(this is APADO, the ambitious, reckless blog series where I attempt to post once a day for the entire month of october. and really, i’ve only been succeeding by writing at night. for some reason, i am way more motivated at night.)
(and we’re back to information/advice posts. i’m tellin’ ya, life’s a steeplechase.)
(people are probably going to skip this one due to all the text. i tried, y’all.)
One of the things that I had to get used to when I started working around horses was that things weren’t exactly like I’d seen in the movies. Pretty much every cliche about horses was dangerous, stupid, or just unrealistic.
And once I’d discovered this fact, it seemed that everywhere I looked, I saw an innacuracy. Movies, books, bucket lists…it was almost too much to handle, for a while.
Since then, I’ve come to terms with the fact that not everyone has thirty million horse books or the time to read all of them. More recently, I thought it might be a good idea to go over some basic tips for writing more realistic interactions with horses.
So let’s dive into it!
What, exactly, is a horse?
This seems like a stupid question. It’s not.
A horse isn’t like a motorbike. Yes, you can steer it and change its speed, but a horse is a living, thinking creature. It has a mind of its own, and unless it’s undergone some incredible obedience training, it’s not going to blindly follow your reins and legs. Like people, horses are imperfect and have personalities. So they’re going to be stubborn, lazy, or fearful at times.
What’s a horse capable of?
Since horses aren’t machines, even the strongest, hardiest breeds get tired and grouchy. They can’t be expected to work endlessly. They need frequent breaks, plenty of food, and lots of care to keep in top condition.
Another thing that’s easy to forget about horses is their endurance. Galloping is hardly ever practical. Yes, racehorses can reach incredible speeds, but only because they’re carrying a minimal weight over a short distance. And galloping is dangerous over uneven terrain – a slippery rock or a log in the path could trip a horse and possibly break his leg, which will shut down his travels for months.
Even though it’s not as beautiful, the most efficent gait is the trot. A well-conditioned horse will be able to keep up a trot for much longer than a gallop – not to mention that it’s easier on the rider, too.
What’s a rider capable of?
It’s hard to see this from the ground, but riding is not just sitting on a horse and letting him do his thing. It’s an exhausting sport, especially for a beginner or for someone who hasn’t ridden in a while. The faster you ride, the more quickly you’ll tire out. Riders need just as many breaks as horses, perhaps even more when you count in what people are usually thinking about when they make their horseback escape.
A few other notes:
The reins of a bridle, which are attached to a metal bit in the horse’s mouth, are not a substitute for a lead rope. Tying a horse up by the reins could mean a broken bridle or severe injury in a horse’s mouth if he spooked and tried to pull away from the hitching post.
Jumping on horses is not a good idea. It hurts their backs, makes them cranky, and usually ends with a crowhop or a buck.
Horses don’t have terrific vision. Their depth perception works a lot differently than a human’s. A horse will probably smell something coming before he sees it.
Horses have a lot of blind spots. They can’t see directly above or below them, under their neck, or behind their tails. If someone’s standing in one of these blind spots, there’s a good chance he’s going to get kicked.
And gentle horsepeople are smart horsepeople. No matter how heartless or cold a person is, he’ll take care of his horse because a horse is an investment. Mistreating it will not only hurt the horse, but the person’s pocketbook.
Horses are a lot like people. They’re unpredictable, they get tired, and they need proper care. They can’t be expected to gallop everywhere or jump huge jumps, no matter how urgent the situation is. Abusing horses isn’t just harmful to the horse, but also to the owner, because the horse is an investment that should be taken care of.
And please, please, please never tie a horse by just the reins.
tl;dr: Horses aren’t vehicles.
Sayonara for now,