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Ask me about horses.

Discussion in 'Research' started by Telemecus, Jan 12, 2013.

  1. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I went to check out a riding school when I had the urge to learn to ride. In the English/hunting form the owner of the school explained that their beginner/training horses are used to people [usually children] getting on them in whatever manner worked... as long as the horse was okay [and they seemed to be very content and chilled horses].
    I got the impression that for the occasional/weekend rider getting on from one side or the other was more to do with the muscles in the leg being strong enough, the horses in the stables were pretty tolerant.
    The more advanced horses [where you learn to canter, gallop etc.] were more traditionally trained, to accept mounting from the left. I think a few would tolerate it from either side but not many.
    Tom and Laurence like this.
  2. Russ

    Russ Istar

    You have no idea how excited I am to have access to someone with knowledge about horses. Thanks much for this thread.

    I am writing some scenes where my characters are travelling in hills and mountains, which lead me to a couple of questions.

    Firstly, are their types or breeds of horses better for that kind of terrain. Secondly at what point does an upward, or downward slope, or a slope with debris become unwise to ride a horse on, or even make a horse walk up/down?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  3. Tom

    Tom Istar

    First, for a mountainous journey, no light horses. That rules out breeds like Thoroughbreds, Arabs, etc. No heavy horses either, which rules out draft horses and some of the heavier warmblood breeds. They're just too big. For a mountain trek you want horses with strength and stamina, as well as enough dexterity to get around tight spots. I'd suggest ponies. The Norwegian Fjord Horse and the Icelandic Horse are both tough, rugged ponies built for riding across rough terrain.

    Second, horses don't do well on steep slopes, whether going up or down. It's kind of scary to ride a horse up and down an incline of more than thirty-five degrees. Horses really aren't built for rocky terrain, either, and will slip on debris. They often panic, too, because they're most comfortable on an even plain.
    Russ likes this.
  4. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    In my mountains I use stockier more compact horses that can survive on poor quality food throughout a long winter. ON the plains, I have several varieties of horses including draft horses for plowing huge grain fields, elegant and swift horses meant to pull noble carriages in nearby cities, and varieties of war horses that are stronger and smarter and therefore more appropriate for armored men in combat.

    I wrote a scene where a young soldier took his mountain horse into a swamp and had to lead his mount on foot because the horse was too heavy and ill-equipped for the marshy ground. The character mused at one point about how his horse differed from the local animals which sported broad hooves, long legs, and lithe bodies.

    The thing is, horses are like dogs...lots of small variations that give you a huge range of characteristics to play with. Some have long coats for harsh winters, others short coats for humid climates (because unlike dogs that don't sweat, horses do and can freeze to death if they get overworked and aren't dried). Some horses have long legs that help them run fast and jump high, while some have short legs and can work in mines or haul super heavy loads. Some have friendly dispositions while others are ornery and even malicious. Some get jumpy over the smallest thing and freak out (sometimes seriously hurting themselves) while others are steady plodders who aren't bothered by anything that doesn't immediately spell threat.

    The interesting thing I've noticed in my limited experience with horses, is that like the domesticated dog, advantages have drawbacks. An animal might look beautiful and be mean-spirited, or it might be fast as heck but also jumpy and prone to bolting. In writing horses, I think it's important to take the animal's job into consideration. My war horses are very special breeds, almost an issue of national pride in some ways. A well-trained war horse in my plains kingdom can cost something like $100k. Those animals aren't the really special ones, just sort of the standard war horse with minimal training to make it combat-ready (not jumpy, comfortable wearing armor and carrying an armored soldier, etc.) Meanwhile in my cities, nobles pay high prices for beautiful horses (rare colors or spots) for their carriages, with little concern for their temperaments (because the grooms have to deal with that sort of thing, right?)

    It's funny I have given a lot of consideration to horses in my world even though it doesn't play a huge part in the stories themselves. One of my characters retired and became a horse-breeder however and after I did that, I just had too much fun contemplating what horses meant to my characters.

    I've always wanted a horse. I rode a little when I was in high school but not recently. I am however an archer and would love to participate in mounted archery in the future. I'm not sure whether I can ever afford a horse of my own, but if I can, I'd love a big beautiful Belgian Draft Horse because I think it would be so pretty and they're just the friendliest, kindest animals. I think a lot of draft breeds are like that, because they've worked so closely with humans for so long. Ooh, or maybe a Frisian. I don't really know that much about what makes a horse a good companion animal, but I love draft breeds.
    BronzeOracle, Russ and Tom like this.
  5. LadyUmbranox

    LadyUmbranox New Member

    Fellow horseperson here! I've been riding and training most of my life, and have practiced many disciplines. I started off as a three-day eventer (English), have ridden western, heavy trails, and I now ride bitless and with a very light saddle. I've done a lot of my own research on tack (equipment) and training styles over history.

    The best breeds for mountainous riding are the gaited breeds, so Rocky Mountain Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, etc. They're extremely hardy and can climb a wide variety of terrain. Nice temperment as well.

    I wouldn't have an exact angle for steepness, but a strong, well-trained horse can handle some pretty steep climbs. You want to keep that at a short distance, though, and with anything steep there is added danger of slipping so it's good to keep that in mind.

    As for horses spooking when being mounted from the right side, I can only see that happening with a young horse or one who hasn't been trained well. I train all my horses to mount from either side and be led from either side, so I've never really had that problem, nor have I noticed any really bad incidents in my years, even when I ran camps and riding lessons.

    Generally horses in the middle ages were better trained than horses are today for things like long-distance and ease of use. Horses today are a bit spoiled and spook more often because many aren't exposed to things like weapons and loud sounds like horses in war-torn eras would be.

    For the left-handed character, he'd probably still use everything the same. Unless he's a prince who insists I doubt they would create entirely new pieces of tack... I mean, there are plenty of lefty riders today who use the same tack, right? Just a thought.

    I'm here like the others above for any questions, and can help especially with historical training methods and equipment. :) Hope I can be of help!

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