thread it's on, but @KaTrian mentioned recently having her horse out in the ice. I actually wondered how many reading it, who don't have experience themselves, took note for future reference.

    If a horse plays a big role in a story, and something bad happens, the animal will undergo change and react to the trauma much like any human will. It changes them. An example... at the stable I boarded my horse, there was a big strapping beast, eighteen and a half hands tall, with a real attitude problem. He had once belonged to the quartermaster of the local drag hunt group. He was there for rehabilitation. (Think along the lines of the destrier type war horses, only on steroids ;)) One of the more experienced hands had him out for exercise on a forest path when he spooked, slipped, and fell down a small ravine. Neither horse nor rider were seriously injured, but due to location, the horse had to be rescued by mechanical means. Before the accident, the animals temperament was bolshy and undisciplined, but afterward he appeared to be a shadow of himself. No amount of prior care and attention had improved his behaviour to a point where a novice could ride him. Now he spends his days as the mount of kids with serious physical disabilities. He really does seem so much more content for having finally surrendered control to his handler. For as long as he fought, he was testy and uncooperative, now he's gentle as a lamb. If a horse plays a big part in a story, their character growth needs to be noted, just as their human companions does, in my opinion.

    I've read through your article and found you raised many good points that might not occur to someone who has no equestrian experience. The bareback one is a good one. I had my horse out sans saddle and bridle on one of the local beaches. Is was a gloriously sunny day. I ended up with the worst chaffing you can imagine—beyond seepy, I was actually bleeding from the inside of my knees. My own fault, of course. I should have known better than to forego my moleskin leggings.

    I think your article does more than enough to get a writer asking themselves the right kind of questions. Definitely a worthwhile effort on your part. :D

    Edit: I was just thinking. Given that your OP hasn't been posted where it would be the most beneficial, it might be an idea to contact one of the mods. This would make a good subject for the research section, perhaps.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2014
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  3. katreya
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    katreya Member

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    Hi Obsidian, yeah I was thinking of perhaps trying to get it moved, I just wasn't sure where it would be most appropriate to be honest!

    I actually thought of a few more issues that I'm going to go back and add.

    Great point about sure-footedness, because I know from the horse I used to ride that some are far more careful about where they place their feet than others. I had the battering ram of horses in that regards and he'd throw his legs out anywhere and everywhere, half fall over if we were going down a hill or mud, etc. As opposed to the ones I rode at a farm out back country where we slid down a long 30 meter slope with the horses on their butts, more or less, and not a single slip up. I had to learn to really trust the horses on that terrain but in the end you do because they don't want to fall over any more than you do!

    Hope the knees healed =P

    Amazing story about the big boy too. A bit similar to the one I had with our race track horse, except I don't think he was every bolshy or pushy, but he was definitely abused and a different horse. They have amazing, dynamic personalities, and I do miss owning one :(
     
  4. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I really do think an expanded version of your article would be a great addition to the research section.

    I miss owning one too. I was very fortunate for a number of years, but I moved overseas, and now that I'm home again, I'm not in a position to. There is something very special about the relationship that develops between horse and rider, Like you say about trusting a horse on rough terrain, that trust goes both ways. I remember my husbands horse had a nasty saddle sore. When we arrived at the stables we decided she was still not healed enough to put a saddle on, and so he hired one of the stables spares. His mare got so upset at the sight of him climbing up into the saddle that she trotted across the paddock, grabbed the arse of his jeans between her teeth and physically dragged him off. :D A case of: That's my human and you can't have him. I felt so bad for her.

    And yes... the knees healed fine, but I learned my lesson and never did it again.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Where is this article?? Link?
     
  6. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    @Mckk I suspect the link has been removed. It was in the original post. Hopefully one of the mods will direct it into the research section, or failing that, you could always pm for it. It's well worth a read.
     
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  7. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks. I was just about to ask the same thing ...for some reason...:)
     
  8. katreya
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    katreya Member

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    Hi guys, here's the link: http://www.inksty.com/resources/helpful-topics/mistakes-writers-make-about-horses hopefully it doesn't get removed? I didn't realise that was not 'allowed'?? And yes, I do miss something about having a relationship with a 500kg animal that could so easily overpower us, to be fair!! I'll be back later to reply in a better fashion - currently in a motel!
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Thanks for the link :) I think there's some site requirement before you are allowed to post links. I've never checked it out myself though so no clue what those requirements might be. Links don't usually get removed by more long-standing members. It's probably just a precaution against self-promotion.
     
  10. katreya
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    katreya Member

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    Yes, I do suppose most forums have some sort of thing against promoting external sites! I'm about to fly home today. I would have thought that 'self promotion' for selling books would be encouraged here, but obviously not for websites. Hopefully they don't mind when it's articles that are helpful/research-y based.

    And Obsidian - I would so LOVE to go and own one or two again! I have two young children now, and we want them to ride when they're a bit older, so it's definitely back on the books in a few years time, circumstances permitting! It's a lot easier to own a horse in New Zealand, I suspect, than America? Sounds like a lot of expensive stabling over there depending on area, etc.
     
  11. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    I can only speak for Northern Ireland, but yes, it can be really expensive. I originally hired horses from the stable, but the owner did me a deal, that made owning my own a more viable, cheaper option.

    Also, terrain wise, we're considerably less expansive, and there can be a lot of roads to deal with, to get from A to B. Always hated road walking horses. Too many sharp bends and little boy racers.

    Certainly, in some areas of the U.S. horse ownership is the norm rather than the exception. Where I was living, just north of Seattle, would have been perfect, but my finances were getting sucked up by immigration lawyers. ;)
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
  12. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I really liked the article. Very informative. I think something non-equestrian writers might want to really pay attention to is the vast differences between horses. Of course a fantasy world might not have the wide array of types and breeds we have in our world, but it does add a touch of authenticity. I've never had a horse of my own, regrettably, but ever since the age of 6 up until 16 the nearby stables were my second home, and I got to know ponies and horses from all walks of life. After that I've been grooming dressage horses, which has been a learning curve for sure. Just an example since you guys talked about going bareback, and chafing: we used to go on very long hacks on Icelandic horses during winter. Those fluffy, round backs were a breeze to straddle, we could pull 2 hours straight, then rest a bit, and do another 2 hours around the wintry countryside (and those horses are really surefooted to boot). Now take @obsidian_cicatrix 's example of going to the beach with a horse... I hear ya! We used to go swimming with the ponies and horses every summer, and while a lot of fun, the rides to the beach and back were less pleasant :p

    The point about horses getting easily spooked was a good one, as well. Of course, you can train a horse for ground control purposes. The stables I nowadays frequent are next to the police stables, and their horses can sure keep their cool. But imagine going to wage medieval warfare with your horse... Not so easy, I'd imagine. And horses have their good and bad days too, it seems. One day she's a responsive angel, the next she's climbing the trees because something invisible is lurking behind the bushes.

    I also like what you wrote about stallions. They have their own personalities, and while I've met more of the type that look like they're gonna kick you in the face and mount everything that moves, there are also some mellow ones. I remember one in particular, a proper "white steed" no less, I rode in this Hubertus competition (not sure if you guys have the event in the UK, I think that's where it originates from) with lots of mares running about as well, but he kept his cool and was more on the lazy than stereotypically fierce side. On the other hand, the owner of the mare I groom also owns a young stallion... now that guy is as steed-y as it gets :D

    However, I'm not terribly annoyed if there's fantasy horse stuff in a fantasy novel. I can't expect a non-equestrian to know everything. However, I've read some really amazing depictions of horsemanship by writers who've just done a lot of research, and that I appreciate immensely. Also, there're so many ways to handle horses, depending on the culture and time period. I suppose the only thing that hasn't changed is the horse...
     
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  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I have zero experience with horses, so this question will come across as extremely novice. But what do you mean when you "break in" a horse? And what do you do in order to break it in?

    The relationship part - how should that be portrayed in a book? What would you do to bond with a horse?

    And I know nothing about general horse behaviour either.

    I write fantasy, so this kinda thing would actually be quite useful.
     
  14. Jaybee
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    Jaybee New Member

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    As a keen horselover for over 50 years I have to agree with your post. Writing stories means a lot of research into the subject, animal or person in the story. I have worked with and had my own horses in the past. They are beautiful and unpredicatable creatures.

    I am a fan of Elizabeth Chadwick, she is a fantastic author and I have read most of her books. Her descriptions of either 'Desteriers and Palfreys' which are War horses and pack horses, are right on the ball so to speak.

    Obviously in a fantasy story a horse can be what ever the writer wants to describe, provided the animal has four legs!

    Research is probably the most important task for writers whether they are amateurs or professionals.

    It is nice to see several other horse lovers on this site.
    Tally Ho!!!!!!
     
  15. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    I use a mule in my books. Most of what I learned about mules came from a gal I worked with and Louis L'Amour books :-( No horse shooting!
     
  16. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I hope this doesn't get taken as disparaging because truly it's not meant to be. Just an observation. :oops: This is not the first time such a thread concerning factually incorrect equine references comes up in the forum. It would seem to be one of those topics that strikes a chord in those familiar with it, enough so as to get under one's skin. I'm always fascinated by what makes a topic fall under this paradigm. In a similar vein, a while back I started a thread asking why people can get truly ugly with one another when talking about cellphone brands or video game platforms, but you don't see people doing the same thing as regards refrigerators or furniture. *shrug*

    Again, just an observation. ;) Back to the thread....
     
  17. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    Frigidaire RULES! Those Maytag sucker, fan-bois need to spend a few bucks and nut-up. Time to wash your clothes with the grown ups. LOL!
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Probably to do with the emotions and relationship that you form with the object and/or animal. With phones and games, you become attached because you use it and you enjoy the object. You do not enjoy the fridge lol, and you never think of "enjoying" the couch even though you certainly do enjoy it lol. Fridges and couches are not customisable, as it were. Phones and games are, making it more personal.

    Now animals are in a different league altogether. With animals, you form a relationship with them, you love them like your own children. And all of us grows defensive when we feel that someone or something who love is being misrepresented. The ignorance of others in this regard infuriates and hurts us because we feel injustice, esp injustice with regards to the specific animal we love.
     
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  19. obsidian_cicatrix
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    obsidian_cicatrix I ink, therefore I am. Contributor

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    There's bound to be YouTube vids on the subject. These days, many frown upon the term, when what it really comes down to is an extreme amount of coaxing. ;) I've seen it done... I was surprised by how little drama there actually was. EDIT: It's worth saying that is takes place over a long period of time, little by little, accustomising the horse to the tack, and the idea of weight being placed on it's back.)

    I wouldn't say it gets under my skin, so much as a misplaced detail can break the thrall of an otherwise well written piece. I certainly don't go out of my way to find fault, but find it hard to ignore the glaringly obvious. Why misinform, when you can inform?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2014
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  20. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I can tell this has happened in a novel when my girlfriend throws it across the room and starts cussing the writer :D
     
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  21. JetBlackGT
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    JetBlackGT Contributing Member

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    Considering how easy it is to Google something, it drives me crazy when a writer gets something obvious, wrong. If the author digresses and tries to explain how an engine works or the way a gun functions, typically I sigh, roll my eyes and try to skip ahead. It's only going to make me upset :-( Otherwise I am shouting "MAGAZINE! Not 'clip'!!!" in Starbucks.

    YouTube is also great. I figure if the author can see it, they can 'show' it to the reader, in a summary. And then I won't have to shout at my book and get all 'stabby'. :-(
     
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  22. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Some story-lines are predicated on incorrect information or assumptions of certain topics. I couldn't get past the first 15 minutes of the film The Interpreter staring Nicole Kidman. It's what I do for a living. Not only would she have been fired and stripped of her credentials within those first 15 min, she would never, ever, ever have gotten that job at the U.N. with her background. That's the holy grail of interpreting. The background checks are deeply invasive.
     
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  23. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What happened in the film and what was wrong with it? I'm curious now. Not seen the film before.
     
  24. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's funny, but sometimes the novel can otherwise be so gripping or funny that despite the stuff the author gets wrong -- even when it's just the stuff that you'd want them to get right -- you can enjoy the novel. This happened with Joe Abercrombie's The First Law series. He sh*t all over the fencing and horse stuff, and my eyes are trained to catch flaws in both, but I gobbled down the novels 'cause I liked the characters and his writing.

    Unfortunately Heroes lacks the character appeal. By the time the author went arse over elbow with the sword mythicism surrounding some young dude who'll maybe possibly be one of the main characters, I just put it down with a sigh. It was too much. Maybe I'll get back to it if I'm feeling desperate, but there're books with a lower piss-off potential, so I'd rather invest my already scarce time on them.

    I haven't read it yet, but my husband read Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrriojfdffh and apparently she wrote very convincingly of both, swordplay and horse stuff.

    I think it often comes down to the author's own conscience. Many readers might not notice factual errors or plain silliness, so they just have to answer to themselves most of the time.
     
  25. Wreybies
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    It sounds silly, but it's one of the basic precepts of interpreting. She gets involved with her client's business. If you're a private interpreter, employed directly by the persons for whom you are interpreting, maybe, but she's a UN interpreter. The interpreter's mantra is: I am not here. I am transparent. You hear me but do not see me. She would never, ever be someone mingling with clients in a personal way. It's profoundly unethical. As regards her background, I don't remember exactly what it was she was doing in Africa, but there was some guerrilla ties she had that were easily uncovered through the course of the film and would have made it utterly impossible for her to get a position at the UN.
     
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