1. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Horses in fiction

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Aprella, Jun 11, 2013.

    If this isn't the right place... can someone move it please?

    Horses are seen a lot in fantasy novels, but in other genres as well. It annoys me that while a lot of writers spent of time in researching things for the story, they often forget the horses. Not rarely someone who rides a horse will kick it to get the horse moving and pull the reins to make it stop. It does, however, not work that way. I have a horse and I know how to ride it (even though I'm not the best equestrian around). To get a horse moving you push with your calves against it side (and sometimes you use your heels)... you never kick! To stop your horse, you 'squeeze' it with your upper legs, sit deeper in the saddle and if needed put a little pressure on the reins BUT NEVER PULL!! Pulling hurts. Put a bit in you own mouth and let someone pull it! A lot of horses will try and run away from the pulling... so instead of stopping they will only go faster.
    A horse first reaction to danger is to run because that is how they survive. Not by fighting, but by running. Horses are generally not very brave. But they can be trained that they shouldn't be afraid of certain things. It's quite unbelievable that a 'normal' horse will come near fire without being extremely nervous. You can train the fear of fire out of it, but then they will never run from it again (so if the stable burns down, they chances they will run from the fire are very slim).

    So I wonder if this only annoyed me? And if there are people here who did do research about horses for their story or even get on a horse's back to try it out themselves?
     
  2. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I hear ya, sister. I'm so nitpicky with horse stuff, and in our writing (we have a couple of fantasy stories too), T and I always give personalities to our horses, they're characters too x) Not just horses, actually, cats, dogs, any pets really. And because I'm so nitpicky on this regard, I try to show similar care when handling fields/hobbies/occupations I'm myself less familiar with and usually give 'em a try as well, which is awesome, 'cause writing prompts me to try new stuff :D It doesn't mean cluttering up your story with a huge amount of irrelevant details, though.

    ETA: though we have to note that riding styles differ from culture to culture and period to period, and you write different horses differently. It takes time to teach dressage to an ex harness racer. Let alone an Icelandic horse, horses used in Western, horses trained by Mongols, etc. If you write an unaccustomed rider they'll pull, tug, and kick. If you write a knight rider (lolz), they wear fullbody armors which can also affect the riding style.
     
  3. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    I go mad reading pretty much anything with horses in it. I've had horses pretty much my whole life. And there is not ONE realistic horse book. Seriously. The ones where the characters don't kick and pull their mounts around, there's that stupid 'majikal bond' business. Um. No. That's not how it goes. And that 'majikal bond' sure as houses doesn't turn a dangerous horse into one that's as quiet as a lamb. Some horses perform better for one person than other people, but I have never yet met a horse that was dangerous except with one person. It just doesn't happen. It takes a LOT of work to rehabilitate a dangerous horse and some of them are truly too far gone. And then there are the books about rescue horses... nearly every single horse in said books is horribly skinny, and halfway insane. Then it settles down when it's had some good food. Doesn't work that way. It actually quite often goes the other way - they're super super quiet when they're underweight, and then they go loopy when you get the weight back on them.

    It's interesting that we research the heck out of tons of things because people who are "in the field" would laugh and toss the book down, and yet horses don't seem to be researched nearly as heavily. Even The Horse Whisperer is full of bull [and it's the most realistic horse story I've ever read]!

    Does anyone else just about fall over laughing when they come across horses in video games? They NEVER move right. Seriously. If the footfalls are even in the right sequence, the legs don't bend right. The best I've seen is Death's horse in the game Darksiders II and that one only moves halfway right in the canter. Its trot is the awkwardest thing ever.
     
  4. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Huh? I've read a ton of realistic books with horses. Do you mean books outside the pony book genre? As a kid I devoured every pony book I could get my hands on. Is this a cultural thing? I'm from Finland, you seem to be from Australia, so maybe you don't have this YA genre? Granted, the best books were from two specific, super productive Finnish authors. No magical bondings, just plain old down-to-earth horse(wo)manship. Some British and American books I read had fairy tale elements, though. I didn't really mind, tbh, even though I've probably spent more time at the stables than at school, so it's not like I'm entirely clueless when it comes to equestrianism.
     
  5. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Well I do understand that riding styles differ from culture... but if the only means of transportation are horses (medieval setting or so) I'm pretty sure they will treat horses as good as they can and be as sparingly with giving commands so they don't have to kick the whole time to keep the horse moving.
    [MENTION=54572]Shandeh[/MENTION]: to create a believable horse in games, the developers should spend a lot of time around horses to get to know them... Authors can get away with more, in my eyes, since they don't describes very move the horse makes... though if you have absolutely no knowledge about horses horse people will see it right away.
     
  6. hummingbird
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    hummingbird Member

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    The other thing that annoys me with horses in books is that they tend to whinny at the strangest times. I've been riding over 30 years, and the only times horses have whinnied while I was riding was when they were calling to a friend. But for some reason, in books they whinny for every little thing.
     
  7. Keitsumah
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    Keitsumah The Dream-Walker Contributor

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    I've read quite a few books myself with horses in it -used to be a huge horse fanatic and still am whenever i go near one- and I have to agree that those kinds of things have become issues. Example: The Black Stallion. Great book to read when you're younger, but in reality a wild Arabian mix Stallion with those proportions and temperament will be lethal to everyone. Especially after he's been treated badly by humans. I've gone to Holland and ridden my grandmother's Arabian and he is highly trained, but still can be very jumpy. (Had to learn to rise english style with that bugger -and his name was King).

    Arabians are one of the hardest horses to handle in my book -unless you happened to know my old horse Mase, a slightly-larger-than-average quarterhorse gelding. I would also like to point out that just because a horse is old, does not mean it is good for new riders. They do know a whole lot more, but combine that with snapping teeth and a tendency to kick, it may not be good for new riders to handle on their own whatsoever. Lucky for me, i grew up on a farm with a lot of cattle who had the same habits, so i was quick on my feet to avoid an injuring blow. Still, i did get bitten often enough to learn to never let my guard down.
    [MENTION=53403]KaTrian[/MENTION] I read that you mentioned ponies. Now, i know that not all of them are hard to handle, but they seem more mischievous than anything to me- ever had to handle a Shetland who wouldn't stop bolting to the side just to knock you off? :p Oh boy... one of these days I am going to beat Lance at his own game... next time I go to Holland...
     
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I have a feeling that this is but a facet of a more universal annoyance any reader feels when something of which they know a great deal is portrayed unrealistically. I'm an interpreter. The film, The Interpreter, staring the ever gorgeous Nicole Kidman is a video course in all of the many different ways an interpreter can get fired. She gets involved with her clients. She has no clue what transparency means in the industry sense. She would never have even become a U.N. interpreter with her political background. Interpreting at the U.N. is the very highest level in our profession. The background checks are invasive and exhaustive.
     
  9. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    @ Aprella: I see that you have your location set as Belgium. Is it possible that you're making assumptions based on a different horse culture than the people who wrote the books? I ask this, because I grew up in the American West—riding horses decently often—and a lot of those things you describe are actually how we ride horses. I can tell it is completely different than what you're envisioning though.

    For example, the way we handle the reigns is completely different than English style. For Western trained horses, neck reining is the standard way of controlling the horse. For those who don't know, neck reining is where you move the reins to the side to put pressure on the neck in order to get a horse to turn. To steer the horse right, you move the reins right so they lay lightly against the left side of the horse's neck, and it turns away from the pressure. A skilled western rider never has to put pressure on the bit to get their horse to move where they want to. The only time I would ever use the bit to turn a horse is if it had gone runaway, in which case you pull on one rein hard enough to forcibly turn their head to the side. That makes it nearly impossible for a runaway horse to keep going. For English horses though, neck reining is a supplement to direct rein. It is standard to pull on the rein in order to put light pressure on the bit.

    We do indeed pull back on the reins to stop a horse—combined with the movements you described in your OP—but just as with using direct rein when riding English style, the key word is light.

    Same with kicking to get a horse to start moving. I don't really know how other riding styles handle it, but I can describe how Western style does it. While you typically should be able to get a horse to start moving with a light squeeze of the legs, the more stubborn ones can require a light tap with the heels, doing it again with increasing with force if they still won't move. If you reach levels of force where you're afraid of hurting the horse with a kick, a light slap on the hindquarters with the reins will usually work. The key word in all of these is, again, light. It's really the same as what you describe, just a difference of vocabulary and definition of what constitutes a "kick."

    Riding in the American West has a history of brutality, which has thankfully been mostly eradicated in modern times. The horses we used were work horses. They had to be able to be ridden by novices and by people who simply didn't have the time to train out the little annoyances and bad form. Not only that, the culture of the people who developed the style was that of toughness and willingness to do the job no matter how physically uncomfortable, and they expected that of their horses too. Thus, as a style, it adopted a lot of techniques that are less about refinement than about getting any horse, no matter what temperament it has, to do what you need it to do. Again, most of the brutality has been stamped out in modern times, but to someone used to a different style, it looks extremely unrefined, and some of the methods described sound painful if you have the wrong picture of the amount of force involved.
     
  10. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    She wants to talk about horses, not the UN...goodness sake;)

    If I was a woman I'd be horse mad, all the kit, rosettes - just never turned out that way.
     
  11. sierraromeobravo
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    sierraromeobravo Member

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    This is so rewarding....I thought I was the only one who thought this.
     
  12. hummingbird
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    hummingbird Member

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    I think this is really where the problem arises. Yes, you can ride a horse by kicking it and yanking the reins around. But usually these book horses are described as perfectly behaved, in tune with their riders (who happen to be expert horsemen - even if it's their first time on horseback), frequently knowing what the rider wants before the rider does. Yet the rider still throws the horse around with these crude cues. A horse that was that in tune would follow the rider's seat without any need for the yanking.

    If they were talking about beginner riders and/or stubborn horses, the descriptions would be fine. But as they stand, they are often incongruent with the rest of the relationship.
     
  13. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Now that's something I can get behind. The mismatch between the stated skill levels and how they handle the horses can be quite aggravating. I'd almost prefer the stories that just treat them like cars or motorcycles, a machine that does what you tell it, and only what you tell it.

    On a little side note, if you're curious about how video games handle that issue, the one I've found that most accurately conveys how it feels to handle a horse is Shadow of the Colossus. In most other games, they really are nothing more than a re-skinned vehicle.
     
  14. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    There are a lot of Western riders around here as well. And it still looks a lot more friendly than what some books describe :p
     
  15. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    There are a lot of Western riders around here as well. And it still looks a lot more friendly than what some books describe :p
     
  16. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    We can always put the theory to the test using historical accounts.

    Walter Scott: Charger of the Dragoon Crusades

    ‘Ya ya, giddy up.’

    I pulled upon the rein and Charger motored across the verdant hillside.

    He throttled via nostrils, his majestic flank glistening with the white foam as we approached the enemy lines.

    Charger flew - a magnificent body - as black as any blackjack on the tongue. His neigh captured the sky and his spirit carried bolder than the pitched nightmares of the devil. He spied the Saracen melee and lowered his head spike, and together we ran, a beast on all fours and I, a mere man upon the back’s saddle. With both my eyes and with his eyes, and with our arms we sliced past the gathered ranks of spears. Head first he pierced the flesh of a slave boy, the lad impaled upon the tip of the spike. The stallion, with the shine on his teeth, sparkled in victory, waving corpses of the defeated like the corn cobs tossed aside, dead and screaming…

    ‘The infidel pony,’ cried Saladdin.

    For this action and valour in battle Charger was awarded his first Dickon medal, in our time, not since Bethlehem has a quadropod…



    .
    Is a work of juvenelia, requires much edit, if anybody would like to try..
     
  17. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yay! Matwoolf's back!
     
  18. matwoolf
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    matwoolf Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yay Jannert, chill...sharks'll eat me. Put these on...no, not those, these.
     
  19. nevari
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    nevari Member

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    I think if it is a quick scene with a powerful want of excitement people tend to see it in their mind of.. kicking and pulling. Many shows with horses have it.. And like with any subject, those that don't know and aren't as In love with it.. then they don't research a scene that is really just point A to point B with more emphasis on why... what for.. and not correct horse knowledge.
    But then again some with great know how just don't. My family watches (not that we ALL love it) mechanical shows.. all the while giggling inside as my husband (their dad) groans, gripes, and nearly goes insane with telling any and all. "That is NOT the way it is done.. They don't have any idea what they are talking about"
    where I think the shiny chrome and not yet used engine looks just fine.
    I hear people go nuts about things about my job and they just never do their research... it is what it is.
    Lone Ranger.. watch it.. :)
    and I love horses and hate kicking and pulling.. and refuse to go to the circus due to cruelty to phants (What our family calls elephants)
     
  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    This is another example where personal experience is far better than throwing queries at a search engine.

    Someone who has never ridden would base their equestrian writing on what they thing they see on the screen (cinema or TV). I'n by no means an expert rider, but I've ridden enough times to know what you are talking about intuitively. Someone who has never ridden might not even think to ask.
     
  21. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've wondered why is that? Shetlands seem to be notorious even though they're so small whereas big horses like Shires seem to be generally calm by nature. I figured one day I'd buy a Shire and a Shetland, house them next to each other, and hopefully the Shetland's feisty temper would rub off on the Shire, so s/he would become a true battle horse who bites and kicks everyone except me and KaTrian. Whaddaya mean it's a dumb idea? :D

    I'm just waiting for my first time in the saddle (me and KaTrian are gonna go riding together next month). It's going to be awesome. Luckily for me, we'll be riding Icelandic horses which, I've heard, are fairly forgiving for beginners such as myself. I've always wanted to try riding horses, but haven't had the opportunity to do so until now. I'm looking forward to all the new things I will learn that will help me describe horses, riding etc. in my writing.

    I try to do IRL as much as I can of the things that I write about. The next stage (with equestrianism) would be to learn to fence on horseback because a couple of our stories include mounted combat. It's just a challenge to find someone experienced enough in the art in such a small country as Finland (whereas I know of at least a couple of schools in the States that do teach medieval mounted combat).
    Before that, however, I need to learn to ride properly and fence with longswords. Good times... :cool:
     
  22. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Heh, yeah, Shetlands are fun. We had a very cranky Shetland stallion at the stables I used to frequent, but he was also really, really small. It was cute. Until he bit or kicked you.

    Rohan is one riding school in Finland that teaches mounted combat and medieval riding in general.
     
  23. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    Well this summer I'm going to experiment with my horse to see if it's doable for someone who isn't a very good rider to hit someone from horse back :p Our victim will be a stack of hay and we'll probably use a foam sword to assure the horse's safety. I'm quite sure new riders won't be able to control the horse and slay enemies at the same time... but well it just seems like fun to try it out :p
     
  24. Shandeh
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    Shandeh Active Member

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    We use a foam sword and 'slay enemies' on a regular basis with our riding students - it's great for developing balance. It's also heaps of fun.

    I'm also super tempted to have a mounted 'battle' with a few friends, foam swords, and rules stating that if you're hit on a limb you can't use it anymore [so if you lose your sword arm you're in a bit of trouble, and if you lose both arms you have no reins to control your horse with]. If you're hit in the chest, you're dead. Neck or head the same. That'll be with fit horses and riders who are capable enough to just about hang off the side of a horse at canter [and get back upright again!] without falling off. Just a matter of getting together enough friends and horses.
     
  25. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    I'd love to do a joust some day (for the show) but well my horse isn't suitable for that and I do think i cannot ride well enough for that.
     

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