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View Full Version : Horse Research: Wet tack, wet horse, lots of rain



Hayley E. Lavik
05-19-2010, 07:24 AM
Need a little advice from anyone who knows horses, tack, overland travel, and the like.

In the scenario I'm working with, my characters are riding for their lives with one horse I'm trying not to exhaust (you know, not forgetting it can't run all day just because it's a horse). Endurance and the like, I grasp, but I've run into a small detail I simply can't find information on.

I've put these characters (and the horse) through a soaking in a lake, another soaking, and some very heavy rainfall. I know they ideally need to stop and dry off, especially the horse and its tack, to say nothing of their own things, but that simply isn't an option when they're trying to put distance between themselves and what's pursuing them. I'm not trying to create ideal conditions for the poor horse, because frankly every character deserves to suffer at one point :), but I also don't want to be foolish or excessive. I've read plenty of things where the writer seems to forget horses get exhausted, chafed, sick, etc just like their human characters.

So my detail questions are:

1] What sort of potential problems (discomfort, injury, severe health, etc) would arise from throwing wet tack on a horse for a getaway? What about general prolonged exposure to wet and cold (autumn) for the horse?

2] What sort of problems might this pose for the tack itself? How soon might it start to mold or rot, or otherwise degrade from dampness? How long would basic tack take to dry out on its own or say near a fire?

I'm dealing with an early-Renaissance-ish fantasy setting, so tack of course won't match today's typical designs, but I can translate things well enough if anyone can answer this from a modern perspective.

And of course, any other details you may have to throw in regarding this scenario. If there are issues I might not even think about, I'd rather be corrected now than later!

thothguard51
05-19-2010, 07:36 AM
Horses are just like people. Depending on weather, they can develop lung colds, arthritis, Jack Spasms, muscle cramps and rotting hoofs. They also can be cranky in bad weather. It there is/was lots of lightening, they can be spooked real easy.

As too the tack, the leather was more than likely heavier than today's standard. Also, the tack would have been kept oiled to keep it from rotting, so water is not going to be a big deal with the saddle and tack.

As to the scene, if it comes down too it, the horse can be sacrificed to save the riders. While you the author may not care to do this...your characters are going to be more worried about their health than the horses. Many a cowboy rode their horse into the ground to escape a posse, Indian's, or Mexican Bandits.

I couldn't do this myself in real live and more than likely would turn my horse loose and keep going my own way.

shaldna
05-19-2010, 12:40 PM
So my detail questions are:

1] What sort of potential problems (discomfort, injury, severe health, etc) would arise from throwing wet tack on a horse for a getaway? What about general prolonged exposure to wet and cold (autumn) for the horse?

2] What sort of problems might this pose for the tack itself? How soon might it start to mold or rot, or otherwise degrade from dampness? How long would basic tack take to dry out on its own or say near a fire?

I'm dealing with an early-Renaissance-ish fantasy setting, so tack of course won't match today's typical designs, but I can translate things well enough if anyone can answer this from a modern perspective.

And of course, any other details you may have to throw in regarding this scenario. If there are issues I might not even think about, I'd rather be corrected now than later!


Ok, you'll need to make sure you have a cloth/pad under the saddle, because it'll keep a grip where smooth leather might slide when wet.

It could rub, and cause chaffing for the horse, which could lead to sores and bald spots and be very uncomfortable.

Bridles will usually be fine and won't rub too much, even when soaked.

Leather can take a good soaking, and it's not the getting wet that's the problem,, it's the drying out.

Leather that isn't dried out thoroughly will start to mould in a matter of a day or two if left damp.

Also, don't dry it out beside a fire, because it will dry too fast and crack. Dry it slowly. Firstly give it a good hand dry with a towel, if the leather has been properly cared for prior to this, ir: well oiled etc, then it shouldn't be soaked through. After you have hand dried it - taking care to remove any mud and dirt etc, and your tack is starting to dry - oil it with leather oil, really well. Let this soak in and then keep reapplying. You want to saturate the leather with oil. This preserves it, keeps it soft, stops it cracking or warping, and more importantly, it keeps it waterproof.

I would leave it to dry overnight at the very least.

sheadakota
05-19-2010, 02:03 PM
My first thought when i read this was, can you dump the saddle? If your MC is on the run, tacking the horse up and taking it off is going to waste precious time- also a wet saddle and blanket is most likely going to cause pressure sores on your horse where the saddle rubs, even if it fits well the water will cause it to slide more.
Think about trying to walk in soaked jeans- those bad boys are going to chafe in all the wrong places.
If they want to get up and move fast, I would ditch the saddle and ride bareback- less comfortable for the rider but it will help make the horse last longer-

shaldna
05-19-2010, 03:47 PM
My first thought when i read this was, can you dump the saddle? If your MC is on the run, tacking the horse up and taking it off is going to waste precious time- also a wet saddle and blanket is most likely going to cause pressure sores on your horse where the saddle rubs, even if it fits well the water will cause it to slide more.
Think about trying to walk in soaked jeans- those bad boys are going to chafe in all the wrong places.
If they want to get up and move fast, I would ditch the saddle and ride bareback- less comfortable for the rider but it will help make the horse last longer-


This is true. Chaffing is a major issue.

However, have you ever tried to ride a horse bareback in the rain. At any sort of speed you're gonna slip and fall.

sheadakota
05-19-2010, 03:49 PM
This is true. Chaffing is a major issue.

However, have you ever tried to ride a horse bareback in the rain. At any sort of speed you're gonna slip and fall.
well I didn't say it would be easy-lol! ;)

pilot27407
05-20-2010, 08:57 AM
As someone who used to race horses (harness), I can tell you that a horse would last longer in cold than hot weather. Rain would also cool them down and allow them to go farther. A soft ground would also be easier on their tendons and hooves and one with big hooves would travel easier than a horse with small hooves (they don’t sink in the mud). Naturally, a real soggy ground would slow them down, considerably (but also the pursuers). Pushing a horse over its limit would eventually kill him (but your people can’t afford to worry about that). Going flat out, a horse could only travel a very short distance (not over 5 miles), you push him over that and he’d drop. Traveling at half speed (light gallop), a horse could go 15 maybe even 20 miles. At a light trot, a good horse could go almost a whole day (provided he’s given water and a 10-15 min rest every other hour or so. Much depends also on the weight he’s carrying. A gelding would outlast a stallion and both would go much farther than a mare.

shaldna
05-20-2010, 01:02 PM
As someone who used to race horses (harness), I can tell you that a horse would last longer in cold than hot weather. Rain would also cool them down and allow them to go farther. A soft ground would also be easier on their tendons and hooves and one with big hooves would travel easier than a horse with small hooves (they donít sink in the mud). Naturally, a real soggy ground would slow them down, considerably (but also the pursuers). Pushing a horse over its limit would eventually kill him (.

It depends on alot of factors, too hard and too soft are both as bad as each other. Muddy ground is a curse and is asking for a pulled tendon or a fall.

Horses have differnt preferences and some cope better than others with hard/soft ground.

Also, whether the horse is shod is a factor too. Horses with shoes need medium soft- light firm ground, anything harder and the concussive force will lead to stress fractures and lameness, anything too soft/muddy and they are gonna loose a shoe which could in turn lead to lameness issues if you continue to ride on it.

Fenika
05-21-2010, 04:40 AM
While certain situations would force you to sacrifice the horse for your life, the person might need the horse long term.

You have a horse, your pursuer has a horse, you have a head start, and the rain is helping cover your tracks- just keep riding at the fastest speed your horse can go, and yeah, stopping to rest, and hope you stay ahead. Lose the horse and you damn well better have somewhere to hide and a way to not get cornered/encircled. Plus, once they find your dead horse they'll be on you like stink on cheese :)

Otoh, accidents happen and horses break legs, pull tendons, colic, etc.

I love to ride bareback, but I'd risk my horse's skin chaffing before I rode a wet horse through terrain without a saddle. Otoh, I may go to mount and find my ass quickly bucked off b/c the horse's chaffed back HURTS. (At that point, I MIGHT be able to ditch the tack and if the horse isn't as sore with me riding bareback, I'll take my chances.)

So much great stuff can go wrong :)

And I second that fire=bad. Water isn't what kills leather, it's rapid wet-dry cycles. I've left many leather bits in the elements 24/7 and they've only cracked a little due to absolute neglect (no oiling). (And if you are wondering- crown piece of halter: out with horse. Leather bit at end of lead rope: Left by gate, on ground, whatever. Never a bridle, because then I'd have to clean and oil and all that, as mentioned above.)

And I'm not sure about this, but I don't think you'd have to oil a saddle every night in the rain. Plus if you are making a run for it, you won't care if your saddle is a moldy smelly pos that will start cracking soon. You'd prolly hit the highlights- girth, straps (parts that need not to break)- get it as dry as you could, hang it on a tree branch or something, and get some sleep. I haven't had this problem, so someone can correct me if I'm wrong.

Hayley E. Lavik
05-21-2010, 11:30 AM
My subscription stopped mailing me notifications, so I didn't realize I had so many responses. Thank you everyone for your insights, and especially the hard details. I have a lot of great options here to weigh as I dive into this scenario, so hopefully I'll bring them all together in a logical combination! I have no problem pushing the horse horribly (I'm doing the same to the characters), but just want to ensure I'm not just ignoring the effects hard travel will have on it.

How much would riding pillion affect all this? As I mentioned, I've got two characters and only one horse, since circumstances didn't afford grabbing spares. When the immediate pressure eases off, I don't intend them to double-up, as they can keep a decent pace with one riding and the other on foot, or both walking to give the horse a break, but for the immediate "We need distance or we will die," either they have to ride together or I'll have to look at some other options for splitting up or similar.

Does anyone have some specifics on distance, speed, and endurance when carrying two? How far would I be able to feasible push something like this, or would it be just right out altogether? I'm good with horse basics (typical teenage years in rapture with them, riding, etc) but have little experience with survival extremes :)

Thanks again, everyone!

Fenika
05-23-2010, 08:11 PM
Bumping for you-

Endurance in singles in covered all over this research forum. Do a search for 'horse distance' and 'horse endurance'

Somewhere I seem to recall someone talking about doubles. (And also, a fun story about WriteKnight doing trials for a lady to ride sidesaddle behind him in a reenactment show. He has the best stories. In fact, find all posts by him with the word 'horse' in it while you're searching :D )

Belle_91
05-23-2010, 08:27 PM
Could your characters get new horses perhaps from a livery stable? I dont know much about them, like if they were around during Renissance times, but I want to say that they were. A livery stable is basically where you can "rent" a horse, or like exchange it. You'll need to do some research on that, but if your story is set in a fantasy setting you could always change the rules a little

Belle_91
05-23-2010, 08:28 PM
Not exactly exchange one...probs couldn't do that, but hopefully you get the drift

Fenika
05-23-2010, 09:14 PM
Grab one from the baddies :) Better yet, two, then you'll have a remount and they'll be two horses shy. It's easier to escape with a remount to cycle through.

Hayley E. Lavik
05-24-2010, 04:22 AM
Could your characters get new horses perhaps from a livery stable?

Not an option at the moment, unfortunately (yes, I created an awful situation for them). They only need to hold out for this initial push, at least, since (as Fenika mentioned) their trail will be well obliterated in the weather. After that they can walk, rest, take a more reasonable pace, and possibly steal a second horse when they get near people again. (And my baddies aren't the sort that pursue on horseback ;) but that means a short, exhausted flight won't be as useless as it might be)

Fenika, thanks for the recommendations! I dug enough to find a couple things that touch briefly on doubles, and I think I can adjust estimated distances to accommodate two, and of course not for very long. Now to strike the balance between not seeming like I'm ignoring that horses are living creatures and need rest breaks, and the fact that rest breaks aren't always conducive to building tension :D

Oh, and WriteKnight's sidesaddle anecdote was priceless.

Now I'm off to delve into water-resistant, non-modern fabric options!

NoGuessing
05-24-2010, 05:13 AM
Need a little advice from anyone who knows horses, tack, overland travel, and the like.

In the scenario I'm working with, my characters are riding for their lives with one horse I'm trying not to exhaust (you know, not forgetting it can't run all day just because it's a horse). Endurance and the like, I grasp, but I've run into a small detail I simply can't find information on.

I've put these characters (and the horse) through a soaking in a lake, another soaking, and some very heavy rainfall. I know they ideally need to stop and dry off, especially the horse and its tack, to say nothing of their own things, but that simply isn't an option when they're trying to put distance between themselves and what's pursuing them. I'm not trying to create ideal conditions for the poor horse, because frankly every character deserves to suffer at one point :), but I also don't want to be foolish or excessive. I've read plenty of things where the writer seems to forget horses get exhausted, chafed, sick, etc just like their human characters.

So my detail questions are:

1] What sort of potential problems (discomfort, injury, severe health, etc) would arise from throwing wet tack on a horse for a getaway? What about general prolonged exposure to wet and cold (autumn) for the horse?

Depends where we are. Temperature? Cold will be worst when the horse stops, so when they get away dry the horse off and get rugs on him immediately, even though he'll be steaming and sweating. Water is bad for tack, but wet tack shouldn't affect the horse.

Also, like humans, at the start of the gallop if the horse has been standing still in the cold, muscles will be cold and prone to injury.

2] What sort of problems might this pose for the tack itself? How soon might it start to mold or rot, or otherwise degrade from dampness? How long would basic tack take to dry out on its own or say near a fire?

Leather dries quick. Saddle cloths will cop some mould if not cleaned. Just give the tack a good clean after.

I'm dealing with an early-Renaissance-ish fantasy setting, so tack of course won't match today's typical designs, but I can translate things well enough if anyone can answer this from a modern perspective.

And of course, any other details you may have to throw in regarding this scenario. If there are issues I might not even think about, I'd rather be corrected now than later!

When going through lakes, bear in mind if the horse has been introduced to water. Even horses that love cross country water jumps can get gunshy of large bodies of water.

jclarkdawe
05-24-2010, 06:45 PM
There are a lot of things that go into this, so you can end up with a wide variety of results.

Riding double involves two separate problems. One is the weight and the second is the distribution of the weight. The further back weight is the harder it is for the horse and the more likely it is to cause complications. Combined with this is the fact that saddles are designed around one rider, frequently forcing the second rider further back on the horse than would be desirable.

Weight capacity varies from horse to horse, but the equation basically runs along the lines of a horse that can carry one hundred pounds all day can carry two hundred pounds for half a day and three hundred pound for a quarter of a day. Notice this is not a linear function but that as weight increases, duration goes down faster and faster. There's no scientific study out there about this that I'm aware of, but packers are well aware of this equation. They always balance weight to distance. And you have to know your horse.

And the horse is important. Modern breeders are emphasizing height, leg length, and speed. All of these are detrimental to long lasting, day in, day out, performance. My horse, which is a 14-2 mustang, has feet bigger than most horses that are 16 to 17 hands. He's never had leg problems, but he isn't the fastest horse in the world. It's all about trade-offs. He's a lot more rugged than most horses, although like all horses, he's still rather delicate.

Best way for two people to travel on one horse for maximum distance in least time is an alternating program. There's actually a sport called tie and run, in which you ride the horse, tie it, run to where your partner has ridden the horse. Your partner starts out running, watching you disappear. When he arrives at where you tied the horse, he then mounts and starts riding, passing you and getting ahead of you before tying the horse to start running again. Very effective at covering a lot of distance very quickly.

The ancients had an alternative to this that works very well. When you can't securing tie the horse, you stay together. One person runs, using a tailing strap or holding onto the stirrup. The tailing strap allows the runner to use the horse to pull them along, effectively lengthening the person's stride. The additional energy consumption to the horse is minimal. Result is a speed a lot faster than a man can run, that you can keep up for long periods (remember that people that didn't have cars and horses tended to walk and run much longer distances than we do now).

For wet weather, I'd prefer a string girth. Doesn't chafe as much as the strings work independently and can be cleaned easily by throwing into a stream. Same with the blanket. If the saddle has been well maintained, a few days of rain aren't going to cause much problem. Get the water off the back as much as you can and don't worry about it. As long as everything stays moist, you're in pretty good shape. It's the part dry, part wet that's a problem.

Your people are going to be more bothered by the rain than the horse. They'll probably chafe where they rub against the saddle. A slicker is actually designed to go both under the rider to provide a layer there as well as over the rider.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

shaldna
05-25-2010, 12:02 PM
For wet weather, I'd prefer a string girth.



String girths are banned here. Tack shops aren't allowed to sell them anymore and no on makes them.