Getting The Little Details About Horses Right

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Have you ever read a novel where the character meets a wild horse in the forest? The horse looks at the character. The character looks into the eyes of the horse. Then he jumps on its back and gallops away. Did you think that was logical? If you said no, you’re correct.

Accuracy is important in fiction. Getting the little details right are just as important as the big ones. Little errors can undermine the believability of the entire novel.

The following are just a few things you should know if you’re writing a story where horses play an integral role.

Know the difference between stallions, mares, geldings, colts, and fillies. Stallion=male, Mare=female, Gelding=male, colt=young male under the age of 4, filly=young female under the age of 4.

Geldings cannot reproduce. They are castrated.

When a mare (female horse) foals (has a baby), the baby is a foal. A foal can refer to either sex. If it is male, it’s called a colt and if it’s a female, it’s called a filly. Colts don’t change into fillies. Their color and sex don’t change from page to page even though some authors think so.

Foaling (birthing) is a very messy procedure. Mares do not need help birthing the foal unless there’s a problem. Grabbing the foal’s legs and pulling it out can be very dangerous to both animals if you don’t know what you’re doing. Seeing it in a movie is for dramatic effect, and not realistic.

Know the breeds of horses and differences. For instance, you would never see a huge Clydesdale on a race track.

Food basics are water, hay, grass and grain. Horses like routine. They know when it’s time for their feed. The character can’t suddenly remember that the horses need feed the day after they should have been fed. Well, he could, but that would be animal abuse.

Training is necessary. They need breaking and need to get accustomed to a rider. All horses need training for the safety of the rider and the horse.

Riding. Someone who has never been on a horse, can’t mount the horse, gallop away, and expect to stay on. This is a common error seen in novels and movies.
Clothes: Boots are more appropriate in a stable and /or stall than $800 Ferragamo shoes with four inch heels.
Do your homework. There are many books at every level on horses and horse care in bookstores or your local library. And, finally, use the internet for research. There are numerous sites devoted to horses and horse care.

If you have questions, I will be happy to answer them.

Anne Johnson has a BA degree in English and minors in History and Journalism. She is the owner of two thoroughbreds.

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