Horses in Novels/Movies/Etc

Today we're going to talk about my two favorite subjects: horses and writing, at the same time. :D I'm going to talk about the parts horses can play in novels, and then some common mistakes writers make when using horses.

Horses can play minor and major parts in novels. There are entire novels and entire series devoted entirely to this beautiful animal. Black Beauty, Thoroughbreds, Pony Pals, Phantom Stallion, and the Black Stallion are just a few.

Horses can be a form of transportation. A horse can carry a person across a long distance in a fraction of the time it would take that person to walk the same distance if there aren't any cars or trains. In Tamora Pierce's Wild Magic, Daine and her friends must ride anywhere they wish to go.

Horses can be used in war. This is particularly in older, more medieval type novels when cavalry was still common. Think of the movie, Prince Caspian. They use horses for transport: when Caspian has to flee the city and when Lucy and Susan gallop into the woods looking for Aslan. They also use horses in war on both sides. They use horses to pull wagons of supplies and also the catapults.

Now here are some commonly made mistakes writers make when they use horses in novels:

1. Leaving horses tied in full tack for long periods of time. In Princess Diaries 2, Nicholaus and Mia leave their two horses tied to a tree still wearing both the saddle and the bridle. They leave them there all night with no visible access to food or water. And that is definitely not okay. The old cowboy videos where the cowboy ties a horse up to a hitching post with the bridle reins? Wrong. You should never tie a horse by the bridle, especially one that has a bit attached. If the horse panics, they can seriously injure their mouth trying to pull free. Leaving the saddle on is a little easier to accept, but the girth should always be loosened first and the saddle should never be left on for a very long time.

2. Galloping a horse a long distance without warming up. You wouldn't be able to run out your front door right now and sprint five miles without taking the time to warm up a little first.

3. Galloping a horse a long distance that isn't fit. You can't just run out into a pasture, jump on a random horse, and gallop it three miles. Equine athletes are specially trained to be able to do that, just like human athletes.

There's another one that I'm not going to mention because it's more of my pet peeve than a real mistake. If you misrepresent horses in your novel, you could potentially be turning off readers from your book. I spent five minutes glaring at one of the pages of Marked because they'd made a mistake that could've been very easily corrected. (For future reference, a curry comb does not make a 'woosh' sound. Curry combs are used in a circular motion to remove dirt and mud from the top coat.) A little research goes a long way. Consider horses as part of your world building.


Terri Farley said…
Great comments on common horse errors! Thanks for passing them on :)

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