Get it Right

Originally I planned to call this blog “If You’re Going To Do It Get It Right.”  But that was a lot of words for a title.  Especially if I used the whole subject: If you’re going to use horses and dogs in a book PLEASE get it right.  Don’t suppose since you hung out at a stable when you were younger you can toss your hero on the back of a black stallion so he can go dashing off to the rescue.  You’ll guarantee book tossing from readers who know better.

Horses don’t gallop all day, no matter what we saw on Ladyhawke or Lord of the Rings.  It just doesn’t happen.  In particular, they don’t gallop all day then stand all night tied to a tree.  Those gorgeous large bodies need a lot of fuel to keep them going, and in the wild they get that food by grazing a large part of the day.  When worked hard, they need extra energy through grain or other concentrates plus grass or hay.  And woe to any rider who turns his horse out in a lush green valley if they haven’t been in pasture lately.  Horse digestive systems can be very delicate.

If you’re going to dress your people in “horsey clothes” then be sure you know what kind of boots are worn with what kind of pants in any style of riding.  If you’re not 100% positive, have a knowledgeable friend check out that part of your story.  And unless you want your modern heroine to look like a careless fool, don’t have her riding blithely across the countryside with her golden hair flowing in the wind.  Smart riders wear protective head gear.

Stallions are not the mount of choice for even experienced equestrians.  Yes, they have those neat cresty necks and they look fancy prancing around.  Trained properly they can be a decent ride but all too often their minds are more on the mare in the next pasture than on cooperating.  Which might make for an interesting plot twist but again have a knowledgeable friend check over your story before you put it out to the world.

Then we have the dogs.  But maybe I’ll save that for another day.

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9 responses to “Get it Right

  1. So very, very true. I find it annoying when I read books where travellers blithely ride their horses at a gallop for days at a time. There’s plenty of info available online about how far a horse can travel in a day, given the conditions and what it has to carry. And pul-ease don’t put your knight in shining armour on an Arab or a Thoroughbred type. Do your homework, folks.

    And do write a dog post, Mon. I’d be interested.

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  2. Tena Hawkes

    This is soooo funny! Dale is always poking fun at me whenever we’re watching movies with horses, as I’m always more focused on them than on the rest of the action.

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  3. Starr White

    So true, and I cannot wait for the dog post. They both should be distributed far and wide.

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    • Thanks Starr! And if anyone should know it would be you. For the others who follow this blog, Starr’s very accomplished son Keean is on the Canadian show jumping team and has one of the BEST seats I’ve seen on a horse in a long time. Now, get your minds out of the gutters folks, I mean the way he sits on a horse, not the way his bottom looks in breeches. Then again…

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      • Tena Hawkes

        Did anyone besides me want to smack the poodle handler (Jane Lynch) in “Best in Show”? EVERY time she took the dog in the ring it was strung up. I know they had professionals on set to teach the actors, and that it’s a lot to learn in a very short time, but she never did get it right.

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      • Sadly all too many handlers do the “fifth leg” style of leash control, where they hold the dog’s front up. Hides a myriad of faults. Those particular handlers get kind of irritated when I make them drop their hands and slow down

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  4. This is a subject that quite evidently can’t be addressed often enough… 😛 If you use horses, have a horse person read the MS. And I don’t mean someone who rode horses in summer camp. I mean a Horse Person.

    (And dogs, oh yes–! Just because you have a family dog doesn’t mean you can write about training, competing, or working dogs…)

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