Saturday, March 28, 2009

The horse is not a motorcycle

Notes from a panel about using horses in fantasy literature:

No big horses before the 1800's

People should not run the horses hot and sweaty, then leave them.

Eight miles and hour is endurance speed

Eight miles the distance a buggy can go in a day

Horses are opinionated

People should not forget to lesson the saddle or take off when the horses stop

You can't Jump on totally unknown horses and then ride off on it

Horses need warm-ups

Horse bites do hurt

Muscling the horse aside is not possible. Horse push back.

Horse smarts depends on the horse

Harnesses are complicated, to put on and to train a horse too.

Harnesses must be sized to the horse. If it doesn't fit well, the horse will act up.

Different saddles will seat you differently.

Horse are not a TARDIS. They have maximum weight, and must be trained to carry stuff. Also, stuff must be carefully balanced on the horse.

The bigger the horse the less stamina it has

Mules are stronger then a horse and smarter, more endurance, and less delicate. They don't need protein, and survive on less. They are stubborn and have long memories.

Horses can be very stubborn

Older/more experienced horses that have been the rider will be more likely to do new things with these riders. Young horses are less likely.

Pay attention to the gender of the horse

Mares go into heat during the summer. Mare behaviors can change drastically. Stallions are easily distracted by mares. Stallions will compete for the mares with each other.

Stallions and geldings will get along.

Breed mares will not go into heat, but may act like their in heat.

Wild horses will act differently from domesticated horses

There is only a window of time for a domesticated horse to adopt a foal, but in a wild herd, parentage is less of an issue.

Body Language – face horse to aggression, turn shoulder to stop

Stallions want to herd others

Do not chase the horse, bribe the horse, and be friendly to the other horses to catch a horse.


  1. Horses can travel a lot more than eight miles in a day and do in endurance riding. 160 km in ten to twelve hours is competition speed.

    Riding horses, the sort people might rent at a stable to ride to the next town, were pretty amiable about carrying different people, in part because the horse was going over a familiar route.

    No horse is ever predictable.

  2. Ah, yes, the problem with notes is that they do not reflect the complete argument. If I had been taking the notes, I might have added more to them.

    The panelists did talk about endurance riding. You can carry a lot of ground in an endurance ride -- but the horse cannot do this fully loaded, nor can it do this for days on end. The eight miles a day is the amount that a horse, fully laden with the hero and the heros gear, can make on a long journey. When I commented that in my book the group takes along pack animals, thinking that the larger group would slow the train down, she said that it would be the opposite. With the load spread out on more animals, the group could travel further.

    The comment about a horses being shy about carrying unknown riders was in reference to the movie tropes where a person jumps on a fully saddled horse and rides off. Just jumping on the horse will spook it, and the unknown rider will make things worse. I've noticed that even in retal riding horses, things go much better if the rider takes a few minutes to introduce himself (or herself) to the horse.