1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Ask me about Horses

Discussion in 'Research' started by thefeyfox, May 31, 2014.

  1. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    Hey guys,
    I don't even know if I'm allowed to start a thread like this, but I thought I would put it out there (admin feel free to delete it) for anyone with questions about horses, gear or anything relating to that aspect of your novel.

    I have been working with horses for over 10 years in a professional setting and would love to be of service in any way I can!
     
  2. Queshire

    Queshire Auror

    1,077
    241
    63
    Hmmm... This may be a bit of a vague question but in your opinion what are the most common mistakes fantasy writers make when it comes to horses and what would be the correct things to do instead?
     
  3. hots_towel

    hots_towel Minstrel

    57
    7
    8
    i once heard in a documentary about Billy the Kid that the average horse can only gallop at full speed for about 1 mile before getting fatigued. is this true?
     
  4. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    This is an awesome question. I would say that the most common mistake made by fantasy writers would be overcompensating for their lack of knowledge when it comes to the topic of horses by using "horse" terms. Most of the time it's not even necessary to reference area's of the horse unless your character is doing something specific that involves that area and is important.

    The second most common mistake, that, to the average human who has any working horse knowledge, would make it painfully obvious you, as the writer, have no idea what you are talking about is referencing the "slapping" or "shaking" of the reins. These terms/actions are not used unless you are driving a team of horses (aka, horses pulling a carriage or cart). When riding a single horse the proper way to urge your horse forward is to use your voice, aka clicking or kissing, or use your calves/heels.

    Hope that helps!
     
  5. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    I would have to agree with that statement, yes. Although horses can run further than a mile at high speeds, even horses who train their entire lives to simply run, and run fast, can only do so for a handful of miles. The longer distances for flat, track races is around two and a half miles (the average is 1.5mi), and while the horses are running extremely fast (between 30/40mph) they are usually held back at the beginning of the race to keep energy and then released into their full length near the end expending the remainder of their endurance.

    The crazy thing about horses is that even though they can only go full speed for around a mile, they will continue to push and push and push for their rider, and it is not unheard of for a horses heart to just explode or for their legs to give out resulting in a rider/horse crash and burn.

    thanks for asking!
     
    hots_towel likes this.
  6. IrelandBeaver

    IrelandBeaver Scribe

    29
    15
    3
    I have a few questions about horses. If you do not know the answer to some, it is alright. My WIP has a culture that utilizes horses mainly through chariots. While I know the tactics that for actual battles, I don't know much about the horses themselves. Is there a particular breed of horse that would be used for pulling chariots? Does the sex of the horse matter in pulling? I remember that on a behind the scenes of Return of the King, the filmmakers mentioned that there was a mare in heat and some of the horses became aggressive, so I didn't know if that would put emphasis on either all male or all female horse teams. Is there a noticeable difference betweens non-castrated and castrated horses in terms of behavior?

    Finally, just a generic horse question. I remember watching a survival show a number of years ago where someone had a horse, but he was very picky about where he stopped for the horse to eat. Are there certain grasses that horses cannot eat?
     
  7. Sir Kieran

    Sir Kieran Scribe

    39
    3
    8
    Hello!

    Thank you for starting this thread! Horses are necessary for my story, but I've never ridden one before. I'm basically clueless! I'm just wondering what you think the biggest problems a horse might face on a long journey - distance, energy, food, water? Horses are built for running, but do any dangers come to mind if a horse was taken on a journey across a continent?
     
  8. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    Great questions IrelandBeaver

    Is there a particular breed of horse that would be used for pulling chariots? Does the sex of the horse matter in pulling?


    There are definitely breeds that are more equip to pull, being built longer and leaner (for distance) or shorter and thicker (for strength) but I think the real answer to your question would be a matter of geography. Take for instance the Middle East. What we now know as the Arabian horse is the prize breed, so the odds are that in past times a variation of this breed was used to pull (see Barb Horse or Turkoman Horse, etc).

    I would like to add, though, as a reminder/warning that unless the culture from which your hero or character comes from prides themselves on the lineage/breeding of a specific breed of horse I wouldn't consider it something to mention in your writing. As I stated in my response to Queshire, it's not usually necessary information.

    Does the sex of the horse matter in pulling?

    Negative, although there are benefits and hangups to depending on which you choose. History shows that in Ancient Egypt Pharoh had an entire line of mares that were bred specifically for pulling - highly prized, as well. Song of Solomon 1:9 in the Bible draws attention to that, "I liken you, my darling, to a mare among Pharaoh's chariot horses."

    While it isn't unheard of for stallions to pull alongside mares, it can post a problem if either aren't trained properly (and even then there can be issues). It is more common for a mix of geldings and mares to pull together, as mares can get "bitchy" with one another and geldings tend to be quite mellow across the board. The term Gelding refers to a male horse who has been castrated.

    Is there a noticeable difference betweens non-castrated and castrated horses in terms of behavior?

    Definitely. While there are stallions with very mellow temperaments, the general understanding is that stallions have more "fire" in them, while geldings tend to be more mellow in temperament. Mares, like women, usually tend to get "emotional" when they are in heat or approaching their cycle, and for some mares it's quite a big deal (again, like some women;) ), it has been shown that neutering a mare can help with this, but is much less common to have done than say in cats or dogs.

    I wouldn't say, though, that temperament of a stallion was the reason in which Kings would enter battle upon them, or the reason for which they were coveted and prized - I think it was more a status symbol. Stallions were the bringers of life, the symbol of strength and masculinity (which as we all know was given emphasis throughout most of history) - kind of a tangent, but I hope that helps!

    Are there certain grasses that horses cannot eat?


    Hmmm. Nothing in my memory pops out as something to be mentioned. Although there are several species of flowers/weeds that are poisonous to horses, it wouldn't be anything I would be super worried about as horses are such large creatures it would take a generous amount of anything to put them down.

    Perhaps the area in which he was traveling was sandy? Horses can sand colic quite easily, which will leave a rider without a mount in a matter of hours.


    cheers!
    thefeyfox
     
    IrelandBeaver likes this.
  9. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    Hi Kieran! Thanks for your question!

    I think the issues for horses would be much the same as for human, really, especially depending on the environment in which they are traveling. Food is obviously a bit less of an issue as horses can graze so long as there is grass on the journey. Fatigue would be something worth noting. To maintain a healthy digestive tract and metabolism, 75% or more of a horse's diet should consist of forage and in the wild 60-80% of a horses waking hours are spent grazing, so for a horse who is doing hard work and long distances it can be deduced that either long periods of time would need to be given for a healthy horse, supplementing (not exactly plausible on a cross country trek, especially in dated pieces) or the general understanding that like their human counterpart, the horse would just be functioning in a state of fatigue. We all push through, though.

    Energy can be conserved/restored, though, by having rests in towns, or having the rider spend a day walking instead of riding their horses.

    The only other notable "danger" I would say would be predators. If you are traveling through a barren wasteland in which there are large predators, a horse would be easy pickings, really, if the predator was confident enough (especially considering most horses are picketed at night by their riders).

    Hope that helps!
     
  10. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
    Here's a question: how far can a rider travel without stopping to resupply, and how far does each pack horse extend that?

    That is, how much food (horse and human) can a horse with a rider carry, and how far can they travel on that? And then, how much capacity does a horse without a rider have after loading up its own food, and how much does that add to their range?
     
  11. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    I suppose it would depend on what time and where your horse and rider are traveling through. The basic rule for weight is a horse can pack 20% of it's body weight, but that is a horse in good condition, not taking into account weather conditions, altitude etc.

    So how much can a horse with a rider carry? depends how much your rider weighs, and what type of food you would be packing. If you have specifics for me I could do some calculations, but the above mentioned rule should help you on your way! 20% for a healthy animal, 10-15% for long distances/rough terrain/fatigued or older packers.
     
  12. ascanius

    ascanius Inkling

    475
    114
    43
    Just thought I would mention this one, sort of a pet peeve of mine. While it sounds cool to hear horses running over cobblestones is a very VERY bad idea. If the horse needs to stop or perhaps turn it might as well be wearing greased horse shoes for all the help they do. anything faster than a trot can be hazardous to the horse and rider if a change in direction is called for, especially at a gallop. Horseshoes just don't have the traction to be viable over something as solid as stone or asphalt. If the horse is unshod you get a different problem mostly it will wear away the hoof very quickly.
     
  13. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3

    Not to mention how terrible it is for their bones to run on concrete or cobblestone! Horses are not immune to shinsplints, and even accumulative trotting on asphalt or hard surfaces expedite the inevitability. Good point, ascanius!
     
  14. Cloud

    Cloud Minstrel

    82
    5
    8
    Hiya,

    Quick question about horse breeding (desert island scenario):

    If you were starting with an initial stock of 20 horses (10 male, 10 female) with no access to outside additions, and were focused on intensive breeding, how quickly could you get up to a couple of thousand horses?

    What's the fertile age range for a mare?
    How many foals can they have, one after another?
    What's the mortality rate for bearing offspring?
    What other factors would effect this equation.., etc?

    Can we represent this optimal population growth as a mathematical formula?
     
  15. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    Hi Cloud!
    Thanks for your questions - are these horses wild? I'm going to answer these questions assuming they are captive horses.


    What's the fertile age range for a mare?

    Mares come into season at around 18 months but it is best to wait to breed them until they are around 4 years old as they are still growing before then. It can be potentially hazardous and or damaging long term if they are bred before than. Mares can be bred well into their twenties, but in your scenario (a desert island) I would assume the mares aren't in the best shape (unless they are prized stock for a king or something) - at any rate, it would probably be wise to breed them from around 3/4-20/21 years of age.


    How many foals can they have, one after another?

    Yep! Mares can have foals one after the other.

    What's the mortality rate for bearing offspring?
    Again, I am basing this off of domestic horses - the mortality rate is usually pretty low. Occasionally there are complications for both mother and foal, but in my 10+ years of working with horses professionally I've never experienced or known someone who had a mare or foal complication death. Feel free to do more research on this, I know I wasn't the biggest help!


    What other factors would effect this equation.., etc?

    For older mares you can have a tear in the uterine wall which causes slow bleeding and is fatal in around 50% of mares, but that is Post-Birth. Sand colic could be an issue for foals who are having to forage in desert geography. Again, not a huge help but I hope it's something!

    cheers!
     
    Cloud likes this.
  16. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,581
    395
    83
    Back in the days of widespread horseback riding, where would travelers park their horses when visiting towns? Did they have stables for public usage analogous to modern parking lots?
     
  17. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3

    Hey Mate:

    Yea. Typically taverns/lodging places would have stables attached for their stock, along with hired hands that attended to the stock. I reckon some towns also had a regular stable that you could rent/buy/rest horses. I guess a lot of that would depend on the size of the town/city/village etc!
     
    Jabrosky likes this.
  18. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
    Add to that, most of the people who had horses and weren't busy on farms were the rich (or their agents) visiting the rich. So you could simply put your horse in your host's or guild's stable.

    The main exception might be for houses within the city proper, and then it would depend on crowding and customs (or laws) whether those might have stables too. But then, many lords preferred living on estates around the edges of cities (the original suburbs), and you had the conflict between the lords' base of wealth and power in the countryside vs the merchants' and bureaucrats' power in the city itself.
     
  19. thefeyfox

    thefeyfox Dreamer

    21
    11
    3
    wordwalker likes this.
  20. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

    1,474
    397
    83
Loading...

Share This Page