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TheIT
01-19-2006, 11:38 PM
Let's talk horses. They're absolutely indispensable in certain genres. Whoever heard of knights in shining armor jousting on foot, or cowboys jogging into the sunset? Problem is, it's difficult to write accurately about characters who deal with horses when I've never ridden a horse in my life. So, I'm opening this thread to improve my "horse sense". I know a lot of AW members own/have ridden horses, so perhaps they could provide information which can't be found in a library. If anyone else has horse questions, please feel free to add to this thread.

Thanks in advance for any replies!

I'll start. I've got questions about using a horse or mule as a pack animal. If you're loading a horse, how do you put the stuff on the horse so you don't hurt the animal? What if you have bulky objects like boxes? How much weight is acceptable? I'm guessing at least as much as a rider, perhaps 150 to 200 pounds? How will the horse react if you try to overburden it?

DaveKuzminski
01-19-2006, 11:41 PM
knights on bicycle! A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

Cathy C
01-19-2006, 11:49 PM
Here you go! This should tell you everything you need to know.


http://www.horseandmuletrails.com/Packh.htm

You can also check the web for "hunting outfitters" and call one or two in your area to give you some hints and tips that this website might not include. But it's pretty detailed!

TheIT
01-19-2006, 11:54 PM
knights on bicycle! A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

I knew I should have picked a different example. Sigh... ;)

Thanks for the link, Cathy C, I'll take a look.

TheIT
01-20-2006, 01:25 AM
How do fearful horses react, say to a thunderstorm? Would they try to run away from the noise?

Mike Coombes
01-20-2006, 02:31 AM
Actually more knights fought on foot than on horseback - it wasn't all charging around with lances.

Had you ever considered getting riding lessons?

TheIT
01-20-2006, 02:37 AM
Riding lessons - unfortunately no, not with my back. I'm working on a fantasy WIP where my characters will be travelling by horseback, and in my current WIP the main character has a mule as a beast of burden.

reni
01-20-2006, 03:01 AM
I've never seen a horse try to run from a storm. Might depend, though, on how big an enclosure they're in, or the particular horse's temperament. I've seen horses huddle up together under a small shelter, or stand under trees. I guess horses don't know lightning strikes the tallest object ...

Julie Worth
01-20-2006, 03:18 AM
Let's talk horses. They're absolutely indispensable in certain genres. Whoever heard of knights in shining armor jousting on foot, or cowboys jogging into the sunset? Problem is, it's difficult to write accurately about characters who deal with horses when I've never ridden a horse in my life. So, I'm opening this thread to improve my "horse sense". I know a lot of AW members own/have ridden horses, so perhaps they could provide information which can't be found in a library. If anyone else has horse questions, please feel free to add to this thread.

Thanks in advance for any replies!

I'll start. I've got questions about using a horse or mule as a pack animal. If you're loading a horse, how do you put the stuff on the horse so you don't hurt the animal? What if you have bulky objects like boxes? How much weight is acceptable? I'm guessing at least as much as a rider, perhaps 150 to 200 pounds? How will the horse react if you try to overburden it?

Riding a horse is nothing. It’s easier than a camel or an elephant, and way easier than an ostrich. But if it isn’t your horse, you must first establish a relationship. Talk to it, give it an apple, breathe into one of its big nostrils. Yes, that last thing is most important.



For carrying bulky objects, camels or elephants are better.

Julie Worth
01-20-2006, 03:21 AM
How do fearful horses react, say to a thunderstorm? Would they try to run away from the noise?

Horses often get struck by lightning. You’d think they’d learn, but they don’t.

TheIT
01-20-2006, 03:24 AM
Interesting. What does breathing into the horse's nostril do? Make the horse recognize your scent?

Julie Worth
01-20-2006, 03:27 AM
Interesting. What does breathing into the horse's nostril do? Make the horse recognize your scent?

Exactly. And you're acting like a horse, so they're impressed.

TheIT
01-20-2006, 03:54 AM
What do horses do if they like you? If they don't like you?

Julie Worth
01-20-2006, 03:58 AM
What do horses do if they like you? If they don't like you?

They will bite you, or “accidentally” step on your foot. Or they will stop suddenly, or pretend to be afraid of a piece of paper and bolt into the tress. Trees with very low branches.

TheIT
01-20-2006, 04:05 AM
Low branches, eh? Ouch. Definitely a good way to get the nasty creature from off its back...

Let's say you have no choice but to try to ride a horse who doesn't want to be ridden. What would you do to catch it, or to coerce it to let you ride?

pdr
01-20-2006, 07:05 AM
There was a very good thread about horses a while back. Mac came up with most of the good answers. He also mentioned a good article for Fantasy writers at Rumour Mill. Search the AW files for the thread as it's worth it for what you want.

5KidsMom
01-20-2006, 11:24 AM
Horses I can do.

The important thing to know is that a horse is a prey animal. Other animals eat him. He will tend to assume that the scary noise/object/thing flapping in the wind is a horse eating monster, and he will react by doing his best to get out of Dodge. He can be trained to do otherwise, but his natural instinct is to bolt.

Horses are herd animals. Like every herd, there is a pecking order. He needs to know where he is in the order. If you are to have any hope of controlling him, you must be higher in the order than he is.

Horses are naturally curious. Once he is convinced that the thing in question is not going to eat him, he will want to check it out.

A horse who likes you will want to be near you, bump your arm for affection, sniff around your pocket for treats. He might attempt to play with you by grabbing onto your sleeve with his teeth. My daughter's paint will steal her hat or anything she has sticking out of her pocket and run off with it. He will lean over and blow in your face or rest his head on your shoulder. Ever seen 2 horses nose to tail in a field? That's what they do.

Packing a horse is easy, assuming that the horse is broke and accustomed to having someone reach under his belly. You can put bags on your saddle to hold things. You probably could strap boxes to the saddle but it's harder. Distribute the weight evenly and the horse shouldn't have trouble as long as he's sound.

If I had to ride a horse that didn't want to be ridden - well, it depends on how much time I have to convince him otherwise. Ideally I'd act like a dominant horse, move him around the field, circle him around me. I can make you move says in charge to a horse. I'd wait till he's ready to submit and then get on him. If I didn't have any time, I'd lure him to me with some food, jump on, hold on tight, and pray. If he really wants you off, he'll get you off.

Working with horses is a mental game. He weighs 1000 pounds. You weigh what, 1/5th of that? You're not going to strong arm him into anything. Horses definitely have different temperaments and personality. Just like dogs, certain breeds tend to have certain temperaments, but there's always the exception to the rule.

Even if you can't ride, go to a place that gives riding lessons and hang out. You'll learn a lot.

MacAllister
01-20-2006, 11:34 AM
Here's the old horse thread. :)

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11324

Aconite
01-20-2006, 06:50 PM
How do fearful horses react, say to a thunderstorm? Would they try to run away from the noise?
It depends. My small herd is led by a horse who is terrified of thunder. During thunderstorms, when the others would be inclined to use the run-in, he chases them all into the open and then runs them around the pasture in near panic. Since he's the dominant horse, when he gets scared, the others do, too, and soon they're all in a frenzy. Truly panicked horses are completely oblivious to their environment, and will run straight into solid objects--trees, fences, buildings--or other hazards, and injure or kill themselves, so this is serious.

5KidsMom gave a really good short summary, and Mac's link is a godsend of info. Julie's note about blowing into a horse's nostrils is something that many people still believe, but which some modern horsemen believe is actually rude behavior if the horse doesn't know you--sort of like being hugged and kissed by a complete stranger. Even horse experts don't agree on a lot of things.

TheIT
01-20-2006, 10:47 PM
Thank you all for the replies and the links. MacAllister, the other thread has some of the info I'm looking for and when I have a chance I'll follow the other links, but for now I hope you'll all indulge me a while longer.

How do horses establish their pecking order? What about horses interacting with mules?

In my WIP, one of the main characters has a mule. She gets a visitor who then stables his horse with the mule. Would the mule defer to the horse? Would they need to be separated?

How much space do you need to keep a horse/mule? Would it have problems being stabled in a cave (at least part of the time)?

Aconite
01-20-2006, 11:14 PM
How do horses establish their pecking order? What about horses interacting with mules?
It's very complex. Not only do horses have individual status (lead mare is lead mare because she knows the best grazing sites and when to move where for water; lead mare's foals are likely to grow up having higher status than foals of subordinate mares; and so on), they have status related to certain activities (Horse A drinks first, but Horse B eats first, and Horse C gets the best place to sleep) and status related to who their pair bond is (Horse A is best buddies with Horse D, so even though Horse D is dominant to no one, he probably doesn't get picked on much). Pecking order is often established through biting, shoving, and kicking, or threatening to bite or kick, and reinforced by the dominate horse proving it can place the subordinate's body anywhere it wants to relative to the dominant's.


In my WIP, one of the main characters has a mule. She gets a visitor who then stables his horse with the mule. Would the mule defer to the horse? Would they need to be separated?
Whichever is dominant will depend on the personalites of each. My 7-year-old, 16-hand horse was bullied unmercifully by a 3-year-old, 13.3-hand pony. Any equines you put together are going to have an adjustment period when they work out who's in charge. Keeping them physically separated (like with a fence, or in separate stalls, where they can still interact) while they get to know each other lessens the chances that one of them will end up injured when they finally do get together.


How much space do you need to keep a horse/mule? Would it have problems being stabled in a cave (at least part of the time)?
Keep them, how? Keep them stabled? Modern stalls are usually 12 feet by 12 feet, with 10 feet by 10 feet considered the minimum. This size lets the horse move around and lie down (horses can doze standing up, but can only sleep lying down; a too-small stall can result in a horse getting "cast," or unable to get back up). For a long time, especially in Britain, stalls were barely bigger than the horse, and horses were tied when standing in them. How the poor things slept, I don't know.

As for caves, horses have Issues-with-a-capital-I about enclosed, dark places. Getting them to load into horse trailers can be a real adventure. Getting them to walk into a dark cave which probably smells like lots of predators (because good caves don't go unused)...um. I don't know. If the horse was very easygoing and trusted you, maybe. Keeping it in a cave is going to bring up other problems, too, like waste disposal (horses drink gallons of water per day, which is going to become urine in due time, and they eat lots and lots of roughage, which becomes bulky manure) and carrying food and water to it. Nor is air circulation the greatest, which leads to respiratory problems. And if the floor is uneven, not only would that make cleanup harder, but you'd stand a good chance of their bruising the soles of their feet, and you really don't want to have to deal with abscesses and the like.

Have I mentioned that many things can go wrong with horses? Many, many, many. Feet and digestion are often the biggies. Horses can die of colic, they can founder, they get splints and ringbone and azoturia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and I have to stop before I cry.

MacAllister
01-20-2006, 11:17 PM
Aconite 'bout has the long and the short of it. :)

TheIT
01-20-2006, 11:30 PM
Thanks again. Keep, as in own. In my fantasy WIP, my MC lives in a cave for protection against magical storms so the question is where does she keep the mule. It's not safe for a person to be caught in one of these storms, but I haven't decided yet whether it's safe for animals. From what you're saying about horses and dark places, I'm thinking she'll have some sort of outbuilding and corral for the mule with magical wards.

MacAllister
01-20-2006, 11:44 PM
Does she have any way of knowing when the storms approach? A mule could be convinced to endure a cave for a few hours, now and then--sort of like a tornado-cellar for the livestock.

Arabians essentially lived in tents in the desert with their riders, at one time. They can be habituated to all sorts of weird behavior, and with less trouble than you might think.

When I was training full-time, we trotted horses on an inclined treadmill, wearing a heart monitor. The horses figured out what to do, with only a handful of training sessions. I was both surprised and impressed at how level-headed they could be about the whole thing.

TheIT
01-20-2006, 11:52 PM
Yes, she can predict the storms, so the "storm-cellar" idea would work. I'm thinking animals are going to have to be unaffected, or at least affected minimally, otherwise all the animals in the forest would be in danger every time a storm hit. For her mule, I'm concerned it would be frightened and try to run off unless she takes precautions.

What about wintertime? How much cold and snow can a horse deal with?

MacAllister
01-20-2006, 11:56 PM
They grow a thick, shaggy winter coat. Can comfortably deal with temps well below freezing AS LONG as they're acclimated--but much below zero, say -15, or so for day after day, and they need to be blanketed or inside.

Snow isn't a big problem, it crusts on their backs, and will actually provide a layer of insulation--cold rain or sleet can be a BIG problem, unless they can get undercover. A horse or mule can literally shiver off multiple pounds of weight, every day.

She'll need to feed extra, in the cold. Also, weather below freezing presents unique challenges to keeping fresh water available.

Aconite
01-21-2006, 12:04 AM
In addition to what Mac said, horses are vulnerable to hypothermia when the wind is blowing, too. Their coats protect them from cold as long as they can stay fluffed, but once moisture or wind gets to their skin, they're in trouble.

MacAllister
01-21-2006, 12:11 AM
Oh! Yep, exactly so.

TheIT
01-21-2006, 12:41 AM
I've also heard about using horses to break the trail through snow because they're bigger and having people walk behind.

In my story, snow might not be an issue but I'm still curious. I'm picturing a location similar to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California in fall. If I put her cave below the snow line, snow won't matter. If I put it above, she might stable the mule with the village in the foothills during wintertime since she won't need it.

What about daily routines? I'm assuming morning chores would include providing fresh food and water, making sure the environment is clean, and possibly grooming. Evening chores the same? Can you leave food out all day, or do horses need distinct meal times? I'm guessing water should always be available. Daily exercise is also required?

What are the messy jobs? I've heard about mucking out stables, but what do you do with what you're shovelling? She's going to delight in giving her visitor the hard work.

Aconite
01-21-2006, 01:00 AM
I've also heard about using horses to break the trail through snow because they're bigger and having people walk behind.
Somebody'd have to lead the horse, unless it was a trail the horse knew well.

What about daily routines? I'm assuming morning chores would include providing fresh food and water, making sure the environment is clean, and possibly grooming. Evening chores the same?
Depends on what you've been doing, and how the horse is kept. Add picking out feet to your routine, definitely, and cleaning tack if you've used it. If the horse is being stabled at night and pastured during the day, turning it out and bringing it in are added to the chores. If it's blanketed, add taking off and putting on blankets, too. Picking out (cleaning manure from) the pasture is best done daily, too, if you're doing it by hand with a shovel/fork and bucket. And you need to bring in fresh bedding to replace the soiled.

Can you leave food out all day, or do horses need distinct meal times? I'm guessing water should always be available. Daily exercise is also required?
No specific mealtimes required (they're naturally grazing animals, and do best getting food all through the day), but if you usually give them concentrated foods (like grains), some say it's best to keep those feeding times regular. They can tolerate some periods of inactivity--like if the weather is truly horrendous and they can't go out--but they do best if they have some exercise, and may do fun things like have fluid accumulate in their legs ("stocking up") if they have to stand around for long periods of time. If they're used to exercise and you have to keep them in, you have to adjust the amount of concentrated feed they get or you run the risk of azoturia ("Monday morning disease").

What are the messy jobs? I've heard about mucking out stables, but what do you do with what you're shovelling?
Typically you make a manure pile, and all the manure and soiled bedding goes there to decompose and be spread on fields when it's rotted. Cleaning mud off a really dirty horse is a filthy job, and brushing dried mud off makes you cough. Picking out the feet of a horse who doesn't like to have his feet touched is a treat; some mares, especially, don't like having their hind feet touched. A really nasty job is penile sheath cleaning, as the smegma could dissolve chrome; luckily, this does not have to be done often. Hauling and spreading the rotted manure is hard work, and so is turning or moving the manure pile. Personally, I like cleaning tack, but a lot of people hate it.

ETA--Oh, and dealing with the haypile is a dusty, sweaty, itchy job, too, especially when the hay is loose. Ditto bedding.

TheIT
01-21-2006, 01:03 AM
What does cleaning tack entail?

Aconite
01-21-2006, 01:06 AM
What does cleaning tack entail?
Removing the dirt and sweat, and using some kind of conditioning agent--saddle soap, neatsfoot oil, or something similar--to keep the leather supple, and polishing any metal parts.

Cleveland W. Gibson
01-21-2006, 01:52 AM
questions about using a horse or mule as a pack animal.
If you're loading a horse, how do you put the stuff on the horse so you don't hurt the animal? What if you have bulky objects like boxes? How much weight is acceptable? I'm guessing at least as much as a rider, perhaps 150 to 200 pounds? How will the horse react if you try to overburden it? __________________

You can get away with loading a horse with boxes but quite possibly the horse was broken for riding not carrying packs. Mules are favoured for their ability to carry heavy packs on their back. Balance and correct packing is everything. The mule must be broken in to handling and then to being a pack animal. If not it goes loco.The British Army liked to use Argentine mule because they handled that much easier. Mules have always expected to be rough treated and take a long time to react to kindness and decent feeding. Seems normal to humans but often thes mules have had rough treatment by their owners.
Catching a horse can be done in losts of way. Think cowboy with a rope. think canyon and sliding fences. Think using more than one horse to outrun a stallion.Think of using jeeps . Think of tranquiliser darts.
To catch lots in the desert . Any desert erect a corall around a water hole but allow horses access to the water for a week . No hurry. Then pick a day and close the corall . Make sure its a strong fence. Keep it shut for three days. Then open it.The horses will drink more water than they shoul. They belly will extend. They can't run. Round them up when you want.Easy.
The Japanes accelerated through the burmese jungle because they used highly trained horses obient to the whilst of their master.The Japanese troops advanced on foot while their horses laid out on the ground pretending to be dead. At the whilst the horses would catch up with their masters.
Intersting thing about these horses if say a British officer rode them.The horses would obey all commands by foot and rein but when an aircraft (a japanes aircraft went overhead the horse would break cover. Only the Japanes knew the word of comand to make the animal stay still.
Roman cavalry were not used as much as they should have been. The whole wealth of the Roman Empire depended on the foot soldier. But there were elete horsmen who rode with urgent messages on many horses like the Pony Express riders of the Wild West.
A major break through in warfare on horsback came with the 'invention' of the stirrup. It started off as a loop of jute in which the big toe rested . From there developed the iron stirrup of today. Don't forget the lance and spear carried by the cavalry needed somewhere to hold it in place.
I forget the exact period but China at one time had no horses. Cortez stormed away in South America and yet China lagged behind. A delegation came to the West and bough a number of horses and mares. These were bred and formed the basis of the mounted horsepower of China.
If anybody wants to make friends with a horse ,wild or otherwise, then use food. The favoured food is bran. Feed the horse and get it used to the human touch on its back. Bran and slide a blanket over its back. Gradually the horse gets used to human and it loves the bran. That's what does the trick.
There are many types of horses . Check out all the breeds if you are interested. But the onetype of horse to get interested in is the hunter. This is probably got some Arab blood in it . But what is important about the hunter it is used , that kind of horse , by the British Army. It a beautiful animal. And it behaves like a well tuned motorbike. A tug and it turns to the left, or the right, canters, trots, walks. It is a superb animal.
The British Army still use horses to tow artillery pieces. It 's the best way to pull a field gun along into mud, rough landscape, etc.You get the idea.
The Spanish have always used horses so check out what there is on The Spanish School.
The white horses seen in the circus are bred by gipsies in Rumania and they are world famous.
Also check out the horses of the Carmague in France and the Gauchos of Argentina.

Hope this gives you something to think about and is useful

Fern
01-21-2006, 02:43 AM
What year(s) your story is happening in might also make a difference in how some of these things were done.

The location may help determine which breed of horse your people are riding.

In an earlier post you mentioned something about stabling the horse with a mule, etc. Remembering hearing my folks talk (they grew up using mules to plow) and also remembering mules belonging to our neighbor when I was a kid, just thought I'd mention that some mules are meaner than a junkyard dog.

One mule our neighbor owned would pick a fight (through the fence) with our horse every time they let the fool thing in the pasture next to us. He also picked on the other neighbor's horse through the fence on the other side.. . .that horse ended up one-eyed before it was over with.

At one time hobbling your horse would have been a popular way to keep him from running off during the night if you were sleeping on the trail.

Also, there are regular pack saddles to use for packing on a horse or mule. Might want to check them out on the internet and see if they give ideas how to pack, how early they were in use, etc.

TheIT
01-21-2006, 02:57 AM
Good point about time periods. My story is in a medieval fantasy setting, so I'm interested in lower tech solutions.

What would you use to hobble a horse?

I like the idea of my MC having a mean mule, or at least one which doesn't take kindly to strangers. Contrary works. It'll be more of a contrast when the mule behaves for my MC's visitor.

Are there major differences in behavior between the genders for horses/mules?

Tish Davidson
01-21-2006, 03:18 AM
Horses often get struck by lightning. You’d think they’d learn, but they don’t.



It is so common and event you actually can insure a horse against death by lightning strike. Our show horse's mortalty insurance (the beastie also has major medical, sigh) specifically mentions that he is insured against this hazard. Although horses do not normally run from thunder, I have seen them panic and bolt when in an arena with a tin roof when it rains hard or hails. Some tend to bolt at unexpected loud noises (although others, such as police mounts are trained not to). Almost every horse dislikes and will react to flying debris, such as a piece of newspaper blowing across in front of them. A lot depends on the temperment of the horse. We've always had Thoroughbreds who tended to be fast but flighty.

Fern
01-21-2006, 08:19 AM
Rope would have been used for hobbling.

When watching Lord of the Rings my husband (a horseshoer) noticed one of the horses in the movie wore rims (modern type of horseshoe). I mentioned it on another writers forum and a couple authors spoke up and said when one is writing fantasy there is more leeway. . . .doesn't have to be historically accurate. So, I guess if one adheres to their way of thinking you can bend things a bit to suit yourself. Not sure I think that way, but just thought I'd mention that there are other views.

I don't know where you are located, but if you had a chance to visit a museum with medieval times items it would be enlightening. I had the opportunity once, several years ago to do so and saw a spur from around the year 900 - 1000. It was humongous. Appeared it would have had to fit over armor. . . don't think a man's boot would have been that wide across the heel. Also noticed on the castle we visited that the doors were not very large (high), which led me to believe that the men in those days would not have been very tall. I'm 5'4" and had to be careful not to bang my head on some of the doorways.

Horses ridden into battle during that time would have had to have been big, to be able to carry a knight and all that heavy armor, etc. Also, the horses were war horses trained for battle. . .not like riding a regular horse into battle.

Eveningsdawn
01-21-2006, 09:08 AM
Are there major differences in behavior between the genders for horses/mules?

Mhm. At least with all the horses I've known - mules I have nothing on, sorry. Mares have an unfortunate reputation of being rather fussy, pissy, smart creatures. They really know how to take advantage of you, and how things work - which can be a good thing. Personally, I'd make your mule female, just because of that. A herd in the wild will actually be led by a mare - the stallions are there to guard, but it's an old mare who does the actual leading-to-water-and-forage stuff. In domestication, mares will boss geldings about. Also, they go into heat, and get moody.
Stallions... hm. They can be much harder to handle than either mares or geldings; they're not allowed in 4-H competitions because of that, and because they have a tendancy to pursue mares. Pretty single-minded like that. Not as reliable as, say, geldings.
IMO, geldings are what you want for good interaction. They're much calmer than stallions, more level-headed. Sex isn't as much of a motivator, so they can actually get some time to think. They're a bit better with people than mares - easier to handle. But mares are smarter.

However, all horsie behaviour - dominance rituals, etc - holds true for all the genders.

Long story short:

Mares: smart but can be b!tchy. Like whoa.
Stallions: more trouble than they're worth, but pretty and good for fighting
Geldings: easier to dominate, smart, calm.

Does that help?

Saanen
01-22-2006, 06:38 PM
Just in case you don't know, mules are sterile (caused by breeding a male donkey to a mare, often a draft mare) because donkeys and horses have different chromosomal counts. Female mules (called mollys, although I don't know how old that term is) tend to be preferred to males since they won't come into season; male mules do need to be gelded even though they're sterile, but they tend to lose more of their oomph than horses do when gelded.

So a female mule put into close contact with, say, a gelding horse would probably make the poor horse's life a misery (especially if they were stuck in a cave that the mule was used to and the horse was afraid of to start with). I can picture the mule crowding the horse all over the cave just to be ornery, so that he doesn't get any rest.

Aconite
01-22-2006, 10:24 PM
The Spanish have always used horses so check out what there is on The Spanish School.
The white horses seen in the circus are bred by gipsies in Rumania and they are world famous.l
The Spanish Riding School is in Vienna (not anywhere in Spain), and always has been. And I don't know where you got some of your other information, like the bit about white circus horses being bred by gypsies, but it's questionable, to say the least. If I were you, I'd recheck my sources.

Aconite
01-22-2006, 10:31 PM
Female mules (called mollys, although I don't know how old that term is) tend to be preferred to males since they won't come into season;
They really don't cycle? It's not just that they're not fertile? Wow. What a difference that could make.


IT, another dirty job I just remembered is emptying the water trough, scrubbing the dirt, sludge, and algae out of it, and refilling it.

MacAllister
01-22-2006, 11:23 PM
Aconite is acutely focused on the glamor and romance of horse-ownership, I sense.

Aconite
01-23-2006, 12:20 AM
Aconite is acutely focused on the glamor and romance of horse-ownership, I sense.
You just never get over those dazzle-eyed impressions formed at an early age.

Eveningsdawn
01-23-2006, 12:25 AM
Female mules (called mollys, although I don't know how old that term is)

Hate to do this to you, but female mules are called hinnies (possibly a cross between the word 'horse' and the word 'jennet', which is the proper name for a female donkey. But I could be making that up).


But a hinny probably would boss a gelding around. They're good like that.


IT - also, beware of nasty horse diseases! If your equine is bored in her cave, she might start pacing or weaving (swinging her head back and forth) or cribbing/windsucking (hooking her teeth over a solid object and sucking in air). Or she might just bite you out of boredom.

Aconite
01-23-2006, 12:29 AM
IT - also, beware of nasty horse diseases!
LOL In a pseudo-karmic turn-around (is it possible to correct someone's terminology or spelling without making a similar mistake?), may I mention that those are vices, not diseases?

Eveningsdawn
01-23-2006, 12:53 AM
Yeah, yeah. I know. I knew that was going to come back and bite me in the butt.

Fern
01-23-2006, 01:33 AM
Here's a good site on mules. . .even gives you a bit of info regarding mules during Medieval times.

http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/mule.html

MacAllister
01-23-2006, 01:38 AM
Actually, I've heard mare mules called Mollies, just like horse mules are sometimes called Jacks.

That may be a regional variance.

Aconite
01-23-2006, 01:43 AM
Yeah, yeah. I know. I knew that was going to come back and bite me in the butt.
Oh, you have one of those horses. My sympathies. *g*

Saanen
01-23-2006, 03:40 AM
They really don't cycle? It's not just that they're not fertile? Wow. What a difference that could make.

Yeah, they don't cycle at all (although I've heard of some mare mules coming into season occasionally). Gelded mules tend to get kind of scraggly looking for some reason, but mare mules don't.

A little OT, but has anyone seen pictures of the horse-zebra crosses? They're amazing looking animals, very strange and beautiful--they have the conformation of what I always imagined a unicorn to look like.

CampCreek
01-23-2006, 04:59 AM
Actually, a hinny is a cross between a jenny (female donkey) and stallion (intact male horse). A mule is the opposite ~ female horse and male donkey. Female mules are commonly called molly mules around here, and males are called john mules. Uncut males are called jack mules, but there aren't many of those around ~ why put up with the attitude if there's absolutely no point, know what I mean? ;)


If you're loading a horse, how do you put the stuff on the horse so you don't hurt the animal? What if you have bulky objects like boxes? Did you find an answer to these questions? Just in case not ~ pack saddles are used along with a set of panniers. Panniers are just giant "saddle bags" that go over the back of the pack animal, one on each side. They could also be boxes, as you mentioned. Or even baskets ~ just something to carry your things in that can be lashed to each other and hung over the back of the animal or lashed directly to the pack saddle. If you haven't seen a pack saddle yet, you might want to do a Google image search to get an idea.

Then again, if your character rides with a riding saddle, they do make panniers nowadays that fit over a western saddle, so I see no reason she couldn't have figured out the same thing.

As to how to load it, making sure it's balanced, equal weight on each side, is very important. It's also important to make sure the pack isn't too far forward or back of the correct placement of center of the back and alongside the animal (hard to describe ~ again, Google image searches for "pack animals" would probably be your friend here).


How much weight is acceptable? I'm guessing at least as much as a rider, perhaps 150 to 200 pounds? A good rule of thumb is an equine can carry about 20% of it's own weight without much if any problem. They can be loaded with more, but it's not advisable if they are expected to travel long distances.


How will the horse react if you try to overburden it? Same way you would if you were overburdened and got a sore back out of the deal ~ cranky, not so sure footed, tiring out, etc.


Everyone gave you really good advice on the spooking at storms thing, but if you need the animal to spook at a storm, you might have a heavy limb coming crashing down due to high winds in that storm. I don't know many horses or mules who'd stand still for that happening up close to them.


What do horses do if they like you? If they don't like you? 5KidsMom nailed what they'll do if they like you. I'll add in follow you around like a puppy dog. ;)

If they don't like you, this is what they'll do:
http://www.campcreektexas.com/images/horses/madmare4.jpg
That's our 26 year old boss mare letting that mini know to get away from her food bowl. *snicker* Here's a closeup so you can see how serious she is...
http://www.campcreektexas.com/images/horses/madmare4a.jpg
Doesn't she look just like your wife when you forget your anniversary?! YAHAHAHAHA!

Anyway, if that didn't get the picture across and you insisted on still messing with her, a bite would come next, then a threat to kick, then a kick, possibly followed up by this coming at you:
http://www.campcreektexas.com/images/horses/madmare1a.jpg


Let's say you have no choice but to try to ride a horse who doesn't want to be ridden. What would you do to catch it, or to coerce it to let you ride? Others gave you some good advice, especially 5KidsMom. Here's another take on it that works for me when I go to catch a hardhead in the pasture... Horses are definitely curious once the threat has passed. If you use an advance-retreat method, you'll get them to come around, but it'll take a loooong time with a wild horse. If your character has a month or so, they might want to try it. Basically, you just walk towards the horse, watching it closely but not necessarly looking it in the eye, and at the first sign that the horse is wanting to run away from you, you immediately turn around and go back the way you came. Walk a good thirty feet away before you even think of turning around. But you do need to turn around and do it again. And again and again and again. Eventually, the horse will allow you near it. After day after day after day of this, week after week, I can see you gaining it's trust enough to work with it. Depending on the horse, it might be another loooong while before they'd let you on their back...


Mules' attitudes are really different than horses, at least usually (though not much different than my mare above. ;) ). I'm generalizing here, but for the most part, mules are more steadfast than horses. They get that from the donkey in them. Donkeys aren't really stubborn, they're hard headed. The difference is stubborn animals will fight with you for the sake of fighting ~ hard headed animals will fight with you only for a reason. For instance, if a donkey isn't going forward it's because he's not going to go there until HE knows it's safe, and no amount of prodding or poking will make them change their mind. If you keep it up and he still stays put, you'll usually find something dangerous in the way that he knew was there all along. Horses on the other hand will go gallavanting gaily most anywhere then have a panic attack at the silliest things sometimes (yep, they're made of meat and they know it).

Think of it this way ~ horses are big labrador retrievers while donkeys are more like house cats. Horses are more willing to do what you want them to do just because you want it, while donkeys won't unless they want to too. Cross the two and you get a VERY intelligent animal that's more willing than a donkey but generally more steadfast and strong than a horse.

I haven't been around a LOT of mules, but the handful I have been around haven't taken well to having a horse be their leader. In all cases I've seen either the mule was the leader or the horse thought he was while the mule just ignored him. *snicker* Like others have said, I can easily see a mule giving a horse a hard time in a cave just because he can. ;)

And if your mule is really a she, then I can definitely see her bossing that horse around. *Snort!* Especially that time of the month. I thought I'd seen a mule we had once come in, so I doubled checked online. Sure enough, some molly mules do come in heat, they just aren't usually fertile. There have even been documented cases of some being fertile (yes, it's extremely rare), but get this ~ sometimes they give birth to a purebred, 100% genetic horse! I didn't know that before I read it at a link I'll give below. Wild, huh? It was on one of these pages:
http://www.lovelongears.com/about_mules.html
http://www.lovelongears.com/faq
Those pages also include some info on sizes of mules and how to get those big ones, if that's what you want your character to have. It's just a donkey crossed on a draft mare (Percheron, Clydesdale, etc.).

Wanna' see a bad assed mule? ;)
http://www.westernmulemagazine.com/image/webimage/MULE%20VS%20MOUNTAIN%20LION2.pdf That's the true story that goes along with some pictures (the ones at the bottom of that article) that circulated the internet years ago telling quite the tall tale. While the article doesn't completely refute the claim that the mule killed the cat, I'm thinking the cat was already dead in the pictures. Regardless, I wouldn't be surprised if it had in fact been alive. Donkeys are commonly used around here as guard animals for flocks of sheep and such since they detest dogs and other dog-sized animals, so it's certainly not uncommon for a mule to inherit that trait. Actually, some horses hate dogs and other small animals as well (my stud colt killed a racoon that ambled into his pen last week), so I'd think the mule could inherit it from his mama as well.


Everything else everyone said was right on. Well, with one exception ~ the favored food isn't bran, but sweet feed, a molasses coated grain. They'll knock you down for that (literally, if you spoil them and give it to them too often without making sure they know you're the leader), but they don't need much if any of it or any other grain unless they're in heavy work, are in the third trimester of pregnancy or are nursing a foal. If you feed much unneeded grain to your horse, they'll have too much energy from all the simple carbohydrates in it. Think "kid on a sugar high" ~ nervous and cranky. And if you feed a LOT of it, they could easily develop a pH/flora imbalance in the gut which could make them colic (tummy ache that can easily turn fatal) or founder (body chemistry so messed up that the already barely adequate circulation in the feet is compromised and they go lame, sometimes bad enough that they have to be put down).

What the majority of any equine diet should be is roughage, mainly grass hay. Hey! There's another crappy job for that other character! Using a sickle to cut hay for the mule! Talk about hard work. Ugh. Another job would be finding a salt lick and digging some of it to bring back. Mules and horses need some of that, and if they aren't allowed out to find their own, you'd have to bring it to them I'd imagine (not so sure ~ doublecheck that ~ I DO know they need salt, but don't know where they got it in Medieval times, or if they even thought it that important).


A couple more things just because I can't stand it... ;)

The gypsies didn't breed those "white horses" (which I'm guessing the other poster meant Lippizaners). The gypsies bred a type of small draft horse called a Gypsy Cob that was capable of pulling their caravans. These are sometimes also called Gypsy Vanners, but this actually denotes a taller horse than the 14 hand high cob preferred by the Romany nowadays (same breed, just a taller strain). They come in most normal horse colors (black, sorrel, even palomino), but the predominant preferred color, atleast nowadays, is the black and white tobiano (pinto) pattern.

A "hunter" isn't a breed of horse, but more of a type. They are highly trained horses who are bred to have a form that makes them look more refined when jumping and doing dressage movements (English riding). The breeds that lend themselves well to a hunter type are Thoroughbreds and some European Warmbloods such as Trakheners, Dutch Warmbloods, and Hanoverians. Yes, the sport of dressage did descend from the battle movements cavalry horses needed to be able to do to be really great war mounts, but they didn't necessarily have to be a hunter type since it didn't matter how good they looked when doing those moves. ;)

Well, I see I've gone on long enough. Sorry! I just haven't had much computer time lately and took advantage of you and your post! http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/EmoteROFL.gif

Eveningsdawn
01-23-2006, 05:16 AM
Zorses! And zonies! They are SO COOL. I want one. If you crossed a zebra and an Appaloosa, would it have stripes and spots? Because that would be awesome.

Most mules are sterile. Once in a great while, they will be fertile, but mostly not.

5KidsMom
01-23-2006, 06:03 AM
Josephine, your mare is beautiful (attitude notwithstanding)! I am a sucker for paints. :D

There is one of those drive-through wildlife farms near Kidron, OH that has zorses, and they are gorgeous. I want one too.

Should we go into the attitude differences between horses and ponies?

MacAllister
01-23-2006, 07:20 AM
Josephine, what a terrific post! Thank you! Mostly, all I know about mules is that the little Arab stud I used to ride was terrified of them, when we encounted a mule on the trail. :)

Eveningsdawn
01-23-2006, 07:26 AM
Hee. I have so much to say on that subject, being the owner of a ballsy little mustang pony. He beats up the big breedstock (ie, no coloring) paint we have. BJ, the paint, needed stiches. He was just silly for not obeying the herd dynamics that Josephine illustrates so well in her pictures.

A pony-donkey mule would be very smart and very tough and very bossy, I'd imagine...

Tish Davidson
01-23-2006, 07:43 AM
Zorses! And zonies! They are SO COOL. I want one. If you crossed a zebra and an Appaloosa, would it have stripes and spots? Because that would be awesome.

Most mules are sterile. Once in a great while, they will be fertile, but mostly not.

I saw a zorse demo at a Pat Parelli clinic as part of a horse expo in Sacramento a couple of years ago. Beautiful they are, but Parelli claims they are difficult to tame and that his rider slept in the corral with the zorse for a week or more before he could get near it. Of course Parelli also claims that his special Parelli training program is the only way to gentle a zorse. I don't know. Most of what Parelli advocates just sounds like good sense and patience and mixed with some solid horsemanship to me, but he makes big bucks with his tapes and clinics.

5KidsMom
01-23-2006, 07:56 AM
We have a little haflinger pony that beats up on our paint too. It's gotten to the point that I just put the pony in with the goats. Got tired of stitching wounds.

Aconite
01-23-2006, 03:10 PM
Josephine, what a great, informative post.

I think where you mentioned me, however, you may have meant 5KidsMom, who commented intelligently on those topics.

TheIT
01-23-2006, 10:52 PM
Thank you all for the posts so far! This is good information and is leading to ideas (scary thought). I'll have more questions soon. Stay tuned...

CampCreek
01-24-2006, 03:25 AM
Thanks, 5KidsMom! *blush* That's Cherokee Kiss, but we just call her Kiss. She's a running Paint (we breed for speed ;) ) ~ '84 Champ TwoYearOld filly and own daughter of the '80 World Champ Running Paint Cherokee Indian. She's a great mare, keeps the herd in line but isn't overbearing while she's at it. She was just coming back from an illness in that picture, so looks a bit poor and was still rather greedy about her food. Here's what she looks like normally:
http://www.campcreektexas.com/images/horses/someofthegirls.jpg
The two mares on the left are AQHA Quarters and the two bald faced ones are APHA Paints, Dash for Cash half sisters.

Do you have any pictures of your babies? I'd LOVE to see them! :D

Attitude difference between horses and ponies ~ now THERE'S a subject! LOLOL! We had a little Shetland when I was a kid. Talk about a mean little b*&%$! She learned how to stop quick and put her head down so I'd go flying forwards off her. :ROFL:

~~~~~~

Thanks, McAllister! :D

Was your little Arab really scared of them or just surprised as all get out, not knowing what they were? I can see him now, coming up on one, thinking "horse" at first, but confused about the ears and thinking, "What the HELL is THAT?!":ROFL:

~~~~~~

Thanks to you, too, Aconite. And you're right ~ I got you two mixed up. *Ooof!* But I changed it. I think I named you in there, too, because you mentioned sheath cleaning as a crappy job. ;) I read that and immediately thought, "Yep, Aconite definitely KNOWS horses." *sncker* You and McAllister surely did give good info about their cold resistance. I don't have to deal with that much living where I do. Right now it's 77 degrees outside. Last week it was 85! :D

~~~~~~

Sure, TheIT! Anytime!:D Spit those ideas out and I'm sure we can help you make them realistic. I did go back and clean up my other post (I ended up not having time to edit for typos yesterday, much less make sure the posters I mentioned really did say what I thought they did. ACK! ;) ), but I didn't add much to it except another line about mules (in the paragraph relating them to cats and horses to dogs) and another line about hunters, just giving some breeds that have individuals that make good hunters.

Just a couple more notes to add a few things I left out...

There's an old saying that I find holds true ~ You tell a gelding, ask a stallion and discuss it with a mare. *snicker*

Do you get cable or satellite TV? If so, there's a channel on called RFD-TV that has a LOT of horse training programs on, some about general horse care and husbandry, and even a few about the English disciplines. It's 379 on DirectTV and 9409 on DishNetwork. Don't know about cable. Just watching those programs will show you a good bit about horses. Don't take any one trainer's outlook as the gospel, though. Some of them on there I don't agree with much.

If your pack animal is going to be travelling long distances (ie long enough that it takes them days to get there) with a HEAVY load, your characters will need to stop and take the pack and saddle off the animal at some point during the day to avoid saddle sores. These are actually pressure sores which happen when something presses hard enough to compromise or stop the blood flow in an area of skin for a prolonged period of time. The skin dies and sloughs off, but eventually heals back up of course, sometimes leaving a patch of white hair on the injury site. If they get saddle sores, the animal won't be able to be used 'til they are healed of course. If the character in a story is an uncaring or just-business sort, it would still be in character for them to care about this. They wouldn't want to lose the use of the animal for the healing time AND because I'd imagine they'd be afraid of the animal dying from an infection.

A "hand" is four inches. It's a unit of horse measurement that came about by using a man's hand to measure. It's the average distance across a man's palm.

One neat little thing you might could use to add some realism and maybe a bit of humor is that horses will shake like dogs do. It's funny and usually happens after they've stretched or right after you take the saddle off. It feels weird to be sitting on one when they do that!:tongue They'll also roll like dogs do, also usually right after you've taken the saddle off and let them go (or right after a bath. Grrrrrr...). I have one horse who'll roll just for the fun of it I think. She's a MUDball when it rains, let me tell you!

I'd also like to make it a bit more clear about what they'd do if they don't like you. The pics I posted above of my boss mare are what they'll do if they REALLY don't like you. If they sort of don't like you, they'll probably still back their ears and just generally try to avoid you. Horses for the most part are lovers, not fighters, so they'll just try to get away from anything that annoys them rather than expend any energy fighting. But if they're pushed into things, such as having to be ridden by someone they don't like, they might go along with it grudgingly, fighting the person's decisions on where to go or even TO go anywhere at all, throwing their head around when the person tried to turn them, maybe even reach around and try to bite their feet. If the horse got tired of dealing with them, they'd probably try to rub the person off along a passing fencepost or such, then would probably run them under trees as has been mentioned already. Finally, they'd buck them off and be done with it, going on to graze immediately afterward and running away should the person try to catch them.

Again, 5KidsMom gave you excellent advice on how to get a horse to come around to being ridden ~ chasing them around and moving their feet. If you could somehow catch the horse in a semi-small pen, that would definitely be the better and faster way of doing it. As Mom said, moving their feet tells them you have control, so you must be their leader. Once they've determined that you are their leader, they'll begin to respect and trust you. If you need more particulars on just how to do it, just holler. I have some experience at that, and it surely sounds like Mom does as well.

I wanted to write more about how they interact with each other, but didn't have time before. Even now, I could write a (large) book on it, so I won't here. I'll just give a general overview and if you need more specific info, by all means please do ask here ~ one of us can answer. No one person knows everything there is to know about horses (and if they say they do, they're lying ;) ), but the other posters here sure do know a LOT and I have a good bit of experience that inclues breeding and training, so can either help in telling you most anything you want to know or can point you in the right direction to find it.

The "general overview" ~
It's really simple when you boil it down, but without a specific circumstance to talk about, I could go on and on. In a nutshell, the've evolved to mostly use body language to communicate, to have a definite pecking order and to be a flight animal instead of a fight animal (running away being their main form of defense against any threat of danger).

A little more on all three points above ~
~~ The loudmouths who "talked" a lot would have alerted the predators to their location, so got eaten and their loudmouth genes went with them. (BTW, this isn't any documented theory that I know of. It's just my supposition from watching them and knowing how evolution works.)
~~ The pecking order came about the same way I'd think. You find it in any animals who live as a group (chickens, cows, elephants, apes, etc.) since any time you get a group of anything together, there has to be some sort of order. Any horses who didn't want to live in a herd heirarchy like that would have had to go it their own and would be sitting ducks for predatory attack. The ones who were content to follow a smarter, stronger horse would have had a bigger chance of living and reproducing successfully. There's safety in numbers and all that.
~~ Lastly, the spookiness ~ they are food for other animals, and have always been, so the horses of long ago who noticed and reacted to danger first (by running away) were the ones who lived to pass on those "flighty" genes. Also, being herbivores, they developed a stronger reliance on instinct (they're more "right brained" so to speak) rather than problem solving skills of predators (those being the "left brain" or "thinking" types of processes). Therefore, the horses we have today are more reactionary than "stay put and figure this out" types. WE are the "stay put and figure this out" type of animal, a fight animal rather than flight animal.

If you know and understand these basic concepts, then learn how horses use and experience those concepts, and finally use them when interacting with a horse, you can get that horse to do just about anything you want it to do. And you'll have a friend for life.
http://www.campcreektexas.com/graphics/smilies/ridinghorse.gif

TheIT
01-24-2006, 04:00 AM
Wow. Thanks again! I don't have time right now to address points from your generous posts, but I'll throw these questions out there.

My MC has a mule, but her visitor will have a horse (possibly two he's stabling there, one for riding, one as a pack animal). Her visitor is from a noble family which, among other things, raises horses, so he can choose pretty much the pick of the herd for his own horse. He's a mage so he won't be charging into battle, but he needs a "bombproof" horse which can deal with strangeness like him casting spells without bolting. A friend of mine who knows horses better than I suggested a mare. What other qualities should he be looking for? He's practical rather than vain.

Also, animals like him because of his magic. Every cat in the room wants to sit on his lap, every dog thinks he's its best buddy, squirrels follow him around the forest, you get the idea. My MC's ornery mule will behave like a kitten around him (which will tick her off no end), so I'm looking for ways horses/mules show affection and perhaps preference for one person over another. Some of the above examples definitely have promise.

P.S. Josephine, your horse riding smilie is great, and your horses are beautiful. :D

Eveningsdawn
01-24-2006, 06:37 AM
You want a comfortable horse for him. Not bony, not overfat, no high withers or swaybacks. An older horse, probably, with some experiance. Personally, I say geldings, but that's cause mares and me don't get along. A solid horse with a broad forehead for brains. Something analogous to a Quarter horse - ie, probably not something you'd find in a highly-bred line like Thoroughbreds or Arabians or traditional noble's horses. What you want is a plowhorse. With lots of patience.

Affection. My horse rests his chin on my shoulder and snuffles in my hair, and follows me around even when I don't have any food for him. Also, given the choice between allowing someone to ride him in a circle and walking over to me (I'm standing in the middle), he'll walk over to me. He shows respect in his body language - treats me as the boss mare. If there are 2 people, you could have some fun there about whose body movements your mule obeys. Hmm. Comes when you call/whistle. Delicate about taking food from you. Rubs his head on you, not with intent to push over but just for touch.

MacAllister
01-24-2006, 06:47 AM
http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a11/MacAlStone/Snake-pasture.jpg

CampCreek
01-24-2006, 07:01 AM
You're sure welcome! :D


What other qualities should he be looking for? He's practical rather than vain. Good feet, good teeth, willing attitude and an easy keeping quality. By good feet I mean hooves that have a strong horn (the hard covering on the outside) that's hard enough to be not prone to chipping or cracking and would hold a horseshoe nail well, but soft enough to wear away over time and be easy to rasp if needed. (Which brings up another point ~ are these horses going to be shod or not? Need info about that? I don't know a LOT about shoeing, but do know a lot about how to keep a horse barefoot. We trim our own ourselves.)

Good teeth would mean no overbite or underbite and molars that line up well. Since a horse's teeth constantly grow and wear down like rats' do, breaking one off wouldn't be too much of a problem ~ just for the short term ~ but you'd still want ones that don't have real soft teeth. He'd also want a horse that came from a line of horses who weren't prone to tooth abscesses or uneven wear. Since he'd be coming from nobility who bred their own, I'd think they wouldn't have any such animal in their breeding program.

The willing attitude is pretty obvious why you'd want it, though it sounds like your mage will have that with any horse he picks.

An "easy keeping" animal is one that doesn't take a lot of food to keep him in good flesh. Just like humans, horses come in all sizes ~ skinny, fat and in between ~ and with all types of metabolism rates. An easy keeper is one with a slow metabolism, who will get fat on hay. A hard keeper is one with a high metabolism that you have to feed a LOT, and even then their ribs show.

The rest of this might be TMI, but when I'm talking about horses, I do tend to go on a bit. ;) I'm thinking that maybe some of this will help you add some weight and realism to your mage's dialogue. Regardless, just pick out what helps you and toss the rest. :D

Straight legs that are well under her and have lots of bone would also be important. "Having lots of bone" means they are of good size and don't look like toothpicks under a marshmallow. Good leg conformation is too hard to describe without pictures, so I'll give you this link: Horse Leg Conformation. (http://equisearch.com/conformationfaults110299a/) The first picture on each of the three pages of that article shows good leg conformation with the ones below it showing poor conformation. Keep in mind that looking at that and being able to pick a good horse who looks just like the "good" pictures is like looking at a picture of a supermodel and trying to pick a good looking person from it. Those pictures are just a guide. We all vary in how we're put together, and horses are no different from that. An individual can have good conformation, or plenty good enough conformation to not develop soundness issues, and not look identical to those pictures. But the bad pictures are pretty bad ~ he definitely would NOT want a horse with any of those faults to that degree. Some of those faults would make for an uncomfortable ride, while others would be more serious and eventually lead to a horse going lame later in life, or earlier if he's ridden extensively. (BTW, here's another site that has oodles of charts showing all the parts of the horse: Horse Anatomy (http://www.paintedspiritranch.com/mod.php?set_albumName=album79&mod=gallery&include=view_album.php&menu=36). That'll probably come in handy for you sometime.)

I'd also think he needs to pick a horse that has a good slope to her shoulders and hips. Horses with shoulders that are too straight and upright have a short, choppy stride that's no fun to ride. Also, couple that with too upright of a hip angle and they won't be able to stretch their limbs out fore and aft for those long, ground-eating strides, which is important if you need to get somewhere fast, or get away from someone. Upright shoulders and hips can also cause lameness problems after a few years.


Do you need to know about specific breeds or types? Since he was from a noble family, then I wouldn't think they'd be breeding work horses. They'd either be race horses or saddle horses and possibly fancy drafts for pulling carriages.

The most popular race horse breeds are Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Quarter Horses of the type bred with more Thoroughbred blood in them. Race horses are bred with the focus on speed of course. Other than that, endurance mainly in the short term would be important (not so much long term), as would strong legs, those shoulder and hip slopes I told you about above, well muscled hindquarters for impulsion and a large heart girth. The heart girth is the area around the horse's barrel (body) directly behind the front legs ~ the widest part of his rib cage. The heart girth being large gives plenty of room for lung expansion when running, a very important aspect of a race horse. Take a look at this mare, noticing how her heart girth is large:
http://campcreektexas.com/images/horses/bonafteraride.jpg
That's Painted Bon Too, my favorite mare. Her sire was a world champ running Paint and her dam was a two-time champ, so she definitely has the race build. (Am I being too transparent in wanting to show off my horses?:ROFL: ) Anyway, notice her nice angles and good legs. Her legs and feet could be a tad larger for my tastes, but she does just fine with what she has ~ never has any lameness problems, but still gives me a run so fast I gotta' change my drawers when I get back home. *snicker*

Saddle horses would be a light horse that's sleek and pretty with comfortable gaits and good endurance ~ American Saddlebreds, Morgans and such. This type of horse was bred for riding and riding only, just something that would be comfortable and look majestic as you sat upon it looking across your plantation. ;) Take a look at horses on this site and you'll see what I mean: American Saddlebred Info. (http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/ash.html) Very light, very refined and just plain pretty. That's a saddle type horse. European Warmbloods are also a type of saddle horse, but they were bred primarily for cavalry originally, so they're a bit heavier than a "true" saddle horse, the type I think of immediately when I hear that term.

Finally, the quintessential fancy draft is the Friesian. They've been around a long time and were bred primarily by the nobility for use as carriage horses and knights' chargers. They weren't bred often for heavy field work, but they still have the broad chests and muscular build needed for pulling. Their backs aren't as broad as the heavy work drafts since they were also wanted for riding. Friesians are also just drop dead gorgeous. Looking at one will take your breath away. Here's what I mean: Friesian horse info (http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/friesian.html) and Twin Lakes Ranch Friesian breeders (http://www.twinlakesranch.com/Stallions.htm). Oh, what I wouldn't give...



Also, animals like him because of his magic. Every cat in the room wants to sit on his lap, every dog thinks he's its best buddy, squirrels follow him around the forest, you get the idea. My MC's ornery mule will behave like a kitten around him (which will tick her off no end), so I'm looking for ways horses/mules show affection and perhaps preference for one person over another. Some of the above examples definitely have promise.Hey! He sounds like my kind of guy! My husband and I LOVE animals of all kinds. Our friends jokingly call us "Spicewood's Unofficial Canine, Kitty & Equine Rescue" or SUCKER for short.:ROFL:

I'd say that the info 5KidsMom gave you is right on. I'd think your MC's mule would also follow him around a lot. It would really hack her off if she was wanting to work with it and it walked off to be with him. *snicker* I know that'd make ME a tad miffed. ;)


P.S. Josephine, your horse riding smilie is great, and your horses are beautiful. :D Thanks! :D About that smilie ~ isn't he a cute little bugger? Heehee! If you want, you can nick him and use him wherever you want. I got him from one of those free smilie sites.

CampCreek
01-24-2006, 07:06 AM
http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a11/MacAlStone/Snake-pasture.jpg

Oh, my. Oh, my, my, MY! It's pictures like that that tempt me to switch to breeding Arabians! Man, that dappled grey is GORGEOUS! All three are really, but man does he ever stand out! That tail flagging so high just screams "spirit". Was he a bay before he greyed out? And is the white on his head and front of his neck a funky (but attractive) greying pattern or was that a natural white marking all along?

MacAllister
01-24-2006, 08:13 AM
The dapple is only six, L--the light on his head just showed up in the last year. He had a lovely big star that you can't see now. He's a total pistol--he spent a year in training with me, and I just sold him for the owners to a terrific woman in Northern CA. She adores him. :) I love when you find a good match for a horse, like that.

She ended up buying a bombproof trakehner/arab cross of mine, too, to be his trail buddy and steady-Eddy horse for her friends.

The lighter gray in the back is my good saddle horse, Rasta, a Bashir Curly/Arab cross. I like the arabs outcrossed for substance and a bit of height. The Curlies are just sort of weird, though--not a breed for beginners.

pdr
01-24-2006, 11:44 AM
I know that snow in the central prairies like Saskatchewan, Montana and in most of Siberia is dry powder snow that does not compress into snowballs or hard ice balls. Therefore it is no problem for a horse in winter to pull a sleigh or travel a distance through snow.

However I rode in Britain a couple of times in the sort of snow that this winter has killed over 90 people here in Japan. It's soft, wet, heavy and compacts when trodden on. It was a pain in the UK as I had to keep clearing out my horse's hooves. I tried tying on cloths over the whole foot but that didn't work too well either.

So what would they have done pre-1900 when horses had to travel through snow? I have a vague memory of a reference to goose grease/fat being used to fill inside the foot so that snow could not wedge there. I remember the pony that pulled the lawn mower had leather 'shoes' that went over his feet so that he did not leave marks on the sacred green turf! Did the local straw/rope makers perhaps make straw/rope horse 'overshoes' for winter? Any ideas gratefully received.

Aconite
01-24-2006, 04:44 PM
He's a mage so he won't be charging into battle, but he needs a "bombproof" horse which can deal with strangeness like him casting spells without bolting. A friend of mine who knows horses better than I suggested a mare.
To the great info the others gave you, I can only add a couple of things. One is that mares come into heat, not just once, but repeatedly thoroughout the year. When one does, any male equine around her, gelded or not, will have her on his mind more than anything else, and the mare herself will have priorities that are not yours.

The second is that while they're not glamorous (but then, you did say your mage was practical), small, stocky, strong horses, like Haflingers (called "the tractors of the Alps), may be what your mage is looking for, rather than the gorgeous, elegant breeds that I drool over. (Oh, yeah, give me a Friesian. I got to ride one for a time. Niiiiiiiice gaits.)

Josephine, when RDF finally became available in our area, I could have wept with joy. USDF shows. For free. Regularly. Yum.

Aconite
01-24-2006, 04:51 PM
So what would they have done pre-1900 when horses had to travel through snow?
Shod or unshod? The grease trick is one we still used in Michigan when I was there--Crisco was a favorite--but I found that unshod horses didn't tend to get the balls that shod horses did. One woman whose horse had full-sole leather pads under his shoes to treat a healing abscess said that kept him from balling up as badly, but I didn't see much difference.

ETA: Maybe a stiffer pad would have made more difference. Reducing the depth the snow can pack into does seem to help, so a stiff pad would make a shallow cup that packed snow could fall out of on its own.

TheIT
01-24-2006, 11:53 PM
MacAllister, I think I just found the coat color for my character's horse. Your dapple gray horse is stupendous, and I've already been considering having his family breed gray horses.

Fern
01-25-2006, 01:34 AM
If your guy is raising horses and they are dapple gray, you might want MacAllister to explain the changes they go through in relation to their color/age. I know grays aren't gray all their lives, but I can't tell you the color sequence they normally go through during their life span.

TheIT
01-25-2006, 01:39 AM
Horses change color? I didn't know that. A horse of a different color, indeed... ;)

Fern
01-25-2006, 03:25 AM
Below are a couple websites that may help regarding the color change. I'm only aware of grays doing the color changing. The first website listed below also gives other info that might be useful if your character is "breeding" grays. . .such as at least one parent has to be gray to get a gray colt.


http://www.vgl.ucdavis.edu/~lvmillon/coatcolor/coatclr3.html

http://www.equusite.com/articles/basics/colors/colorsGray.shtml

pdr
01-25-2006, 03:58 AM
Thank you, Aconite. The horses would be shod if they were carriage horses and my characters are comfortably off so their riding horses would be shod too.

Seems no one here rides in the winter. I can't change my setting to somewhere like Siberia with powder dry snow so I'll stick to leather overshoes and do more research amongst the horse driving groups.

Aconite
01-25-2006, 04:15 AM
I know grays aren't gray all their lives, but I can't tell you the color sequence they normally go through during their life span.
It varies from horse to horse. Some start to go white by age four, and some are still fairly dark at seven. I haven't checked the websites you linked yet, so forgive me if I'm being redundant, but I remember being stunned to learn that Lippizaner foals were born solid-colored black, bay, and brown.

I vaguely remember hearing something about roaning and color changing, too. I'll look for that reference tonight.

TheIT
01-25-2006, 04:21 AM
To the great info the others gave you, I can only add a couple of things. One is that mares come into heat, not just once, but repeatedly thoroughout the year. When one does, any male equine around her, gelded or not, will have her on his mind more than anything else, and the mare herself will have priorities that are not yours.



I remember reading about a battle during the Crusades in which the Crusaders rode stallions but the other army rode mares, some of which were in heat, so it led to utter chaos as the horses had other things on their minds than fighting....

Leva
01-25-2006, 04:24 AM
Re: leading horses/breaking trail.

Not necessarily. Endurance riders, during races (rides, if you want to be pc) fairly routinely "tail" their mounts up steel trails -- they dismount, grab hold of the horse's tail, and let the horse pull them up the hill. It's easier on the horse because the horse isn't trying to hump a human up the hill, and it's easier on the rider because it's NOT easy to ride a horse uphill (particularly if you're riding in a dinky little endurance saddle) and the horse pulls you up it. The horse may or may not be familiar with the trail, depending on if the rider's ridden it before or not.

Most that I've observed steer the horse with a single long rein and/or voice commands.


Leva


Somebody'd have to lead the horse, unless it was a trail the horse knew well.

Depends on what you've been doing, and how the horse is kept. Add picking out feet to your routine, definitely, and cleaning tack if you've used it. If the horse is being stabled at night and pastured during the day, turning it out and bringing it in are added to the chores. If it's blanketed, add taking off and putting on blankets, too. Picking out (cleaning manure from) the pasture is best done daily, too, if you're doing it by hand with a shovel/fork and bucket. And you need to bring in fresh bedding to replace the soiled.

No specific mealtimes required (they're naturally grazing animals, and do best getting food all through the day), but if you usually give them concentrated foods (like grains), some say it's best to keep those feeding times regular. They can tolerate some periods of inactivity--like if the weather is truly horrendous and they can't go out--but they do best if they have some exercise, and may do fun things like have fluid accumulate in their legs ("stocking up") if they have to stand around for long periods of time. If they're used to exercise and you have to keep them in, you have to adjust the amount of concentrated feed they get or you run the risk of azoturia ("Monday morning disease").

Typically you make a manure pile, and all the manure and soiled bedding goes there to decompose and be spread on fields when it's rotted. Cleaning mud off a really dirty horse is a filthy job, and brushing dried mud off makes you cough. Picking out the feet of a horse who doesn't like to have his feet touched is a treat; some mares, especially, don't like having their hind feet touched. A really nasty job is penile sheath cleaning, as the smegma could dissolve chrome; luckily, this does not have to be done often. Hauling and spreading the rotted manure is hard work, and so is turning or moving the manure pile. Personally, I like cleaning tack, but a lot of people hate it.

ETA--Oh, and dealing with the haypile is a dusty, sweaty, itchy job, too, especially when the hay is loose. Ditto bedding.

Saanen
01-25-2006, 04:30 AM
Horses change color? I didn't know that. A horse of a different color, indeed... ;)

It's mostly grays that change color. I love grays, myself--they're my favorite color horse (although as the adage says, "fat is the best color"). Gray horses are born black and they lighten throughout their lives, usually with dapples like that gorgeous fellow of MacAllister's. Their skins are dark, which makes it easier to distinguish an old gray horse (who will look white) from a true white horse (very rare and not very sought after as white horses can sunburn and have eye/skin/hoof troubles).

And don't confuse a gray horse with a blue roan, which is a horse that has a base coat of black with white hairs mixed in so that he looks gray. I'm sure others on the boards can give you more information about all this, though.

Your book sounds really interesting, by the way! You really ought to consider taking a few riding lessons to get the feel of horses, though--their smell, and the way a saddle feels/sounds when you're riding, and the way horses move and react to things. Plus it's fun. :)

TheIT
01-25-2006, 05:02 AM
Thanks for the encouragement, Saanen! Now if only I can get my story written. Back to BIC (sigh)....

How good a sense of direction do horses have on their own? Let's say one runs off into the woods (spooked). Would it try to come back home where it knows there's food?

Leva
01-25-2006, 05:15 AM
Some various rambling comments here, to add to what the others have said:

1. Don't underestimate the intelligence of a horse -- I find even modern-day horsepeople do. Intelligence tests with horses have put them up there with primates and dolphins. They've got very good memories for good and bad things, for patterns, for commands -- once a horse learns a command, in most cases, they won't forget it, unless you change the meaning of the command accidently or intentionally. And they have a good memory for places & trails & stuff.

They can make some very interesting connections. I had a mare who was abused long before I got her -- she had scars on her legs from being thrown with ropes, and whip marks. I have a pretty good idea that the person who beat her was a short, dark-haired guy who drank a lot because she was downright hostiletowards short, dark drunken men. Oh, and his favorite phrase was "god damnit!" presumably followed by a beating for her. If ANYONE uttered that phrase in her earshot, she'd be a quivering, sweaty mess -- including if I did it. (And this was not a horse who was afraid of much.) She also didn't like anyone dressed up like a rodeo cowboy -- she was okay with cowboy hats and jeans, but the more rodeo bling the person was wearing, the warier this horse would get.

Let's see -- some other examples of horsey brains:

I had a dingbat of a gelding who liked his hay soaking wet. He would pick the flake up in his teeth and carry it over his water trough and drop it in. Then he'd go bobbing for hay. Weird horse. (Also, completely insane, but that's another story.)

A pony where I boarded would get out and then promptly turn on every water spigot on the place. Just because he liked to play with the water. He would also let his buddies out to play -- but only his buddies.

I've known a large number of horses who can untie knots and undo latched doors and gates. The dingbat gelding, mentioned above, would do it only when you weren't paying attention to him. I used to padlock his stall door shut becaus ehe could get any other type of lock open; I think the only reason he couldn't undo the padlock was that he couldn't read.


2. Horses actually can have a pretty well developed sense of humor. It tends towards the, "Nya-nya-nya-NYA! I gotcha!" type humor. The same mare I mentioned above would, if I wasn't paying attention, deliberately spook. She rarely dumped me, but she definitely woke me up a number of times. I swear you could see her grin.

I also used to know a stallion whose idea of amusement was to throw things at people. Stall balls, fly masks, etc.

The stallion's son, at the same stable, would pick up the 8' long PVC pipes they used for rails on the jumps, and run around with them in his teeth. This scared the other colts, who'd flee frantically from him. The horse seemed to enjoy chasing the other horses, who were afraid of the rail he was carrying!

3. If a horse is unhappy about a rider, there's a number of things the horse might try:

The obvious is scraping the rider off under a limb, or against a post or tree.

Bucking talent actually varies by horse. My old mare, mentioned above as the one afraid of rodeo cowboys, was really lousy at bucking. SHe bucked in a straight line, and it was easy to stay on her. Then there are a few horses who are really, really, really good at getting rid of riders -- they tend to twist their hind legs out sideways, buck really really fast or high, or spin as they buck. The hardest motion, at least for me, to stay with is when the horse kicks sideways and spins as it bucks.

The horse may also shy suddenly. My mare learned to do THAT to get rid of a rider -- she'd duck sideways suddenly, and if you weren't ready, she'd duck right out from underneath you.

A spooked horse, or a horse who's excited for one reason or another, may bolt. Depending on the horse, the horse may or may not be so scared it's a danger to itself.

Rearing is fairly dangerous and is another evasion tactic a horse may use if it's not happy about being ridden -- it's also harder to stay on a rearing horse than it looks. If the horse goes over backwards and lands in the rider, it can kill the rider.

A horse who's just *unhappy* about being ridden, but not actively trying to get rid of the rider, will probably:

Sweat in great frothy amounts
Pin his/her ears and make dirty faces at the rider whenever the rider cues the horse to do something
Nip at the rider's toes
Refuse to stand still -- some riders will spin the horse in circles if they don't want to go forward. A horse who doesn't want to stand still can be really, really annoying.
Paw.
Pull at the reins
Toss their head when the rider touches the reins, or sometimes for no reason at all.
Refuse to give to the bit.
'wring" the tail -- lash it back and forth like a po'd cat, generally in reaction to a cue, or command.
Kick out in little mini-bucks in response to a cue.
Refuse to walk -- they "jig" at an annoying slow trot rather than walking. This is almost always accompanied by a ton of sweat and head-tossing.
Overreact to commands -- you ask a horse for a slow trot and the horse bolts. You ask the horse to sidepass (step sideways) and the horse goes ten feet sideways right off the trail.
Ignore commands. They're not stupid and they're perfectly capable of playing the, "I don't feel that!" command when you ask the horse to do something.
Lean or pull towards home.
Refuse to leave the barn area.
Pretend things are scarier than they really are. (My mare would refuse to cross a certain wooden bridge if she didn't want to go for a trail ride. She'd throw a sweating, snorting, spooking fit. The same horse would calmly walk over it on the way home! -- And then there were the horse-eating mailboxes and real estate signs and garbage cans and ... you get the idea. They weren't nearly as scary when she was happy about being ridden.)

That's a short list of unhappy-horse misbehavior. Gotta go now, alas. :)

Leva

TheIT
01-25-2006, 05:24 AM
A horse that throws things? I think my mage would train it to play catch. Hmm.... ;)

Eveningsdawn
01-25-2006, 06:00 AM
How good a sense of direction do horses have on their own? Let's say one runs off into the woods (spooked). Would it try to come back home where it knows there's food?

Oh yes. They're smart. They know exactly where their food is. And who feeds them. And when. And who can be sweet-talked into giving them more. My horse knows which way home is, even if we took a trailer to get there, and he'll speed up if he knows we're going in that direction.

On this subject, a story and some terminology for you. We had a mare, Easter, who was very intelligent but rather a b!tch. Stubborn as all hell, although great to learn on and basically a nice horse. I shared her with my friend Meggie. One day, Meg took her out for a trail ride and went quite a ways from home - I forget just where, but it was at least a mile or two - with her mother walking. She got off to talk to friends at one point, leaving the reins over Easter's head and letting go of them.
Easter took off at a run.
Meggie panicked, understandably, and they looked all over. An hour later, they had walked all the way back to the barn. Aaaand there was Easter, eating grass, perfectly happy. She'd come home all by herself. She was a smart girl.
A scared horse would need to get over their fear before this happened, tho.

If your horse does not like to leave the barn or stable, he is barnsour. If he does not like to be alone (without his herdmates) he is herdbound. Not that either of those is relevant to the question. But it's fun to learn!

Saanen
01-25-2006, 07:48 AM
Horses do have great senses of humor! I used to horsesit occasionally for some friends with two mares whose pasture had a little pond in it and some ducks. Every time the ducks would come out of the pond, the mare Poppy would sort of herd them back into the water. I couldn't figure out why at first, but then I realized she thought it was funny. She'd do it over and over until the ducks gave up and left the pasture.

Poppy was a very intelligent horse, a pretty spotted Appie, but she was a neurotic mess too. She had bonded so solidly with the other mare that she absolutely couldn't be parted from her. I was riding her one day and we went around a little bunch of trees, and when she realized she couldn't see the other mare she panicked and ran away with me. I was fine until she stopped dead and I fell off, lol. The reason she stopped was she could see the other mare again--she was absolutely fine afterwards, but I was a basketcase. I don't think I ever rode her again, actually. I don't like being run away with!

Getting back to mules, when I was in high school I used to take care of two mules for a neighbor (which is why I know a bit about mules--I've never had any of my own). One of the mules had a white scar on his rump shaped like a horseshoe from where the other mule had kicked him. I've never seen anything like that before or since.

Leva
01-25-2006, 09:21 AM
Re: finding the way home


Most horses have an excellent sense of direction, and would have no problems getting home, even over fairly large distances. They're almost as good as a homing pigeon.* And it's not just about food -- it's about the fact that their buddies are there and they associate home with safety and security.

Horses, BTW, do form powerful bonds with other horses.

The mare I mentioned really did have some issues & one of those was that she really didn't like other horses. I do not think she was socialized properly with other horses, and the apparent abuse in her past didn't help matters. She would kick/bite/throw raging fits if she was put together with other horses, or even had to share a fenceline. In fact, here's a picture of her in a real raging mood:

http://www.firefox.org/desi/fight.gif

Buuuut ... there was ONE gelding out of all the world she decided she liked. She started out hating him, they were in adjoining stalls and she'd kick the stall and squeal when she saw him. And he just wouldn't give up -- he was constantly nickering at her whenever he saw her, and making nice. (He was like that to everybody -- horses, people, etc. Even the barn cats slept in his manger.) She finally decided she liked him and they ended up buddies.

When he died, she started nickering at any horse who looked remotely like him. Any big bay thoroughbred that walked by, she'd call to -- and then she'd pin her ears and squeal when it turned out to be the wrong horse. She really did miss him, and looked for him for months.

Leva
*Just as a complete aside, I've learned that if a tame pigeon shows up in your backyard, it's pointless to attempt to relocate it to a city park 45 miles away where there's lots of other pigeons. I didn't really think that one through.

Aconite
01-25-2006, 03:54 PM
Endurance riders, during races (rides, if you want to be pc) fairly routinely "tail" their mounts up steel trails -- they dismount, grab hold of the horse's tail, and let the horse pull them up the hill.
Wow. I'm impressed. I would never have thought to grab a horse's tail like that. I'd have thought that was a good way to get kicked in the teeth. I take it this is something you only do with horses you trust? Or will horses allow this more easily than I think?

MacAllister
01-25-2006, 04:59 PM
Aconite, I do a fair bit of endurance. It's something you condition your horse to accept. It helps a great deal to long-line or ground drive, to begin with. Err--and to handle his tail a fair bit. :D

On conditioning rides, you dismount and hold the breast-collar, stirrup-leather, or a strap on the back of the saddle--while holding one end of your rein, which you've unclipped from the off-side of the bit.

You just gradually drop back a bit further, as the horse gets more comfortable, until you can catch his tail and he's pretty much used to it, by then.

Fern
01-25-2006, 09:09 PM
You can also hold to their tail if you happen to get in the water on your horse and become dismounted for whatever reason. . . & need help swimming. Never get in front or they will try to stand on you, anything solid to get a foot hold.

I doubt they used tiedowns in Medieval times, but just for the record never put a horse in the water with a tiedown on or you'll have a drowned horse.

TheIT
01-25-2006, 10:33 PM
What's a tiedown? And on the same subject, do horses have to be trained to stay? Let's say you're riding and have to get off. Do you have to hang onto the horse's reins so the horse won't wander away?

Aconite
01-25-2006, 10:58 PM
What's a tiedown? And on the same subject, do horses have to be trained to stay? Let's say you're riding and have to get off. Do you have to hang onto the horse's reins so the horse won't wander away?
Fern, is a tiedown what's also called a martingale? I'm not familiar with the word.

IT, a horse can be trained to ground-tie; in the US, most horses trained Western-style are. They learn to stand when the reins or their lead rope are dropped on the ground. IMO, this would also be very handy for hunters and jumpers, whose riders often come off, but differences in Western and English rein styles make that problematic. (Western reins are usually quite long and are not attached to each other [though some riders knot them together]. English reins are shorter and nearly always buckled together at the ends.)

TheIT
01-25-2006, 11:02 PM
So if you put the reins over the horse's back when you get off, you're implicitly giving it permission to move?

Leva
01-25-2006, 11:08 PM
A tie-down is a strap that runs from the horse's bridle to the breastcollar on the saddle. It's there to keep the horse from throwing his head up, and, in some limited circumstances, to give the rider more control. It's also called a martingale in English circles. (Tie-down is western terminology.)

A modification of the tie-down is the "running martingale" which is a pair of rings on straps attached to the breastcollar. The reins run through the rings and it functions as a pulley to, in somewhat debatable theory, give the rider more control/leverage.

Re: tie-downs in medieval times. I would suspect that the first tie-down was invented shortly after the first saddled horse bloodied his rider's nose throwing his head up. I'm sure they had them. They'd have had the same problems, and the same practical response, that most modern riders have, and probably a fair bit less concern over the horse's feelings about the tie-down. Horse throwing his head in the air and threatening to give the rider a concussion? Tie the #$%$ nag's nose down so he can't do that anymore.

The problem with tiedowns, as Fern indicated, is that in deep water a horse can drown. Also, if a running horse trips wearing a tiedown, he may go down and quite possibly break his neck.

(If a horse falls while running, the rider is also at great risk of being killed. It doesn't happen that often, but it does happen -- my mare simply slipped one day at a canter and went down. I felt her feet start to go out from underneath her and bailed, or I'd have died that day -- she flipped completely over and smashed the saddle she was wearing. They said her feet missed my head by inches. I still don't know how I got clear.)

Leva

Leva
01-25-2006, 11:13 PM
No. But some horses just aren't trained to stand still when a rider dismounts. Ground tying may or may not work; it largely depends on the horse and how strong his motivation is to move vs. how good his training and how dependable his personality is. Some horses, once ground-tyed, will still wander off as soon as the rider's out of grabbing distance. Others will stand there in the face of flood, fire, and apocalypse.

The problem with reins that are buckled together is that if the horse gets a foot tangled into the buckled reins, in many cases, the horse will freak out. So English riders won't drop the reins on the ground. (One of the first things I teach a horse I'm going to ride a lot is to NOT freak in a situation like this. It can be taught, but that doesn't occur to many riders.)

Some trainers, incidently, will purposefully bail off the horse while holding a long rein and teach the horse to "woah" when the rider comes off. Again, this may or may not work in the real world. Depends on the horse.

Leva


So if you put the reins over the horse's back when you get off, you're implicitly giving it permission to move?

Aconite
01-25-2006, 11:16 PM
So if you put the reins over the horse's back when you get off, you're implicitly giving it permission to move?
IMO, yes. My horses will follow me if I do that. Other friends say no, but that doesn't make sense to me. Either they're ground-tied or they're not, and I don't think it's fair to give mixed signals.

TheIT
01-25-2006, 11:57 PM
I've finally had a chance to look at some of the posts a little more closely (thanks again), and have more questions.

Shod vs. unshod? What are the advantages/disadvantages? I'd guess a shod horse would have an easier time in some terrains like over rocks or on city streets.

My friend who knows horses suggested thinking of the horse's head like a mallet or club especially if you're standing next to the horse. Getting bopped by the horse's head sounds painful/dangerous/possibly life threatening. I think she was speaking from experience....

And BTW, the fantasy world I'm creating has medieval level technology plus magic, but it's not Earth and not medieval Europe. That's the beauty of fantasy. I can pick and choose the best real history has to offer while world building as long as I can justify it within their history. I'm still very interested in the real world responses (keep the info coming), but let's open the discussion a little wider. If you had access to magic, what would you like to see with regard to horses? Saddles which keep riders from falling off? Cushions to prevent saddle sores? New training methods? I'm still defining magic in this world, and I'm looking for practical applications.

Aconite
01-26-2006, 12:33 AM
Shod vs. unshod? What are the advantages/disadvantages? I'd guess a shod horse would have an easier time in some terrains like over rocks or on city streets.Probably the two biggest advantages to shoes are that the hoof doesn't wear down as quickly on rough surfaces, and you can compensate for injuries or other damage to the feet or for bad conformation. There are special shoes and techniques for all kinds of problems, from punctures to navicular disease. Disadvantages are that shoes can get sucked off in mud, or be "thrown" in other ways, and when they go, the horse may become unbalanced, bruise his foot, have some hoof torn off, or step on the loose nails. A shod horse can also do more damage when it kicks. Shoes have to be taken off, adjusted, and reset, and the hoof trimmed, every 5-8 weeks or so. Leaving shoes on too long can lame a horse. Other advantages to leaving a horse unshod are that the hoof wears down more on its own (which can also be a disadvantage), and snow and dirt don't ball or pack in the feet as badly.


My friend who knows horses suggested thinking of the horse's head like a mallet or club especially if you're standing next to the horse. Getting bopped by the horse's head sounds painful/dangerous/possibly life threatening.It is. The weight of the skull alone makes it dangerous, and when you put the force of the muscles behind it...man oh man, can you get hurt. It's not at all uncommon for riders to get broken noses, broken cheekbones, loose teeth, and concussions from being hit, and you can get clobbered standing next to a horse, too.


If you had access to magic, what would you like to see with regard to horses? Saddles that correctly fit any horse they're put on. Girths that never slip and that never rub the horse. Stirrups that don't let your feet slip through, and that gently adhere to the soles of your boots. Head protection for the rider. Horseshoes that don't come loose until they're taken off. Spells for getting burrs out of tails. Water troughs that keep water from freezing in cold weather. Spells of sure-footedness. Anti-fly, anti-gnat, anti-mosquito magic. Training magic that let you communicate to the horse just what you're asking him to do, and let you reward him with good feelings when he got it.

TheIT
01-26-2006, 01:17 AM
Thanks, that's the sort of idea I'm looking for. So, "something to reward a horse with good feelings." What do horses associate with good feelings? Good tastes, like sweet food. Companionship, of other horses or humans. Good touch, like being scratched or groomed. Sound? Soft words spoken in soothing tones. Do horses react to music? Smell? Other?

I've been asking how horses show affection. How do humans show affection to horses?

Horses and blindfolds. In Westerns, I've seen scenes where the barn is burning and they put blindfolds over the horses' eyes to keep them from panicking. This implies horses are more likely to react to danger they can see rather than smell or hear. True or fallacy?

Aconite
01-26-2006, 01:33 AM
Good touch, like being scratched or groomed.Their bodies actually release endorphins when they're touched in certain areas--the areas horses groom for each other, along the withers, neck, back, and rump. This seems to facilitate bonding. They nearly always prefer soft sounds to loud ones.


I've been asking how horses show affection. How do humans show affection to horses?Soft stroking. Doing the horse's favorite things, like scratching in favorite spots, taking him out to particularly nice spots of grass, or playing a favorite game. Bringing treats like fruit or peppermint. Giving nicknames. Doing silly little things, like putting braids in the mane or tail, or glitter on the hooves, or using shampoo that costs three times what your own does to wash him when you know he's going to roll in the dirt as soon as you let him out of the stable.


Horses and blindfolds. In Westerns, I've seen scenes where the barn is burning and they put blindfolds over the horses' eyes to keep them from panicking. This implies horses are more likely to react to danger they can see rather than smell or hear. True or fallacy?They actually have fairly bad eyesight. They can only focus their eyes by raising or lowering their heads--raising to see things far off, and lowering to see things close by. Because of the way their eyes are set, they can see nearly all the way around them, with blind spots directly in front and directly in back, and they can detect motion pretty well, but they seem to rely more on scent and sound than sight. Putting a blindfold on a frightened horse makes him more willing to follow your lead because he can't see what's around him and you can, so in his mind you're better suited to decide what to do. This doesn't work if the horse is truly panicked, though, because panic is irrational and the poor thing is just about brainless with fear.

Fern
01-26-2006, 02:54 AM
The tie downs we use have a nose band and a strap that runs to the girth and hooks to it. Maybe the same is what is called a standing martingale. Its not the martingale that forks and attaches to the reins.

As far as the fantasy, why not make the strain of horses the guy is raising have a magic of their own, something unique only to the offspring of their main stallion. Say. . .the ability to emanate a glowing shield around their body and that of their rider in times of extreme danger.

It could come from having access to a particular forest on the owners property that only those horses have access to and it rubs off on them from certain trees or plants in the forest. Maybe it wears off after so many hours/days if they are unable to get back to that forest. That would preclude being able to sell any of the offspring though, because then others would know the horse wasn't magical once he left that property/access to that forest. Could be, though, that they raise them only for the people, warriors and tenants on their holdings although they are much sought after by others.

You could always borrow the attitude of others with these type books/movies.. . just don't explain. . . example: Movies that substitute a horse with a stand in and the audience is supposed to believe its the same horse. The first is a gelding and the next, though identical color, is a mare. I never notice this stuff, but my husband does, without fail. If the tack is on wrong or something to do with the shoes, you can bet he will catch it. You'd be surprised how often it happens.

TheIT
01-26-2006, 03:05 AM
Thanks for the suggestions. I'm toying with ideas to make at least some horses/animals magical, but right now I'm more interested in suggestions regarding uses of magic when dealing with normal horses. I want to make sure I have internal consistency in how my world works.

Leva
01-26-2006, 04:41 AM
In a primitive world, I suspect most horses would be unshod because it's expensive both in materials and fuel to make horseshoes.

It actually depends on the horse, and what you're doing with the horse, as to whether shoes or needed or not. Generally speaking, shoes are needed:

1. If the horse has problem feet. Some horses NEVER need shoes -- my mare was like this. Other horses will always need shoes, or they may have had an injury that requires shoes. Sometimes a horse may need shoes temporarily -- for example, the horse might have a bruised foot or an abcess inside the hoof (which is extremely painful) and is healing now. There are other theraupeutic reasons that a horse might need shoes -- I can give some more examples if you want.

2. If traveling over very abrasive terrain. i.e., lava rocks, rough limestone, etc. A horse that's used to going barefoot and which has good hard feet and lots of sole actually won't have much trouble with just plain rocks. However, if their feet are worn down too much by travel, they'll be sore until they either grow some more hoof or

3. For extra traction on ice, or slippery wet turf.

4. Rider habit. Rider thinks the horse needs shoes. Rider is convinced the horse will go lame if the horse doesn't have shoes. Therefore horse wears shoes, even if not really needed. Which is probably about 90% of the reason why backyard pet horses wear shoes in our world. :)

Note that a badly shod horse can go lame just from the bad shoeing job -- if they're out of balance or trimmed to short or whatever.

As far as the horse;s head goes --- ooooh, yeah. I actually intended to mention, and forgot, that for most friendly, well-trained horses, I worry as much about what the head's doing as the heels are. You're a lot more likely to get whacked by accident by a friendly horse's head than you are to get kicked. (Even friendly horses will also sometimes bite. And boy oh boy can they bite.)

And that head has some powerful muscles behind it. Worst wreck I've ever personally been in involving horses --

Used to groom lesson horses when I boarded, to raise money for the horsey habit. One of the lesson horses was a particularly dumb gelding, who didn't like or trust people much, but was too lazy to really put up a fuss, so he functioned more-or-less as a lesson horse.

My job was to untack the horses and hose them off after the lesson. Silly gelding (and for the life of me, I can't remember this horse's name!) was tied up with a halter to the hitching rail, with a bridle on under the halter. I was in the process of trying to get the bridle off without taking the halter off because this particular horse would have taken off if he realized he was free.

Well, he decided to scratch his head against my hip -- sweaty horses get itchy and it's considered bad manners when they scratch their heads on people, but this was a lesson horse, and he got away with it with some of kids so he tried it with everyone.

He had on a curb bit with a metal hook for the chain. (A curb bit has a chain that goes under the horse's jaw.) I had on a leather belt. The hook on the bit caught my belt. And he suddenly found himself attached to my hip by his bit, and he completely freaked -- because it was unexpected, it was scary, he didn't trust people at all, and it probably hurt a bit.

Now, this was a fairly short horse -- about 14 hands -- but he still managed to lift me clear off my feet, rear, break the halter, spin around (yanking me with him), rear again, and went over backwards. He smacked me into the hitching rail and I broke a rib and wrenched my back. I was lucky I didn't BREAK my back, and lucky that he didn't come down on top of me. Fortunately, when he started thrashing around trying to get to his feet, my belt finally broke.

My point is, this fairly small horse was able to fling me around like a ragdoll -- like I weighed absolutlely nothing. And I weighed around 170 at the time. They are unbelievably strong.

Incidently, after this happened, this horse could not be tied. Somehow he'd become convinced that being tied was scary. He broke MANY halters before they finally decided he was never going to make a suitable lesson horse and sold him.

Leva


I've finally had a chance to look at some of the posts a little more closely (thanks again), and have more questions.

Shod vs. unshod? What are the advantages/disadvantages? I'd guess a shod horse would have an easier time in some terrains like over rocks or on city streets.

My friend who knows horses suggested thinking of the horse's head like a mallet or club especially if you're standing next to the horse. Getting bopped by the horse's head sounds painful/dangerous/possibly life threatening. I think she was speaking from experience....

And BTW, the fantasy world I'm creating has medieval level technology plus magic, but it's not Earth and not medieval Europe. That's the beauty of fantasy. I can pick and choose the best real history has to offer while world building as long as I can justify it within their history. I'm still very interested in the real world responses (keep the info coming), but let's open the discussion a little wider. If you had access to magic, what would you like to see with regard to horses? Saddles which keep riders from falling off? Cushions to prevent saddle sores? New training methods? I'm still defining magic in this world, and I'm looking for practical applications.

TheIT
01-27-2006, 01:36 AM
What about training horses to pull carts/carriages? I imagine some horses wouldn't take well to being followed.

The insect repeller suggestion would fit in well with magic in my story. Something else I thought of was levitation spells to make whatever the horse is carrying weigh less so the horse wouldn't have to work so hard. Might work on the rider, too. ;)

Newbie riders. Any classic mistakes? Any ways for the horse to take over?

5KidsMom
01-27-2006, 06:06 AM
OK, Josephine, I want that bald faced paint on the left in your picture. :) MacAllister, yours are gorgeous too.

I would love to post pictures of my babies, but we have lots of phone connection issues out here and they would never load. :rant: Trust me, I've tried. We have an old buckskin QH that was my dd's first barrel horse - he is the dark buckskin that is often mistaken for a grullo. Our paint is a dun with a dorsal stripe and zebra stripes on his legs and a perfect outline of a saddle on his back (so beginners know where to put it!) Our little pony is red with lots of white hair - a mini Haflinger, only about 34 inches tall, but he beats up on the paint. I need to buy another horse because our buckskin is just getting too creaky to ride for long periods and I like to go on LONG trail rides. I'm afraid I'd have to carry him back, poor baby. I think I want something gaited, but I love stock horses so I'm looking into a fox trotter.

Now back to the latest question . . .

Training a horse to pull a cart is a matter of common sense. Remember that they are prey, therefore afraid of anything that might be chasing them. You start by getting them used to a harness, then walking behind them holding the reins (without a cart) - ground driving - and steering them around. Then you show them the cart, move them around it, and hook it up without actually going anywhere. When they're used to that, you move off slowly and easily, leading them so you're there to reassure them that this thing behind them isn't gonna eat them. It just takes time. Remember that driving has a whole set of pitfalls to it that aren't present when riding - carts breaking, harness snapping, spooky horse running off with the cart, etc.

Eveningsdawn
01-27-2006, 06:08 AM
Classic mistakes oh how I love thee...

Not tightening/checking the girth before mounting. That's a big one.
Dropping the reins and clutching the pommel in terror.
Riding all hunched up - shoulders bowed in, back bent, knees pulled up. Hmm...
Not asserting yourself - allowing the horse to chose where you're going, when you're stopping, and at what speed you'll be taking that jump.
Not disciplining properly. Discipline has to come immediatly after offense, and can't be too harsh. BUT it can't be too gentle, or they won't listen. A smart smack of a crop applied to a lazy horse is perfectly appropriate, but not repeated hard hits (mean!) or a light tap on the shoulder (wussy and he won't listen).

I know nothing about carriages or carts.

Leva
01-27-2006, 09:26 AM
Heheh. I did mention I boarded at a stable with around 140 head of horses, mostly owned by kissypoo rich women, with a few snarky cowboys thrown in for good measure? Off the top of my head:

1. Assuming any horse is bomb-proof. ANY horse will spook, given sufficient provocation. One woman, riding bareback and with only a halter, on a supposedly bomb-proof 20-something gelding, broke her arm when the horse spooked. This horse was regularly ridden in parades and had been around every critter known to man -- except, apparently, a turkey. He took one look at the turkey and bolted and with only a halter and a lead rope, she had no way of getting his attention back to stop him. He stopped at the door to his stall, and she kept going right ...

2. Trusting a strange horse not to bite. Generally speaking, most friendly horses don't kick without provocation, but they WILL bite and bite hard. They can remove fingers. And some horses think nipping is the best game ever -- the object being to nip the human without getting smacked.

3. Not asking what the horse's "buttons" are. I learned the hard way not to assume horses all understand the same commands -- there's something called a "spur stop" in certain schools of western riding, where, when you spur the horse, it STOPS. HARD. As in, all four feet planted, skidding to a stop. I ride English. The first time I encountered this was on a trail ride in a horse that was tacked up English. I was trying to get the horse to transition move faster, and the horse was simply ignoring me, so I spurred him. He slid to a stop as he'd been trained. (This horse, frankly, probably didn't need much of an excuse to stop!) He WAS going fast enough, and I wasn't expecting it, so I went over the front of the saddle, and the horse spun around and ran home.

Also, some horses just have hangups -- my mare hated whips that went pop! anywhere in her hearing, though she was fine with a crop. I also had an OTTB (of-the-track thoroughbred) who hated crops with an absolute passion and, if smacked with one, would promptly bolt. I also used to take lessons on an otherwise friendly mare who hated to be scratched. She was wildly ticklish and what 99.9% of the other horses out there would take as a friendly scritch would cause her to pin her ears and crowhop.

So not talking to the horse's owners about HOW to ride the horse is a newbie mistake.

4. Basic safety. Newbies tend to make mistakes like not watching where their feet are in relation to the horse's feet. Or tying the horse up by the reins (a real no-no). Or getting between a horse and an immovable object. Or a thousand other ways to get hurt badly, or have the horse get hurt. I have seen horses KILLED by newbie mistakes -- one that comes to mind is someone who tried to teach a horse to tie by using a rope halter that couldn't be broken. THe horse had learned to break regular halters. The halter couldn't be broken, but the hitching rail could, and the horse flipped over backwards and hit his head on the hood of a truck behind him.

5. Not putting tack on correctly. Two real common mistakes I see are a bridle that's adjusted so that the bit is too high or two low, and girth galls (sores) under the horse's armpits that are caused by operator error. Girth galls can be caused by catching a fold of the horse's skin under the girth, by making it too tight or too loose, by a dirty horse or dirty girth, or a myriad of other little issues that experienced horse people don't even really think about.

6. Using tack that fits incorrectly -- if the saddle doesn't fit, the horse can get an extremely sore back from bruising & muscle strain. If the saddle really, really, really doesn't fit, you can also get saddle sores -- which are actually less of an issue and less painful than muscle damage caused by a saddle that is generally either too long or too short. (Fitting a saddle to a horse is about like finding shoes that fit for people! I've seen some very "bad" horses turn into very good horses when they get a properly fitting saddle!)

7. Feeding the horse incorrectly -- usually, too much grain. This can lead simply to a hot, squirrelly horse or it can cause colic and founder if overdone. (A subset of this would be, not securing grain where the horse can't get into it if he gets out. Horses can and will gorge themselves to death on grain.)

Leva


Classic mistakes oh how I love thee...

Not tightening/checking the girth before mounting. That's a big one.
Dropping the reins and clutching the pommel in terror.
Riding all hunched up - shoulders bowed in, back bent, knees pulled up. Hmm...
Not asserting yourself - allowing the horse to chose where you're going, when you're stopping, and at what speed you'll be taking that jump.
Not disciplining properly. Discipline has to come immediatly after offense, and can't be too harsh. BUT it can't be too gentle, or they won't listen. A smart smack of a crop applied to a lazy horse is perfectly appropriate, but not repeated hard hits (mean!) or a light tap on the shoulder (wussy and he won't listen).

I know nothing about carriages or carts.

aruna
01-27-2006, 11:49 AM
http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a11/MacAlStone/Snake-pasture.jpg

What gorgeous animals! This thread has made me so nostalgic.
As a little girl, I was totally in love with horses, so much so that when I went to school in England I chose a foster mother who ran a riding school in the wild north of England, far away from anywhere. She had Shetland ponies, Fells and Arabs.

In the winter, I used to have to get up at 6 and go out in the fields to bring them in for feeding, muck out stables, etc. I'll never forget struggling with those huge gates against a blistering cold wind coming in from the sea!
And in summer we went to Pony club events, treks, etc etc. It was fantastic! I hated cleaning tack. My foster mother didn't believe in warm water, and I'll never forget using that ice cold water, my fingers frozen blue .

Horses are very much connected with my writing life.
When I was about 12 I read My Friend Flicka, and that was the first time I knew the power of a book. I cried for days at the end and must have re-read it about 20 times. I never dreamt I'd ever write books myself, but reading that book was better than real life - I WAS Ken. Anyone who hasn't should; even if you're adult, and not a horse person. There are passages in that book I can repeat up to this day.

I had my own Fell pony. Her name was Pennant. Fell ponies are hardy North England animals, they are always black and get long, shaggy winter coats.

Later, in Guyana, I had a horse called SHiva. We took him up to the country with us, in the jungle, near where the Jonestown thing took place. It was dreadful. I didn't know it before but the place is rampant witrh vampire bats. They come in the night, bite animals behind the ears, (and humans on their toes!) and drink thrie blood. Every morning SHiva was covered in blood; we had to build a pen for him.

Anyway, sorry for butting in here; I have nothing useful to say on the subject, just sweet memories. What magnificent creatures horses are! They are still my favourite animals, though I'll never keep them again.

Aconite
01-27-2006, 05:09 PM
Newbie riders. Any classic mistakes?
Kicking the horse and pulling on the reins at the same time. Trying to get the horse to turn by leaning sideways, or to go by leaning forward. Trying to turn or stop the horse with reins alone and not the rest of the rider's body. Dragging the foot across the horse's back when mounting or dismounting. Dismounting by swinging the right leg forward over the horse's neck instead of back over the rump. Turning around to look behind while mounted and moving. Crowding the horse in front. Yelling, running, and/or making fast gestures or movements around the horse. Shoving feet all the way to the arch in the stirrups. Adjusting stirrups too long or too short. Holding onto the mane (though this can be a safety net for very inexperienced riders). Thinking the horse will stop if you pull on the mane.

Nearly all new riders tend to lean too far forward. For men, this can lead to an excruciating problem, and some then overcompensate by leaning too far back.


ETA: Just thought of some other things.

Trying to put an ice-cold bit in the horse's mouth. Forgetting to lead, mount, and generally handle from the horse's left side. Forgetting to watch out for the horse's right eye while standing on the left and bridling or haltering. Bending the horse's ears to get them under the bridle or halter. Not leaving plenty of slack in the throatlatch so the horse can breathe. Not examining all tack before use for cracks, dirt, tears, loose buckles, or other health or safety red flags. Walking behind a horse at just the right distance to receive maximum impact from a kick. Not checking and picking out the horse's feet before and after use. Squatting, sitting, or kneeling on the ground close enough to be hurt if the horse moves suddenly. Putting your face in areas where it's vulnerable to kicks (like when leaning under a horse to grab the girth). Leaning far out to grab something while mounted.

(Can you tell I taught riding at a summer camp?)

TheIT
01-27-2006, 11:13 PM
Thanks again. And Aruna, you're not butting in, come join the party! Everyone's welcome. I'm interested in tidbits of information not found in books or videos, like using ice-cold water makes it hard to clean tack or horses sometimes throw things. Vampire bats? Ugh, and possibly relevant to my story. It's a fantasy and all sorts of nasties live in the woods. When you built the pen to keep your horse safe, what did you use?

Given the level of technology I'm writing for, my characters use horses for everyday travel and work but it's all new to me. I'm trying to pick up some details to insert into the narrative which will make it ring more true, and I very much appreciate the response this thread has received.

So, more questions. Bareback riding vs. riding with saddle? Let's say there's an emergency in the middle of the night and you need to get the horse ready quickly. What's the minimum amount of tack you need to control a horse?

Aconite
01-27-2006, 11:25 PM
So, more questions. Bareback riding vs. riding with saddle? Let's say there's an emergency in the middle of the night and you need to get the horse ready quickly. What's the minimum amount of tack you need to control a horse?
Depends on the horse and the situation. Strictly speaking, well trained horses get their cues more from your seat and the whole of your body than from the reins or any other tack, but there's no denying tack helps.

If it's truly an emergency, and you really trust the horse, and he's a steady-Eddie, you might be able to get away with a halter and lead rope. If the horse is nervous, not well trained, or not familiar with you, you'd want at least a bridle. A saddle isn't so much about control as about comfort and safety. Some horses have backs that are like inverted Vs, and it hurts to sit on them--especially at higher speeds! It's not comfortable for the horse to have a rider bouncing on his kidneys, either. Stirrups give you security that you don't have bareback, and if your balance isn't the best, or if the horse is wet and slippery, or if you're on uneven terrain, it really helps to have a saddle.

aruna
01-27-2006, 11:25 PM
Thanks again. And Aruna, you're not butting in, come join the party! Everyone's welcome. I'm interested in tidbits of information not found in books or videos, like using ice-cold water makes it hard to clean tack or horses sometimes throw things. Vampire bats? Ugh, and possibly relevant to my story.


The pen had to be completely closed in; it was made of very stable wire mesh.
Reading Aconite's post brought so much back to me. My foster-mother-riding-teacher was very strict. Heels down, toes up, relaxed hands, don't pull, chin up, shoulders back. She was very keen on relaxed and supple hips; keeping heels, knees and elbows in a straight vertical line; never having a gap between knees and saddle, and still being relaxed and flexible. Instead of pulling the reins, squeeze them; the movement should not be visible.
I learned all kinds of nice things, dressage and show jumping, cross country, even fox-hunting! (Though I'm against it in principle, I have to say it was great fun.) We lived at the sea; taking the horses swimming!
Sunny and Lucky, the two Shetland ponies. The Arab colt she bought for breeding, who broke his leg soon after and had to be put down.

Aconite
01-27-2006, 11:28 PM
even fox-hunting! (Though I'm against it in principle, I have to say it was great fun.)I always thought a drag hunt would be a blast. No gore at the end, and the added advantage of knowing the trail won't go through someone's newly planted crops.

TheIT
01-27-2006, 11:29 PM
How well do horses swim? Do you have to swim alongside? I'm guessing a rider (swimmer?) wouldn't be able to stay on the horse's back. What if you have to cross a stream or river and there's no bridge?

I've heard that salt water is bad for horse hooves after long exposure. If you're riding on a beach, is it better to ride on the sand next to the water, or in the water?

TheIT
01-27-2006, 11:30 PM
What's a drag hunt? I'm guessing you don't mean dragons....

Aconite
01-27-2006, 11:33 PM
What's a drag hunt? I'm guessing you don't mean dragons....
Or people in the clothing of the opposite sex. :)

It's when you use a lure to lay a scent trail for the hounds, instead of finding and chasing a fox. One way to lay it is to drag the lure behind a rider on horseback.

aruna
01-27-2006, 11:34 PM
How well do horses swim? Do you have to swim alongside? I'm guessing a rider (swimmer?) wouldn't be able to stay on the horse's back. What if you have to cross a stream or river and there's no bridge?

I've heard that salt water is bad for horse hooves after long exposure. If you're riding on a beach, is it better to ride on the sand next to the water, or in the water?

They didn't swim much. We would ride into th esea, and they'd plunge into the waves, then we'd turn back. We stayed on their backs; bareback, of course. We rode along the sand, mostly.

Leva
01-28-2006, 01:19 AM
This is NOT, repeat NOT, the reccommended way to introduce a child to horses.

But there was a girl, in her teens, where I boarded. She'd been given a filly when she was a little kid. They'd known each other basically their entire lives and had a communication unlike anything I've ever seen. She could ride this horse bareback and NO BRIDLE, at all four gaits, and on trail rides. I think the only time I ever saw her bother with tack was when she got yelled at by the stable management. She'd go blasting down trails at a dead gallop, bareback, with just a lead rope knotted around the horse's neck to hang on to, and she had absolute 100% control. She could jump the horse over things, come to skidding stops with her fingers laced behind her head (not even holding on to the lead rope -- she used the lead rope for balance when jumping and at a dead run) etc. The two of them were unreal -- she'd look somewhere and the horse would go there, she'd gallop up to people and stop on a dime next to them, or jump the arena fence, or or or ... amazing.

For most riders, and most horses, a bridle would be the bare minimum. A good rider can stay on a bareback horse even at a run -- it's not that hard. It's not that comfortable, however, and you tend to end up absolutely covered in horsehair. If the horse sweats, you get soaked through and on a cold day, you end up freezing your butt off.

Leva



Depends on the horse and the situation. Strictly speaking, well trained horses get their cues more from your seat and the whole of your body than from the reins or any other tack, but there's no denying tack helps.

If it's truly an emergency, and you really trust the horse, and he's a steady-Eddie, you might be able to get away with a halter and lead rope. If the horse is nervous, not well trained, or not familiar with you, you'd want at least a bridle. A saddle isn't so much about control as about comfort and safety. Some horses have backs that are like inverted Vs, and it hurts to sit on them--especially at higher speeds! It's not comfortable for the horse to have a rider bouncing on his kidneys, either. Stirrups give you security that you don't have bareback, and if your balance isn't the best, or if the horse is wet and slippery, or if you're on uneven terrain, it really helps to have a saddle.

Saanen
01-28-2006, 04:03 AM
Horses are very much connected with my writing life.
When I was about 12 I read My Friend Flicka, and that was the first time I knew the power of a book. I cried for days at the end and must have re-read it about 20 times.

They are still my favourite animals, though I'll never keep them again.

My Friend Flicka is a truly stupendous work of literature! It seems to be more or less forgotten these days, which is a pity. I also love Black Beauty.

Why won't you keep horses again? Any particular reason, or just where you live?

As for stupid newbie mistakes, getting lost in thought/daydreaming to the extent that your horse starts making the decisions and you don't notice until he decides he'd like to just go home. I was bad about that as a kid, until I became experienced enough as a rider that my "auto pilot" riding was as good as my "auto pilot" driving skills are now (but it's still not a good idea to not pay adequate attention to your horse).

As other people have pointed out, bareback riding can be uncomfortable (to both horse and rider) and it isn't as safe as riding with a saddle, but it's also a great way to learn balance and how to grip with your knees. If you're not doing it correctly bareback, you'll simply fall off. Horses are slippery. :)

TheIT
01-28-2006, 05:06 AM
Or people in the clothing of the opposite sex. :)

It's when you use a lure to lay a scent trail for the hounds, instead of finding and chasing a fox. One way to lay it is to drag the lure behind a rider on horseback.

Is there a prize at the end? So it sounds like the goal is to follow the right scent trail to the right place. This has possibilities. I'm also looking for leisure activities for the people in my world and the thought of a bloodless race to reach the end of the trail is intriguing, especially when adding illusions to make the course more difficult. Hmm...

BTW, the horses my noble character's family breeds are going to be courier horses, so speed and stamina are important. I figure they'd have something like the pony express. Another noble house breeds horses for fighters.

pdr
01-28-2006, 06:00 AM
In NZ and the UK Racehorses are often taken to the beach for exercise and swimming. All that loose sand makes the horse develop strength, good muscles and endurance. The swimming ditto.

Horses are like people re the water. Some horses love swimming, others hate it. My ex steeplechaser loved it. I'd swim with her hanging onto her mane at her withers. My Anglo-Arab had a prissy fit at the water's edge and would dither and fuss. But you had to watch her as she loved to roll in shallow water and was a swine to get through any water without a lot of pawing, splashing and threatening to roll.

Aconite
01-28-2006, 04:38 PM
Is there a prize at the end? So it sounds like the goal is to follow the right scent trail to the right place. This has possibilities. I'm also looking for leisure activities for the people in my world and the thought of a bloodless race to reach the end of the trail is intriguing, especially when adding illusions to make the course more difficult. Hmm...
Sounds like you're envisioning each rider, or maybe team of riders, having their own hound or hounds to follow, which could be an interesting variation. The way it's usually done is to have a pack of hounds which is followed by all the riders (known collectively as "the hunt"). Foxhunting has a whole set of manners and traditions--who can wear what when, who rides where and how, who earns what at the end of the chase--and not being part of that world, I can't tell you much more, but I'm sure someone here can.

Try Googling "three-day eventing" (aka "horse trials," if you're in Europe), "competitive trail riding," and "le trec" and see if those spark your imagination for contests courier-horse and war-horse breeders would be interested in. The endurance riders here can fill you in on that sport, too.

Leva
01-28-2006, 07:40 PM
One more stupid newbie mistake -- buying the WRONG horse.

Usually, the newbie has some romanticized idea about the perfect horse, or the perfect relationship with a horse, or the perfect breed. And so, they'll:

1. Buy a cute baby foal -- and they have no idea how to deal with that foal, when, a week after they buy it, it hits the horsey equivalent of the teenage years and becomes a stinking brat. Plus, baby horse bought because they're cute often grows up in a backyard without other horses around, and becomes a socially clueless adult who can't be ridden in trail rides or trusted to behave around other horses.

2. They buy their dream breed. Nevermind that they haven't been on a horse since a week at summer camp when they are nine, they have to have their perfect breed, and the prettiest example of that breed, even if the horse is extremely hot, extremely athletic, or not suited for how they intend to ride. They may buy a cheap example of their dream breed, ignoring the fact that the horse is 20 and has never been broke to ride, or is NOT a good example of that breed, or has nitroglycerin for brains, or has a major health problem, or or or ... yeah.

(A subset of this is the person who buys the "made" horse -- they may spend mid five figures on a top showhorse and expect that they can do as well, or their kid can, in the ring as the rider who "made" that horse. The horse is already trained, right? And it's proven it can win. All they have to do is sit there and push the right buttons. But they ride like a rag doll. After campaigning the horse for a year, they have one second place ribbon, and that's only because the horse was the ONLY horse in the ring for that class, and the judge gave them second because he said they didn't deserve a first. So the owner finally sells the horse in disgust, claiming they got ripped off and/or show world politics caused them to loose every single class. -- And what a lot of people who buy "made" horses don't realize is that if a top show-winning horse is for sale, it's sometimes because there's something wrong with it. So sometimes they pay five figures for a horse that goes lame after they buy it.)

3. Alternatively, they buy the cheapest horse they can find. I'll never forget the heartbroken little girl, when her mother took a "free" horse that had really horrible founder, Cushings disease, heaves, ringbone, and was pushing 40 in age. Momma was convinced they could put special shoes on the horse and he'd go sound and her little eight year old girl would have a sweet old gelding to putt around on. Two weeks later, she was paying for euthanasia after the "bargain babysitter's" coffin bones pierced the soles of his feet and the vet point-blank told them there was nothing he could do and he refused to try. The kid was absolutely devastated.

More commonly, they'll buy a really cheap horse who has behavioral or milder health problems.

Leva

MacAllister
01-28-2006, 08:06 PM
I always groan and roll my eyes over the do-it-yourselfer who wildly overestimates his or her own skills.

This is the guy or gal in Leva's post, above, who rode a horse for a week at summer camp when they were nine. Now, they have a little disposable income, so they buy a good young horse. Okay so far, right?

Here's where it goes terribly wrong.

This person decides paying for training and lessons is silly. It should mostly be common sense, anyway, right? So they go out to the local Western Outfitters, buy a couple of books and a Pat Parelli or other video-tape. The next day, they set to work. With an incomplete understanding, and a serious lack of the aforementioned common-sense, they lock themselves in a round pen with the poor horse and ___________ until the horse is confused and resentful (fill in the blank with whatever trendy gimmick training method happens to be currently hot.)

*sigh*

The owner might, at some point, take a clinic. They tend to be woefully unprepared for the level of instruction; then it becomes clear within moments that, while perhaps the horse can do gymnastics on command in the round pen, it doesn't know how to stop or turn under saddle.

The horse has figured out how to do precisely what the owner asks of them, and not an ounce more. Unfortunately, the owner often has only the fuzziest idea of what it is they've actually asked the horse to do.

I've seen any number of these horses, some weeks or months later. They're evasive, resentful, often have pain issues, and have developed the equine equivalent of an eye-tic, as a result of this mistreatment and misunderstanding. I get a call from a frustrated owner, who says something like, "I have this horse who runs away with me, then stops dead and rears and bolts back to the barn. He was started Parelli-method..."

This is ultimately much of why I stopped training for a living. (That, and the need to ride 8-10 hours a day, regardless of the crappy weather.)

*DISCLAIMER: This is NOT to be confused, by the way, with the knowledgeable backyard horseman--there are indeed amateurs who know a great deal about their horses, and are absolutely qualified to train a horse. These are (mostly) self-educated hobbyists who've devoted a good deal of time, thought, practice, and money to learning about their horse or horses.

Also, while it seems like I'm picking on Parelli, really I'm not. I'm picking on Parelli-done-wrong. There are an awful lot of those horses out there.
Have those Parelli tapes fallen out of fashion, btw? I saw more screwed up horses, when the tapes and articles were first getting so popular--but I'm not getting as many Parelli-specific calls, lately.

cyberwraith
01-29-2006, 05:41 AM
How well do horses swim? Do you have to swim alongside? I'm guessing a rider (swimmer?) wouldn't be able to stay on the horse's back. What if you have to cross a stream or river and there's no bridge?

I've heard that salt water is bad for horse hooves after long exposure. If you're riding on a beach, is it better to ride on the sand next to the water, or in the water?

Horses are, generally speaking, good swimmers. Of course, as with any species, there will be more and less talented individuals, but generally speaking they swim well. Yes, you swim alongside, holding on to the mane with one hand or the saddle/saddle pad arrangement. When they hit land again and start to come out of the water you'd better be mounted or you're likely to be doing a good bit of walking so this is one of those exercises where practice makes perfect after a good many laughable moments.

Water is bad for keeping shoes on hooves. The hooves are made of keratin and like our nails expand and contract with moisture and dryness which plays merry heck (love that expression) with the way the nails and clinch hold the shoe on. A good way to make your farrier a rich man is to daily wash your shod horse's feet.

I would fear riding in the water because sand is so unpredictable, especially when underwater. Deep holes, quicksand (which can happen anywhere I understand) could easily break a horse's leg. However, I'm sure other continents have different geological compositions on their beaches so I can't comment on why Irish travel brochures have happy tourists racing horses on the beach, but it looks like fun!

Hope this helps. http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif

writeroffthelake
01-31-2006, 05:50 PM
Ah, you've certainly picked a hard subject (horses) to write about if you know nothing about them. You may want to start reading some books written especially for children with their first horses. See if you can find a Tack Shop in your area as many Tack Shops carry "horse" books. Also, try calling your local 4-H and see if they could set you up with an interview with a horse owner (read first so you won't ask "dumb" - is there such a thing? - questions). Also, call up some local riding stables. So, you have a bad back and can't ride, doesn't matter. Tell them you need background information. Some may be happy to let you come out visit, maybe view a few riding lessons, ask questions, and get a tour of the stables. Maybe you can even help clean tack, or some other not-to-strenous stuff. Watch them give a horse a shot--the size of the needle is impressive. See if you can be present when a mare foals. Talk to some local blacksmiths and see if any of them "hot shoe". I use to "anchor down" (hold the horse) for a farrier friend who "hot shoed", which includes making your own horse shoes. It is very expensive, so few people have it done. Also, have someone teach you the correct way to tie a horse, it's essential unless you want to risk choking your horse (voice of experience, here). If your back won't allow you to muck out stalls, at least try and be around when someone is doing it so you can watch. Also, ask someone who has horses to show you "Wipe", a product used on horses to keep them from being bugged to death by flies. Once you smell it, you'll always remember the smell of Wipe (I hate the smell, but some horse owners like the smell). You might be able to use it for some "stinky" sensory appeal. Maybe most importantly, have someone show you how to clean a horses feet. You don't have to do it (most owners wouldn't let a neophyte anywhere near their horses feet), but watch as a horse owner does it and have them explain what they're doing and why. And, lastly, learn the parts of the horse and the parts of the various kinds of tack - saddles, lead ropes, bits, halters, bridles, etc. The parts of the horse are usually in most horse manuals, and I believe there are places that sell huge wallsize posters. You might find one handy to put on your office wall.

I love horses, have owned horses, and much of the fiction I've sold is what I call "horse" fiction; they're my favorite subject to write about.

writeroffthelake
01-31-2006, 06:10 PM
I thought of some more things that may come in handy for you to know if you're writing with a horse in mind:

Have someone in the know show you which is the "off" side and the proper way to mount/dismount, both with saddles and bareback.

Check out pictures of the various kinds of bits and learn when and why different riders choose them.

Visit some horses and have their owner show you how to feed them a treat. Most owners don't use sugar for treats, but apples or carrots. Some owners don't allow hand feeding because they fear it will make the horse start nipping in his desire to "search" people for treats.

Saddle a horse. Ask a horseman to show you how some horses "swell their bellies" so the saddle is loose and can slide causing the rider to fall and what the person saddling the horse does to prevent this.

Have someone show you the proper way to hold a lead rope so the person doesn't risk having their finger pulled out of the socket if the horse spooks.

Ask what a hackamore is and learn the difference between a hackamore, a bozal, and a bridle.

Be present when some horses are being loaded and unloaded from trailers. When I was a kid there was this girl who won blue after blue ribbon yet after the show her horse would go nuts and nearly kill everyone trying to load it. More than one judge made the comment that he wished he could take that into consideration when placing the horses, but he couldn't.

Learn what different kinds of "appointments" are needed for various horse show classes.

Go to a horse show, watch the gaming events and talk to some people to find out what the judge is looking for in the varoius pleasure and equatation events. In pleasure classes, the horse is being judged, in equation classes it's the rider the judge is judging.

See if you can be present when a horse is put to stud so you can watch the breeding.

Learn what causes a horse to founder and how to prevent it. Did you know horses can not throw up? They're surprisingly delicate for their size and in ways you wouldn't think of.

Go for a buggy ride if your back won't allow you on the back of a horse (the best place in the world to be, but I can't ride anymore either). Watch a buggy horse being put in harness. Learn what a sulky is. See if any older timers can show you an old military saddle and even some old wagons. I use to know of one horse museum in PA that had all sorts of old stuff like that on display but I don't think they're in business anymore.

Learn what horses eat and how they should be feed (if they're feed from the ground instead of off the ground, they're more likely to get worms).

Learn the proper way to water a horse and what can happen if a "hot" horse is given too much water.

I'm sure I'll think of more, as this is a subject I could write on forever, but I'll leave you with this list for now. I hope it doesn't seem too overwhelming.

TheIT
01-31-2006, 10:49 PM
Thanks again for the replies. To clarify, the focus of my story won't be the horses (sorry!) but I want to make sure my characters don't do anything brainless which will cause someone who knows horses to throw the book across the room. I might have opportunity this summer to see horses in person, but until then I have to rely on books, videos, and your excellent advice. The posts so far have given me several ideas to give the horses in my story more interest than just four-footed creatures who carry my characters from place to place.

Back to newbie mistakes. In my other WIP set in the same fantasy universe, I've got a character who has never ridden a horse being forced to take a very long trip on horseback. She's afraid of the horse (and angry at herself for being afraid), and has a difficult time asking for help. She'll be accompanied by several experienced riders who can guide her, and who also have chosen her horse for her. She's physically petite and very athletic. What sort of horse, and what sort of horse behavior would you expect from such a rider?

Aconite
01-31-2006, 11:17 PM
Back to newbie mistakes. In my other WIP set in the same fantasy universe, I've got a character who has never ridden a horse being forced to take a very long trip on horseback. She's afraid of the horse (and angry at herself for being afraid), and has a difficult time asking for help. She'll be accompanied by several experienced riders who can guide her, and who also have chosen her horse for her. She's physically petite and very athletic. What sort of horse, and what sort of horse behavior would you expect from such a rider?
She's likely to hurt a lot at first, no matter how fit she is otherwise, because you just don't use certain muscles in everyday life that you use a lot for riding. She'll also certainly be chafed, no matter what she wears. If she's got a good sense of her own body, she'll probably soon figure out how to move with the horse to be in balance, whch will help her and the horse.

Fearful riders make nervous horses, generally, though of course some are more sensitive to rider moods than others, and the mood of the other horses will affect that, too. The horse as well as the woman is likely to be sore while she learns to ride properly, and unless it's used to beginners, it's likely to react to each move of hers that seems to be a cue (her left leg squeezes and the horse steps sideways; she lifts the reins and the horse stops and backs up) until it figures out that she doesn't know what she's doing.* Then it will probably tune her out until her cues become more consistant and coherent.

*Mary Wanless has a metaphor for this: Imagine that every small change in a rider's body is a note in a symphony of communication with the horse. A beginning rider is a cacaphony of meaningless noise, most of it very loud and off pitch.

TheIT
01-31-2006, 11:22 PM
What sort of cues does a horse respond to? Position of the reins, pressure from the rider's legs?

Aconite
01-31-2006, 11:43 PM
What sort of cues does a horse respond to? Position of the reins, pressure from the rider's legs?
Those, yes, and also shifts in weight, shifts in leg position, voice (in some disciplines), artificial aids (anything not part of the rider's body), and pressure on the reins. These get more subtle as the rider gets better. Horses can be cued to turn by something as small as a rider turning her head a few degrees and adjusting her body to that turn, and to stop by the rider simply stopping her own "following" motion of the horse's movements.

TheIT
01-31-2006, 11:51 PM
Interesting. The mage character I described earlier is telekinetic. He can manipulate objects with his mind, and can exert force at a distance. Do you think a horse could be trained to respond to physical cues without a rider on its back? For example, if he could exert pressure on the horse's flank from a distance like a rider, would the horse react properly? I imagine if he tried controlling a horse not trained to this "technique" the horse would spook.

Aconite
02-01-2006, 12:06 AM
For example, if he could exert pressure on the horse's flank from a distance like a rider, would the horse react properly? I imagine if he tried controlling a horse not trained to this "technique" the horse would spook.
Yes to both, I think. Horses can get used to some pretty weird things, and until they do, they freak. *g*

Leva
02-01-2006, 02:03 AM
One thing to note is that most horses are smart enough to tell the difference between a beginner and an experienced rider, and react accordingly. And boy, can they identify a beginner ... some will deliberately test new riders to see what the rider knows, too. Generally speaking, a horse that's confused by a beginner hasn't been ridden by beginners much.

Horse are smart enough to adapt their behavior to the context -- they may work off one set of cues from an experienced rider, and then the same horse will revert to "kick to go, yank to stop" mode with a beginner on board.

You can often tell an experienced horse with a beginner rider on board -- the horse will have his nose in the air (protecting his mouth), will often be reluctant to move faster than a slow jog, and will be somewhat tense OR look half asleep.

TheIT
02-03-2006, 10:56 PM
Let's say you're watching two people handle horses, everything from putting the saddle on to riding. How would you judge which rider is more experienced? What would you look for?

How do you get on the horse? How do you help someone else?

Fern
02-03-2006, 11:42 PM
An experienced rider isn't going to hesitate when it comes to putting a bridle on. . .they know which way the bit goes in and what part goes over the ear, etc. An inexperienced rider might be found eyeballing the contraption, trying to figure out what goes where.

An experienced rider is going to move comfortably around the horse while saddling. In walking to the other side of the horse, they may walk close to his rear, perhaps keeping a hand on his rear as they go so the horse will know they're there. An inexperienced rider will take a wider berth around those back legs to avoid being kicked. If you are close, the kick might hit you in the legs as opposed to the belly or face if you are a bit further out.

An experienced rider will know the horse may swell his belly out when being saddled, where an inexperienced rider's saddle may slip, dumping them in the dirt, because they didn't know the horse did that.

Most folks will mount on the horse's left side, rider putting his left foot into the stirrup, left hand on the saddle horn and right hand on the back of the saddle to boost yourself up, then swinging right leg over. Can't be lollygagging around and "hanging" on the horses side. . .an experienced rider will do it smoothly. Some horses won't allow a rider to mount from the right, simply because no one has ever done it with that particular horse.

If someone needs help getting on, you might lace your fingers together, making a "stirrup" and let them put one foot into your hands while they boost themselves up. Other times folks might find something to stand on. . like a log or porch, whatever. Again, horses know when to make you miserable and they may walk up and stand like you want them to, or they may turn and face you as you get on the stump, which effectively halts yours efforts to mount. Depending on who is helping whom. . .a person can simply be lifted up and sat on the horse.

A person that is experienced will naturally be more comfortable and move easily (not nervously) around a horse. Body language will tell you a lot about how experienced one is.

Leva
02-04-2006, 01:13 AM
Ditto what Fern said.

Also, an experienced rider will do things like:

Not just put the bit on, but check the fit and probably adjust a strap or two.

Check the fit of the girth -- not just how tight it is, but make sure it's not rubbing anywhere.

Unhook the breastplate (or breastcollar, depending on school of riding) BEFORE undoing a girth, when untacking. If you don't undo the breastplate first, and the saddle falls off for any reason after you undo the girth, the horse suddenly has a saddle hanging around his neck instead of sitting on his back ... which may cause a major league fit from the horse. Or maybe not. Depends on the horse. :)

Experienced riders will clean the horse's feet before riding -- often carrying a hoofpick in a back pocket.

Experienced riders don't have any problems getting on a horse. Newbies sometimes even put the wrong foot in the stirrup.

Let's see ... one BIG one is how the person reacts to minor misbehavior. One common thing many horses will do, when you tighten the girth, is to pin their ears, swish their tail, and gnash their teeth at you. It looks terrifying. the thousandth time a horse does this at you, you learn to simply growl back at the horse, tighten that girth anyway, and get on. Not a big deal. The horse is just being cold-backed and cranky. I've seen newbies refuse to touch the horse after the horse pulls this one, or at least be excessively cautious.

Likewise with minor things like being nipped by a horse, or a little crowhop, or couple horses squealing at each other -- all stupid stuff that experienced horse people learn to just blow off after smacking the horse, or growling at it. Newbies tend to react at lot more to really minor incidents. HOW they react depends on the person -- some people react in fear, some with excessive punishment -- but it's usually more of a dramatic reaction.

Leva


An experienced rider isn't going to hesitate when it comes to putting a bridle on. . .they know which way the bit goes in and what part goes over the ear, etc. An inexperienced rider might be found eyeballing the contraption, trying to figure out what goes where.

An experienced rider is going to move comfortably around the horse while saddling. In walking to the other side of the horse, they may walk close to his rear, perhaps keeping a hand on his rear as they go so the horse will know they're there. An inexperienced rider will take a wider berth around those back legs to avoid being kicked. If you are close, the kick might hit you in the legs as opposed to the belly or face if you are a bit further out.

An experienced rider will know the horse may swell his belly out when being saddled, where an inexperienced rider's saddle may slip, dumping them in the dirt, because they didn't know the horse did that.

Most folks will mount on the horse's left side, rider putting his left foot into the stirrup, left hand on the saddle horn and right hand on the back of the saddle to boost yourself up, then swinging right leg over. Can't be lollygagging around and "hanging" on the horses side. . .an experienced rider will do it smoothly. Some horses won't allow a rider to mount from the right, simply because no one has ever done it with that particular horse.

If someone needs help getting on, you might lace your fingers together, making a "stirrup" and let them put one foot into your hands while they boost themselves up. Other times folks might find something to stand on. . like a log or porch, whatever. Again, horses know when to make you miserable and they may walk up and stand like you want them to, or they may turn and face you as you get on the stump, which effectively halts yours efforts to mount. Depending on who is helping whom. . .a person can simply be lifted up and sat on the horse.

A person that is experienced will naturally be more comfortable and move easily (not nervously) around a horse. Body language will tell you a lot about how experienced one is.

TheIT
02-04-2006, 04:17 AM
When you say "growl back at the horse", do you really mean growl, like a cat? So it sounds like some horses will try to intimidate their riders. If the rider doesn't show the horse who's boss, the horse will take over?

One of my characters can imitate animal sounds. I'd imagine a horse wouldn't react well to the sound of a wolf howling, though....

The pinned back ears - is that like the picture in post #51 of the really ticked off boss mare? I certainly wouldn't want THAT coming after me. Was she bluffing, or was she trying to do damage?

My experience with animals has mainly been cats, but I can see how some of that knowledge could transfer to just about any animal. Until someone understands the difference between bluffing behavior and actual threat, they'll treat any sort of odd behavior from an animal as potentially dangerous. For example, because I know my cats well I can tell which growls/behaviors mean "I'm annoyed" vs. "Stay away from me or I'll take your arm off." With an animal five times my size like a horse, I'd certainly tread lightly until I understood their responses.

So what other "minor misbehaviors" are there? I'm imagining a scene after a long day's travel in the rain, everyone is tired, and the horses are so cranky they're not cooperating even with having the tack removed.

Saanen
02-04-2006, 04:54 AM
I can't imagine a horse NOT cooperating when tack is being removed. When it's being put on is another matter. :)

Pinned back ears are a definite "I'm ready to fight" warning sign and there's no mistaking it. Think about your cats; when they're play fighting their body language is very different from when they're getting annoyed, and I know with my cats it's time to intervene if somebody has their ears back.

I've never actually growled at a horse, but it might work. :)

TheIT
02-04-2006, 05:03 AM
I can't imagine a horse NOT cooperating when tack is being removed. When it's being put on is another matter. :)



Makes sense. So maybe I should turn the situation around. One man is trying to tend to the horses, he's in a foul mood, and all the horses are jostling him with "Me, first! Me, first!" behaviors so they can get comfortable. That'll work.

Leva
02-04-2006, 05:24 AM
When I say "growl" I mean just a nasty tone of voice, "QUIT IT!" -- low and mean. Or, "Ahhhh!" -- rough, annoyed noise.

Re: ears -- yep, that's the exact look.

And whether it's a bluff or not largely depends on the situation and the horse. You'll quite frequently get that look from a horse who's not happy about being tacked up and it is generally simply a "dirty look" and nothing more -- if you've got your hand on the horse's shoudlder as you're tightening the girth, you can generally feel the sort've 'electric' feeling as the horse tenses up if they really are going to pull something nasty.

One of the first horses I ever took lessons on -- in college -- when I first got into horses was an AWESOME riding horse. She was shown in her younger years on a national level by a child as a hunter/jumper -- absolutely phenomenal horse under saddle. True push button horse -- did it right every time.

However, she was also ticklish as hell and the entire time you were grooming her or tacking her up, she'd be stomping her feet, making ugly faces, gnashing her teeth, throwing her head around, and swishing her tail like an angry cat. She'd even make a nasty face if you tried to reach down and pat her neck when you were riding ... She scared me to death until I figured out she was just miserabley ticklish. She only bit me once and that I think was pure accident -- she swung her head at me, I flung a hand up to block what I thought was an attack, and my hand ended up in her mouth. She jumped to the end of the lead rope and gave me a truly shocked look, like, "Ooops!"

And yeah, some horses will try to intimidate their riders big time.

As far as animal noises -- depends on the horse and what they're used to. My old mare had seen it all, and was NOT scared of any other animal. By "seen it all" I mean this was a horse who didn't bat an eye when the barn owner's little kid's pet monkey ran up her leg and sat on her back. She also tried to chase a mountain lion when we jumped one while out riding -- we woud chase dogs and coyotes and I think she thought the lion was just something else to chase! I'm sure she would have reacted to a wolf about the same way. (And come to think of it, there is a lady who breeds wolves that we'd ride by -- Desi never blinked.)

Same horse was terrifed of mailboxes, real estate signs, garbage cans, a white rock mixed in with brown rocks, the big boulder in the park, a puddle, a road that changed from dirt to asphalt "overnight" ... etc.

Bad behavior after riding -- depends on how tired the horse is. You're probably a lot less likely to see the horse pull stupid stuff at the end of a day than you are at the beginning. However, a few things that come to mind:

1. The horse might try to scratch his head against the rider's body. This is mostly just annoying. (Plus, the horse is usually sweaty at the end of a ride.) It can be dangerous, as I've mentioned before.

2. The horse might decide to roll, possibly while wearing tack.

3. In a modern world, some horses hate being hosed off after a ride. We'd hose them off the summer when it was hot -- some horses loved a shower, some hated it. Bad behavior in the wash rack could include refusing to go in the wash rack, more dirty looks at the rider, attempting to break the halter or lead rope (often with success), pawing, deliberately overturning buckets of grooming supplies, stepping on the hose deliberately to shut the water flow off, rearing, etc.

Leva
(Dang, I'm remembering how much I miss the horsey world! I promised myself I wouldn't get another horse until I could afford a trailer and that's a realistic goal within the next year or so ... *gulp*)


When you say "growl back at the horse", do you really mean growl, like a cat? So it sounds like some horses will try to intimidate their riders. If the rider doesn't show the horse who's boss, the horse will take over?

One of my characters can imitate animal sounds. I'd imagine a horse wouldn't react well to the sound of a wolf howling, though....

The pinned back ears - is that like the picture in post #51 of the really ticked off boss mare? I certainly wouldn't want THAT coming after me. Was she bluffing, or was she trying to do damage?

My experience with animals has mainly been cats, but I can see how some of that knowledge could transfer to just about any animal. Until someone understands the difference between bluffing behavior and actual threat, they'll treat any sort of odd behavior from an animal as potentially dangerous. For example, because I know my cats well I can tell which growls/behaviors mean "I'm annoyed" vs. "Stay away from me or I'll take your arm off." With an animal five times my size like a horse, I'd certainly tread lightly until I understood their responses.

So what other "minor misbehaviors" are there? I'm imagining a scene after a long day's travel in the rain, everyone is tired, and the horses are so cranky they're not cooperating even with having the tack removed.

spike
02-10-2006, 05:57 PM
Zorses! And zonies! They are SO COOL. I want one. If you crossed a zebra and an Appaloosa, would it have stripes and spots? Because that would be awesome.

Most mules are sterile. Once in a great while, they will be fertile, but mostly not.

Some great pics at this site (http://www.spotsnstripes.com/index.htm)

TheIT
02-10-2006, 11:38 PM
I took a look at the zorses site. Very beautiful coat patterns. Is the only way to get stripes to cross horses with zebras? Horses on their own seem to have spots.

I get the impression horses like routine and will come to expect certain behaviors from their riders. How would a horse react if the same rider displays different levels of skill? Nervousness?

The newbie rider I mentioned earlier is under a curse. She's becoming possessed by the ghost of an ancient general who was an extremely good rider. In an emergency he would be able to "take over" and control the horse, but then his influence would recede and she'd be back to her own beginner's skills. I don't think her horse would trust her.

writeroffthelake
02-11-2006, 06:56 AM
When one of my horses was not in a mood to be ridden, he'd turn his head and try to nibble my boot as soon as I'd mount up. This was more playful than his being seriously not into the ride. When he was really not into a ride, he'd buck.

My Appy - short for Appaloosa - was also ticklish. He HATED to be brushed; would try to prance away from me, would turn and give me nasty looks, would stomp his feet, and all the while every time the brush/curry comb or whatever would touch his body you could see and feel him quiver. I ended up usually using no more than a really soft body brush on him, and then just lightly. Fortunately, the pasture he was in didn't have a lot of mud.

Horses LOVE to roll, especially in mud, and especially when it's hot and they've just been unsaddled. It's sort of like a human going skinny dipping on a hot day. They also get itchy and when they do, they will rub against stuff. If you're riding in a tight area and they try to rub, you can get injured riding and you get your leg banged into a tree...fence post, or whatever.

Some horses also love to run back to the barn if they are being ridden by an inexperienced rider they think will let them get away with it. If the horse runs back to the barn (and I've seen horses you can't even say the word "BARN" in front of or they will turn and start running back to the barn) an inexperienced rider who doesn't duck could be seriously injured, or knocked off, when the rider's upper body and head hit over top of the barn entrance.

As someone else mentioned, a horse might decide to roll while wearing tack...and sometimes with a rider. I had a horse try this with me. He was down on his knees too fast for me to stop him, but fortunately I was able to kick free of the stirrups and scramble off and out of his way. I could have had my leg broken if he'd rolled over with my leg underneath.

Also, like people, horses have their moods, their good days, their bad days. Sometimes they surprise you because they do something totally out of character for that horse and you wonder where the hell that came from...and sometimes, as with people, you just never know.

One of my horses was a "jumping fool". He was not trained as a jumper, but he should have been. When every other horse would walk around something, he'd try and jump, be it vertical or horizantal. He once jumped a three foot wide ditch that had to be at least six feet deep. I wasn't prepared, in fact, I had every intention of walking around it like every other rider had. I was also riding with a Western double rigged saddle. I hit the saddle horn. Hard. It hurt like jack crap, and I'm not kidding. I'm a chick, I suspect if I'd been a guy it would have hurt so much I'd still be singing soprano (and that was about 40 years ago).

Another dangerous thing a rider can do is wrap a lead rope around his/her hand. You ALWAYS hold the lead rope gathered in your hand in a figure eight, NEVER wrapped around your hand. I know someone who lost a finger this way, and she was an experienced rider who knew better. We all are in a hurry sometimes, do something foolish, try to cut a quick but dangerous corner, or whatever. If an experienced rider can do something foolish, your inexperienced rider can make plenty of mistakes that could be dangerous to the rider or to others.

One of the reasons I'm disabled is because some guy let his horse kick out at my horse when I was on my horse. His horse was aiming for my horse's belly, but kicked me in the knee instead. Whenever a rider is riding in a trail ride on a horse that kicks, the horse is suppose to have a red ribbon tied to his tail to let others know he kicks, and the rider is also suppose to bring up the rear while on the trail.

Another dangerous thing a newbie rider can do, is what I almost did - choke my first horse to death when I tied his lead rope to a low fence post and didn't use a slip knot. He tried to get down to roll, got a foot over the lead rope, panicked, started pulling back on the fence, and in his panic was choking himself. My second mistake was that I didn't have a knife on me. Fortunately, someone else did. They cut my lead rope, my horse scrambled to his feet...and I had to get him before he made it to the highway.

Horses can also be curious. They can stick their little noses where they shouldn't and if it's through a pane of glass, then you gotta get out the disinfectant, possibly a tenus shot, and if it's really bad, stitches and a trip to the vet. Just as they can put their nose through a pane of glass, they can also kick through a pane of glass, especially if someone's tied them to the bumper of a car.

I also had a horse shy and he probably would have tried to run off in blind panic if we hadn't been in deep woods, when we came across a dead Collie just a few feet off the trail.

TheIT
02-28-2006, 02:24 AM
Thanks again for the replies. More questions.... :)

Several of the posts mentioned some horses being ticklish. How can you tell? I'm guessing the horse doesn't laugh. Is it that the horse doesn't like to be touched?

In my WIP, my new creepy character just rode up on his horse. I think he's creeping his horse out, too (he's already giving me the shivers). This man is not physically abusive toward his horse (that's beneath him), but he's emotionally very cold and distant and feels no affection. Cold as death. To him, horses are merely for transportation. He's a technically competent rider. The horse is wavering between fear and dislike, and does not want to be ridden but has little choice. How would you expect his horse to react to him? I'm guessing the horse would display some of the behaviors listed in previous posts (unwillingness to cooperate, nervousness), but would you expect the horse to act aggressively like nip at him?

Fern
02-28-2006, 03:46 AM
As for being ticklish, you might notice when brushing or saddling the horse. You may have seen a horse's skin kind of shake (quiver is the only word I can think of). . .like when a horse fly get on it in a spot that the tail won't reach to flick it off and you see their skin shudder.

We had a mare that was ticklish or was "quicky" when you saddled her. She was kind of a pill anyway.. .always ill tempered. Just to give you an idea of her every day temperament, my husband gave her the nickname Hell B!tch. My daughter could throw an arm around her neck and lead her anywhere. My husband tried it and she'd try to bite him every time. Anyway when saddling, she was fine until you began to draw the cinch tighter. As soon as it tightened she would run backward, ears backed, snorty, etc. We just learned to tighten the cinch a little, then a little more, to accommodate her tickly spot.

If the horse is fearful of the rider, I would think the actions you would see would be shying away, eyes rolling a bit, just acting a bit jumpy in general, snorty. Might make the horse a little hard to catch.

When the horse nips at the rider, backs their ears, etc. acts aggressive, I would say they are more ill tempered. . .not fearful.

Either fearful or ill tempered you might see one when being caught in a pen the horse will turn their rear to the rider and back their ears. A timid rider might be afraid of being kicked and that would scare them off. A seasoned rider is going to talk to the horse, walk right on up and put their hand on the horse's rump (letting the horse know where he is) and catch the horse with ease.

In my opinion, a fearful horse is more dangerous to ride than an ill tempered one, simply because you don't know what they might do next. You may be riding along thinking everything is fine, then a dry leaf rustles a little loudly and they may jump smooth out from under you if you aren't paying attention.

An ill tempered one will be more "dependable" (if you can call it that) in her/his actions. . .example: the mare mentioned above was a barrel horse. She could turn. . just shave the barrels as she went around them. Make her mad and she would hone in on a barrel and knock it down intentionally. I swore I could see her "grin" every time she pulled a meany and got away with it, but it was no surprise. . .the rider knew it was fixin to happen once you ticked the horse off.

I'm thinking if your horse is afraid of the rider, he won't be acting ill tempered so much as fearful.

TheIT
02-28-2006, 04:08 AM
Thanks. I'm trying to give the impression that the horse would rather be with any other rider than this man and would be perfectly behaved. It's a fear reaction rather than ill temper. The horse can sense something wrong with this man and doesn't want to have anything to do with him.

StoryG27
02-28-2006, 04:29 AM
This man is not physically abusive toward his horse (that's beneath him)
LOL!!! Am I the only one who thought this read funny?


To him, horses are merely for transportation. He's a technically competent rider. The horse is wavering between fear and dislike, and does not want to be ridden but has little choice. How would you expect his horse to react to him? It depends on the personality of the horse. If the horse is hot blooded, maybe a little skittish, I would think the horse would react nervously to him. You say he is a competent rider, so he knows how to use his legs and hands correctly to give the horse the correct cues, but I'd say the horse would react too much. Say the guy gives a quick tug of the reigns for the horse to stop, the horse might stop abruptly or even start backing at just the slightest pressure. But if he is a competent rider, the horse wouldn't over react for long, just have its moments basically. Now if the guy got mad at started pulling on the reigns, cursing, kicking or whatnot when the horse started over reacting, well then we'd have ourselves a show.

Same with a horse who is more laid back and even a tad on the lazy side. The horse might be uncooperative, but if the guy knows what he is doing and isn't abusive, theses little episodes from the horse won't last long.

If this horse is well trained, well behaved, but just doesn't like the guy, the time that would be most obvious is when the rider is on the ground approaching and handling the horse, but especially when the rider is trying to get in the saddle. But once he's on the horse and bad or good, if he's not heavy handed, not abusive or just plain stupid with the horse, not all that much will probably happen with a well trained horse.

writeroffthelake
02-28-2006, 04:33 AM
The above post about ticklishes horses is right on. My Appy hated to be brushed. Every time the brush would touch him, you'd see his skin quiver. If I kept brushing him, he'd start dancing away from my hand. Lots of horses don't like having their ears touched, either. And you can tickle right under the bottom of their lip and they'll react like they're laughing because they will wiggle their mouth to get away from the tickling. Probably not a good thing to do, could maybe make them headshy and hard to bridle, but it is sort of cute.

As for your technically perfect rider, I can't think of any way to get your horse to "feel" that he's a bad man. Is there any way you can have the man be a perfect horseman when others are around, then treat his horse like crap when there's no one to see him? Then the horse would have reason to "feel" that he's bad news. It's your novel, you know your characters, I don't, so I'm not sure if that advice is helpful or not.

TheIT
02-28-2006, 05:06 AM
Perhaps "beneath his dignity" might have been a better phrase. ;)

Earlier I mentioned my mage character. Animals love him because of his magic. He's "alive" to them, warm like sunshine. This new character is also a mage, but his magical talent is to make magic go away. The first mage would be a bonfire; this man would be a black hole. Animals can sense the hollowness within his spirit, and therefore fear him. It isn't anything he does, it's what he is. I'm hoping to use his horse's reactions as a way to illustrate that there's something not right about him.

StoryG27
02-28-2006, 05:59 AM
Then I would go with a more spirited horse who will tend to over react to everything the guy does. That will definitely show this sweet horse's discomfort having this particular rider atop him/her. (Side stepping, pawing the ground, throwing its head, biting and otherwise playing with the bit, backing up when its supposed to stop, never ever standing still, and snorting are just a few examples of what this horse might do to over react to the rider, well, the snorting has nothing to do with the rider, but more of nerves, of not being at ease).

TheIT
02-28-2006, 06:43 AM
Sounds good, storygirl. I think this character goes through lots of horses. Eventually they stop obeying him so he needs to find another.

Nomenclature question: When you get off a horse and are standing next to it, what part of the bridle do you hold to keep the horse under control? Several posts seemed to suggest holding the reins is bad. Also, is it necessary to have someone hold the horse's head? I see that a lot in movies, but my guess is it's because the actors might not be experienced riders.

Scenario (based on my above posts):

MC (the first mage) and the POV character (the woman who owns the mule and lives in a cave) are outside the cave in a clearing in the woods. The creepy character rides up on his horse (call him N for now since I'm still figuring out his name) escorted by one of MC's bodyguards (who is walking). This is N's first appearance in the story though he's been mentioned before.

N needs to talk to MC. Horse is fidgety, they've been traveling together for over a week, the horse has had enough and wants N off its back NOW. N dismounts, both to calm the horse and to better talk with MC, and the horse backs away from him as far as it can get. At this point the guard can hold the horse and try to calm it. N is amused by the horse's behavior (and has been for the entire trip). Continue the conversation, and at some point the horse notices MC and does the equine version of love at first sight (which would be?). When N tries to leave, the horse backs away from him or tries to hide behind MC ("save me"). MC might need to hold the horse steady for N to mount. POV character will notice a sense of betrayal from the horse as they leave (horse keeps looking back longingly at MC?). Sets the stage for the POV character to begin to distrust N, and for her to see MC in a different light.

Sound reasonable?

Eveningsdawn
02-28-2006, 07:01 AM
Nomenclature question: When you get off a horse and are standing next to it, what part of the bridle do you hold to keep the horse under control? Several posts seemed to suggest holding the reins is bad. Also, is it necessary to have someone hold the horse's head?

Those would be the reins you'd be holding after you got off. You can keep them over his head if you're getting right back on in a second, but the preferred method is to hold the entirety of them in your hand. ...I think a pic is in order, but I don't have one. It's not necessary to have someone hold the horse's head, but it would free up the person who'd just got off to do something else.


..at some point the horse notices MC and does the equine version of love at first sight (which would be?). When N tries to leave, the horse backs away from him or tries to hide behind MC ("save me"). MC might need to hold the horse steady for N to mount. POV character will notice a sense of betrayal from the horse as they leave (horse keeps looking back longingly at MC?). Sets the stage for the POV character to begin to distrust N, and for her to see MC in a different light.

Sound reasonable?

The equine version of that involves nuzzling, maybe some grooming stuff - snuffing around in the MC's hair, lipping his/her clothes - and just generally wanting to be around the MC. Ears would be tipped forward. Following the MC like a puppy when they move around. For betrayal? The horse would be balky with his rider, not wanting to go forward, trying to turn, and constantly looking back at the MC. Ears tipped back and a bit lopped so that he looks sad and confused.

Yes, sounds reasonable.

Anything else?

StoryG27
02-28-2006, 07:08 AM
Nomenclature question: When you get off a horse and are standing next to it, what part of the bridle do you hold to keep the horse under control? Assuming the bridle is still on, you're going to hold the reigns. You should never tie a horse up with its reigns but I was raised with horses and have never been told not to hold a horse by its reigns. The more control over the horse you need, the more you choke the reigns, meaning, holding closer to the head (under the chin of the horse). But if you try to hold the head of a horse, it will automatically throw its head in reaction and you'll get much less cooperation that way. To get the bridle (especially if using a bit) on or off, you gently put your hand over the horses head to slip on/off the straps that go around the ears and at the top of the head. If you've put a halter on the horse, same thing, the more control you want,, the shorter you hold the lead (or the rope). Usually, one hand is holding the reigns/halter rope (whatever the case may be) up by the underside of the chin of the horse if you know you're going to need to control the horse.


Continue the conversation, and at some point the horse notices MC and does the equine version of love at first sight (which would be?). Whinny, the horse would whinny, and if close enough, the horse might nudge MC with its nose to get his attention.


Sound reasonable? For what you're trying to do, yes. And if the horse feels betrayed and is angry about it, it might pin back its ears. Horses only pin their ears back for two reasons, listening, or they are mad.

TheIT
02-28-2006, 07:14 AM
Thanks. If you don't tie the horse up with the reins, then what do you use?

StoryG27
02-28-2006, 07:18 AM
A halter is fine.

Leva
02-28-2006, 10:35 PM
Many horses that are trail ridden will wear a halter under or over the bridle. They also make combination halter/bridle affairs where the lead rope attaches to a halter portion.

What you DON'T want is for a horse to spook and yank on the reins if he's tied by the reins -- this hurts a great deal because the bit hits the bars of the horse's mouth and/or pinches his tongue and horses are flight animals; the horse may well decide to get away from the "ouch!" by bolting ... and if he's tied by his jaw to an immovable object, serious injury (broken jaw, severed tongue) can result depending on the type of bit. If the horse has a curb bit with leverage, a mangled tongue is a real possibility.

A halter doesn't attach to a bit. :) At the very least, a horse tied by the reins who spooks is going to break the reins. Reins are generally made of a fairly expensive grade of leather. :) The last time I bought a set of reins they were around $80 -- a lead rope costs much less in most cases.

A note on mules -- some of them absolutely hate having their ears touched and will throw a fit if you try to grab their ears and stuff them intor a headstall. Bridling the mules I've worked with generally involved unbuckling bits of the bridle and working AROUND the ears rather than putting the bit in the mouth and then casually pushing the top of the bridle over the ears like you would on a horse.

Leva

TheIT
02-28-2006, 11:50 PM
OK, I think I was getting reins, halter, and bridle confused. I looked at a horse care book last night and got some answers, but I'm still a little confused.

So the reins attach to the bit which goes through the horse's mouth under the tongue. The horse is controlled by applying pressure to the mouth. The bridle is the headgear the horse wears to hold the bit in place. The halter is another rope(?) which is used to tie up the horse. Is this correct?

The book mentioned a halter but didn't show it. Where does it attach? The book also had drawings of a couple dozen different bit styles. Some of those things look downright nasty, and the book was careful to mention which styles were no longer in use.

Fern
03-01-2006, 12:28 AM
A halter is like a head stall. . .a head stall is the part that fits the horse's head and the bit and reins attach to the headstall.. . . A halter doesn't have a bit, but has a ring under the chin where a lead rope (rope with a snap attached to one end) can be attached.

Most folks catch the horse using a halter and lead rope; tie the horse with the lead rope, saddle the horse, then bridle the horse last. You don't have to do it in that order, buy many people do.

Leva
03-01-2006, 10:18 AM
Bit goes over the tongue, not under it. If a horse gets his tongue over the bit, it's a bad thing -- you have less leverage and some horses learn to stick their tongues over the bit as an evasion tactic. This generally results in the rider tying the horse's mouth shut.

There's two basic types of bits:

A snaffle bit simply goes through the horse's mouth and the reins attach to the rings on either side. An unjointed snaffle bit simply puts pressure on the tongue and the bars (gums) of the mouth. A jointed snaffle bit puts more pressure on the bars of the mouth, less on the tongue, and may hit the roof of the horse's mouth if it's not the right size. (This often results in a horse throwing his head around and opening his mouth and is often mistaken for bad behavior. The horse is just saying, "Ouch!"

Horses in snaffles are often, but not always, "direct reined" -- they're controlled with direct pressure on the bit, by pulling the horse's nose in the direction you want to go. This is a training thing, and the horse's exact response to rein pressure depends on the school of riding they've been trained in.

A curb bit is leveraged -- there's two levers that stick out from the bit that the reins attach to, and a chain or strap undr the horse's jaw. Curbs may also be jointed. WHen you pull on the reins, the bit puts pressure on the horse's tongue and bars AND under his jaw. This is not necessarily as severe as it sounds; it depends on the rider and the horse and the particular bit. I've seen horses that clearly prefer curbs.

Horses in curb bits are often (though not always) trained to neck reined -- you steer the horse by draping the reins across his neck in the direction you want to go. Neck reining is largely a western-riding thing for average riders.

There's also a particularly nasty modification to a curb bit called a gag bit -- it's got a plate or curved part on the bit that hits the roof of the horse's mouth. If you tie the horse's mouth shut with a gag bit in it, you've got one nasty piece of tack.

A bridle is the tack that holds the bit in place. Different bridles will have different parts depending on the type of riding and the bit and the particular horse. Bridles are generally made of a fine grade of leather or, in our world, fairly thin synthetic material like nylon straps. They're not designed to hold a horse and will break fairly easily.

Some riders will use a cavesson with a bridle -- it may be attached to the bridle or fit underneath it. It's a strap that keeps the horse's mouth shut. Improves control for the rider and isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'm blanking on the western-riding term for a cavesson.

Halters are (generally) much sturdier and may be made of leather, rope, or (commonly in our world) nylon webbing. Most will break if a horse throws his full weight into trying to break one, but they're designed to at least take some abuse. They're also cheaper, in most cases, than a quality bridle.

A lead rope is the rope you hold to lead or tie a horse. (You can also lead a horse by reins if he's wearing a bridle.) It generally snaps or ties to a ring under the horse's halter. The lead rope should be thick and heavy rope so it's easy to untie. :)

One important thing -- experienced horsepeople will never wrap reins or a lead rope around their hand because if the horse spooks, you can be dragged or lose fingers. Note the comment about "experienced" horsepeople -- I have a crooked pinky finger because I'd wrapped the reins around my hands while riding when I was a newbie and got thrown and nearly lost the finger. Got up and my pinky finger was on backwards. It was one of the more surreal sights of my life because it didn't hurt ... I think I must have been in shock (I also landed on my head because I couldn't break my fall) ... my first reaction was to twist that finger back around the way it belonged.

Leva

CampCreek
03-01-2006, 06:00 PM
This horse is wearing a halter, TheIt:
http://campcreektexas.com/images/horses/jess4.jpg
It's a little like a bridle, but without any kind of bit.

And here's more about the different parts of a bridle:
http://www.culturedcowboy.com/horsefacts/westernbridle.gif
The piece above consisting of crown, earslot or browband and cheekpieces is called a headstall. The entire setup (headstall, throatlatch, and bit), minus the reins, is called a bridle.

Clear as mud? LOLOL!

TheIT
03-02-2006, 01:21 AM
Thanks, the pictures help, though I think I'll read up in some horse care books before asking about saddles. ;)

Continuation of the previous scenario:

You're the MC's bodyguard (experienced rider). You've escorted N on his horse to see MC and the POV character. N dismounts so that he and MC can talk in private. MC orders you to see to N's horse, N hands you the reins, and N and MC walk around the bend in the path out of sight. So far you've seen the following behavior from the horse: 1) fidgety and nervous of N, 2) tried to throw N when he dismounted ("you want off, I'll give you off"), but N anticipated the maneuver and didn't fall, and 3) the horse going crazy affectionate over MC including whinnying and snuffling in MC's hair (who didn't mind, in fact he gave the horse a name). What do you do? The first thing will be to prevent the horse from following the MC around the path. The POV character will get some carrots. There's stream nearby. You're not sure how long N will be staying (hopefully minutes). You're also suspicious that N might have mistreated the horse (but all you find is that the horse seems starved for affection).

Leva
03-02-2006, 04:53 AM
One comment: rather than trying to throw him when he stopped, have the horse attempt to bolt when the guy's trying to dismount.

MOST horses won't buck or screw around past the first few miles of a ride. But I've known a few who would wait until you were off balance as you dismount and try to bolt, with the idea that you'd land on your butt and the horse gets to run off free. This is generally learned behavior.

I had the pleasure of exercising (for a few bucks) a really obnoxious off-the-track thoroughbred who had this joyous habit -- he wanted loose and would bolt as soon as I had swung my leg over the saddle and was stepping down, but usually before I'd touched the ground. This is a fairly vulnerable time and more than once I ended up laying across the saddle, holding on for dear life, as he took off. Unplanned stunt riding to get back into the saddle and get him stopped!

Mostly, I just bit it and landed on my butt, unless someone was brave enough to hold the reins for me. I think I lasted maybe half a dozen rides before I decided that he wasn't any fun to ride and the money wasn't worth risking a broken neck.

His owner just jumped down in an arena and let him go do his thing, which didn't help matters. He was anticipating that wild bucking, farting run in the arena. Stupid horse was hyperactive; he had more energy than he needed!

Leva

TheIT
03-02-2006, 05:04 AM
I like the bolting idea. N has been riding this horse for about a week to travel from a nearby city to the POV character's cave, so the horse has had plenty of time to come up with all sorts of tricks. N would expect the horse to pull some stunt and N really doesn't want to look stupid in front of the MC. If N hands the reins to the bodyguard when he's about to dismount, would that make the horse reconsider?

CampCreek
03-07-2006, 12:16 PM
If N hands the reins to the bodyguard when he's about to dismount, would that make the horse reconsider? Pretty much, but he'd still probably side-step. If the horse knew someone was holding the reins, he most likely wouldn't try to just take off because he'd know the pull on those reins would hurt. But he could still very well swing his butt around pretty far away from N, and even move his front feet a bit away as well. He could easily move so far over to make N off balance enough to land on his butt with one foot caught in the stirrup.

TheIT
03-07-2006, 10:30 PM
Thanks, that helps.

New question: Jumping. Does it take a lot to train a horse to jump over obstacles? What sort of jumps will a horse willingly attempt, and what will a horse absolutely refuse to do?

The book An Oblique Approach by David Drake and Eric Flint has a great little section which describes a calvalry charge from the POV of the horses. The general in charge of the battle took horse behavior into account when designing his strategy since he knew horses wouldn't want to jump over a trench and wall with men holding spears.

Fern
03-07-2006, 11:50 PM
I can't help with jumping, but if I understand correctly, many horses will balk at jumping near water.

Tish Davidson
03-08-2006, 12:41 AM
Usually when horses are trained to jump, they start by going over poles on the ground that they can trot over, and then move on to low obstacles they can trot over before actually jumping. Gradually they move to single pole jumps in a straight line, and then more complex courses with a variety of styles of jumps (brush, walls, water). They have to learn to judge distance as does the rider. Things horses do not like when jumping often include water jumps, jumping into an elevation change, (for example where the far side of the jump drops away steeply) and jumping anything that moves of flutters. Some horses are okay with jumps they can see through (poles, oxers) but not jumps that are solid. Some horses run out (try to go around the jump), while others simply pull up and refuse. Aside from training, the willingness of the horse to jump depends heavily on the skill of the rider -- whether they are balanced correctly approaching the jump and whether they give the horse the correct cues with their hands and legs and whether they give the correct cues at the right time. Judging distance to the jump and cuing the horse when to take off and rising up off the horse's back before the jump in a position known as two point iare important skills the rider must develop if the horse-rider team is to jump successfully. I would say that a lot depends on the skill level of your rider. A very experienced rider would have a better chance of getting an inexperienced horse over an obstacle than a very inexperienced rider getting an experienced horse over one without falling off or having the horse refuse or crash through the jump. Horses jump much more willingly if they sense the rider knows what he or she is doing.

CampCreek
03-09-2006, 02:36 AM
Tish told you pretty much the gist of it. I want to add that even though horses don't like jumping over or down into water, over elevation changes, etc., they can be trained to do it willingly. There's a competition called Cross Country (might be sometimes part of a competition called Three Day Eventing) and you'd be amazed at how many crazy things those horses jump! Here are some sites you can look at to see what I'm talking about:

Wikipedia's info on CC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-country_equestrianism) ~ links to all the different kinds of jumps

Pictures from the Olympic Equestrian CC of '04 (http://www.athens2004.com/en/EquestrianGallery/redirect?date=48d0692ac0c6ef00VgnVCM10000028130c0a RCRD)

Misc. amateur CC pictures (http://www.equine-world.co.uk/pic_showall.asp?cat_id=20&parent_id=1&sub_name=Cross+Country&parent_name=Horses+In+Competition)

Then there's a competition called Puissance ~ equine high jump. Horses routinely jump walls over six feet high and the champs make it over 7'+ walls. Amazing!!

So basically, you can train a horse to jump just about anything IF he is a brave sort and has enough trust and faith in his trainer and rider. Without that training and trust in the humans, a horse probably wouldn't want to jump very much, and would probably refuse to jump if he couldn't see the other side where he'd land.

CampCreek
03-09-2006, 02:47 AM
Here are a few links to more info about Puissance:

Link (http://www.equestrianpress.co.uk/page.asp?page_id=554)

Link (http://lizditz.typepad.com/i_speak_of_dreams/images/puissance4web.jpg)

Sunder
03-09-2006, 07:18 PM
On the general subject of mounting/dismounting, there's a non-urban legend among horse folks that the brain of the horse does not have a corpus callosum. That's the structure that bridges between the two hemispheres and enables them to "talk" to each other. This is not true. The horse has a fully developed corpus callosum. But it doesn't seem to work very well. The poorly functioning corpus callosum is believed to be one reason why horses spook if a person moves quickly from one side of them to the other side. Logically, what's scary about that? It's the same person, just over here now. But the side of the brain that receives info from that visual field hasn't seen the person before. Suddenly they appear, and the other side of the brain can't easily "tell" that hemisphere, "oh, it's just that person. He's been over here for awhile." I'm anthropomorphizing, but you get the idea.

This is why riders are taught to always mount/dismount a horse on the left. The choice of which side is arbitrary; the important thing is that only one side of the horse's brain has ever experienced this whole "mounting/dismounting" business. Because riders always mount from the same side, the hemisphere corresponding to the other side of the body doesn't understand what this human is trying to do if they suddenly decide to mount from the right.

When I was a teen, I had a little grade mare that was my buddy. I taught her to permit mount/dismount from either side. I rode bareback, which further complicated the lessons, but she got it. The first time my dad (an old country boy) saw me mount her from the right, he couldn't believe it. Evidently a lot of rural folk believe you can't mount a horse from the right--God says you can't, or something. This despite the fact that trick riders go all over the horse. Anyway, this is just a little factoid for your further understanding of horse behavior. The two hemispheres of the horse's brain, each with its own perceptions, lead nearly separate lives.

CampCreek
03-10-2006, 05:38 PM
The horse has a fully developed corpus callosum. But it doesn't seem to work very well. That's interesting, Sunder! I didn't know that! I knew about having to train everything on each side, but didn't know that about the corpus callosum. Interesting! But kind of makes sense if you think about it ~ they've never really needed it, so over the millenia I can see evolution not making it very strong or developed.

Another interesting side note, TheIt ~ the reason everyone mounts from the horse's left (the "near" side ~ right side being the "off" side) is because of tradition. The soldiers of old did so their swords didn't get in the way while mounting and we've just always done it since, though I definitely train my horses to allow it from either side since you never know when you'll have no choice but to mount or (mainly) dismount from the off side. That would be rather dangerous if you were already stuck in a rather precarious postion on a hill or cliff, horse's left side up against a wall of rock or some such, and he spooks as you dismount from his right!

TheIT
03-10-2006, 10:46 PM
Interesting. I believe one of the other posts mentioned that an experienced rider will trail a hand along the back of the horse when walking around the horse so the touch lets the horse know there's someone there. Might also compensate for different visual feedback.

I watched part of a horse jumping competition on Animal Planet the other day, and I have to ask. Some of the horses were wearing little cloth "caps" which had insets which covered their ears. Any practical reason, or just fashion? The caps did seem to have a symbol on them, so maybe it was the logo of the stable, or perhaps covering the ears helped muffle noise. It just looked odd to me to see horses with blue ears swiveling around.

And speaking of fashion, let's say you want to spruce your horse up to show off. What will the well dressed horse be wearing this season? What about the well dressed rider?

Leva
03-10-2006, 11:01 PM
Can't speak for fashion; it varies & I've been known to go team sorting in an English saddle (a synthetic saddle, no less), so I'm definitely not an expert there.

The caps you refer to, though, are for keeping flies out of the horse's ears. I also suspect some of the horses may have cotton stuffed in their ears to dampen sound and the ear things -- I'm not sure what they're called -- would serve to hide the cotton. Maybe somebody who does stadium jumping could tell me if I'm right on that.

On jumping, the reason many experienced horses will refuse to jump with an inexperienced rider is that they assume that the rider's going to yank on their mouth when they jump. Learned behavior, they associated a newbie rider's poor balance with an ouch going over the jump.

An inexperienced rider's also likely to fall off on a jump. It's harder than it looks to stay on a horse going over a sizable obstactle -- the momentum involved is fairly substantial.

One of the most amazing riders I've ever seen used to ride his jumping horse bareback over 3 foot high or so jumps every day. He fell off occasionally when the horse (whch was NOT an easy horse to ride) would refuse a jump. But it developed his balance to a degree that he almost never fell off in competition, when he was using a saddle.

Legend has it that he once rode a round in competition at a big arab show in Scottsdale without stirrups, just to show off. (I'm not sure I believe this, though -- the kid was competative to an obsessive degree and I'm not sure he'd have given up an advantage like stirrups if it meant it might ruin his chances at another ribbon.)

Leva


Interesting. I believe one of the other posts mentioned that an experienced rider will trail a hand along the back of the horse when walking around the horse so the touch lets the horse know there's someone there. Might also compensate for different visual feedback.

I watched part of a horse jumping competition on Animal Planet the other day, and I have to ask. Some of the horses were wearing little cloth "caps" which had insets which covered their ears. Any practical reason, or just fashion? The caps did seem to have a symbol on them, so maybe it was the logo of the stable, or perhaps covering the ears helped muffle noise. It just looked odd to me to see horses with blue ears swiveling around.

And speaking of fashion, let's say you want to spruce your horse up to show off. What will the well dressed horse be wearing this season? What about the well dressed rider?

Tish Davidson
03-10-2006, 11:54 PM
The little "ear caps" are normally to keep flies away from the eyes and ears, but in a showjumping ring they are used to deaden the sound. The other common way to do this is to stuff the horses ears with a small cloth ball (we use ordinary craft balls from Michaels arts and crfts store). The whole point is to eliminate as many distractions as possible so that the horse can focus on his job of jumping.

Staying on a jumper is hard and it takes very strong calf muscles to stay on over high jumps, but good riders make it look fairly easy. Even professionals fall off now and then. My daughter was at a demonstartion by David O'Conner, US Olympic Gold Medalist. He put the horse over a fairly low jump, it did something he wasn't expecting (or he wasn't concentrating) and he ended up on the ground.

Fern
03-10-2006, 11:59 PM
The only fashion for horses around my area is for parades, etc. for fun. You might see one dressed up in overalls with a straw hat in a parade. Overalls would be over their front legs and hooked up around their neck. . .cutouts for the ears in the hat. I'd think the horse would have to be pretty "broke" to put up with such doings though.

Other times girls will paint on their hip with glitter paint so they'll have sparkle.

I once had a medieval party for my boy. I made a head piece that covered the head/neck area and a matching blanket for the body part so his shetland would be in "war dress". Big hit with the kiddos.

One person used to get up in all the rodeos around close. He'd take his horse and ride in the grand entry with a bright bandana tied around the horse's neck. Kind of got to be his trademark, because he did it every time.

There are lots of jeweled pieces (fake stones of course) of tack out there now for someone really wanting to go all out on looks. Jeweled headstalls, breastcollars, etc. Used to be where you'd only see them decorated with silver, perhaps some turquoise.

I'm talking about western. . .I don't have a clue what they do with jumpers or show horses, etc.

Leva
03-11-2006, 01:10 AM
I can't find the link, dangit.

But the best costume I've ever seen on a horse was a very fine-boned tiny halter-type arab yearling done up as a poodle. The arab was a nearly white grey, and had furry pompoms on his feet, hocks, knees, chest, on his head, and had his tail braided with a pompom on the end. Etc. Looked like a poodle clipped for the show ring ... To complete the ensemble, the horse had a very flashy sequined "rhinestone collar" on and an oversized dog tag ... no halter. :)

And the owner was was a large, macho-looking guy ... wearing a poodle skirt.

Leva

TheIT
03-11-2006, 04:30 AM
But the best costume I've ever seen on a horse was a very fine-boned tiny halter-type arab yearling done up as a poodle. The arab was a nearly white grey, and had furry pompoms on his feet, hocks, knees, chest, on his head, and had his tail braided with a pompom on the end. Etc. Looked like a poodle clipped for the show ring ... To complete the ensemble, the horse had a very flashy sequined "rhinestone collar" on and an oversized dog tag ... no halter. :)

And the owner was was a large, macho-looking guy ... wearing a poodle skirt.

Leva

A horse dressed like a poodle, eh? Would that make him a "hoodle"?

(sorry, couldn't resist. :D )

Leva
03-12-2006, 07:31 PM
*LOL*

And now I really wish I could find the photo because I looked at what I wrote and realized it couldn't have been a yearling: a yearling would not have greyed out that much. But anyway, cute picture of a horse dressed up as a poodle.

Leva


A horse dressed like a poodle, eh? Would that make him a "hoodle"?

(sorry, couldn't resist. :D )

TheIT
03-14-2006, 03:10 AM
On the practical side, if you're dressing to to go riding, what would you choose to wear? Are boots necessary?

Fern
03-14-2006, 03:17 AM
I think most folks who ride would say "yes" to boots being necessary. Riding boots. . .not those big ole thick soled boots that are really popular right now. You don't want your foot getting stuck in the stirrup or slipping through the stirrup. If you get hung up and thrown, you will be dragged.

Riders also need to wear long pants. No shorts or cropped pants or you will get saddle burn.. .and it ain't pleasant!

trumancoyote
03-15-2006, 02:59 AM
Don't mean to be a lurky-macgee, but I was wondering what a crowhop is.

Anyone care to enlighten this horseless plebe?

TheIT
03-15-2006, 03:19 AM
I'm not an expert (obviously ;) ), but I think a crowhop is a sideways movement where the horse plants both front legs on the ground and jumps sideways with the back legs, or plants both back legs and jumps sideways with the front. My guess is the name came about because it looks like how a bird hops around on the ground. Horse experts, is this correct?

And if anyone else has any horse related questions, please feel free to post them here. We've got a lot of horse experts out there willing to share their knowledge. Thanks again, this thread has been very helpful to me!

Fern
03-15-2006, 04:33 AM
Crowhopping is a stiff legged jump is the best way I know to describe it. All 4 feet come off the the ground at once.

A real "buck" would be with the horse with front feet on the ground, back feet in the air and all the moves they do in between. Crowhopping is a stiff legged jump with all 4's on the ground at once and then off the ground at once.

I don't know why but to me it brings to mind a deer "bounding" on all 4's. If you've ever seen that, thats kind of what it looks like.

TheIT
03-15-2006, 04:37 AM
Why would a horse crowhop? To get something (or someone) off its back?

Fern
03-15-2006, 05:22 AM
I guess it could be any number of things. . .maybe he was startled by something or maybe just feeling a little goosey. Maybe the rider spurred him rather unexpectedly or maybe he is just feeling good and needs to get some energy off.

You might see it when horse and rider are in high spirits. . .perhaps they've just charged into the arena and horse wants to run and rider is holding him back a bit.

trumancoyote
03-15-2006, 10:08 AM
Thanks :)

Histry Nerd
05-24-2006, 01:26 AM
I hope someone will see this and reply, as it's been a couple of months since anyone posted to this thread.

In my WIP (medieval historical fiction), a character spurs his horse forward and another catches the bridle to stop the horse. From reading this thread, I'm guessing that won't work. In fact, it sounds like a pretty good way to get dragged and/or break a hand.

More info: the bad guy is trying to charge the good guy, who is on foot, but another man stops the horse before he gets up to any speed.

So my question is this: is there a way for someone on the ground to stop a horse moving forward, short of injuring himself and/or the animal?

Thanks in advance for the help!
HN

special needs
05-24-2006, 01:50 AM
Yes. That's the answer to your question, anyway.

I haven't ridden babies in a long time (its what you do before you start riding the horses at the track...once you've done it too long, they ship you back to the track) but when you go out with them the first times, you go out with people all around you to help. Horses who want to move foward can, indeed, be stopped without injury.

That said, it depends on the horse. Some horses can just get up and go, and be gone before someone could even reach for their bridle. Others need time to build up their speed. Obviously, if you had the former, it'd be difficult. (And unlikely, too)

I think if it worked out well enough, the horse would have a higher chance of injury than you would.

ColoradoGuy
05-24-2006, 02:00 AM
So my question is this: is there a way for someone on the ground to stop a horse moving forward, short of injuring himself and/or the animal?

I have worked with western-trained horses for many years. I think that it all would depend upon where the person on the ground is in relation to the horse and how fast the horse is going. If the person on the ground is off to the side but in front of it, he could grab either the bit, the bridle, or the end of the rein just above where it attachs to the bit. This would need to be done before the horse gets up any speed, but it could be done at a walk or a slow trot. Once the grab is made, it would tend to spin the horse's head toward the person on the ground: the head would snap around to where the grabber was standing but the rear of the horse would keep moving. The result would be to make the horse do a 180 turn. Meanwhile, of course, the evil person in the saddle could easily whack the arm of the person grabbing the bridle or reins.

If you need the person on the ground to be behind, yet still stop the horse, the only way that I could imagine to do that would be to rope a hind leg and trip the horse. Most horses would recover from that without injury, but they would fall and might roll on the rider.

TheIT
05-24-2006, 04:05 AM
Glad to see someone else is interested in horses. ;)

Would grabbing the horse's bridle hurt its mouth? If the bit gets yanked sideways, I could see the horse reacting to protect its mouth.

ColoradoGuy
05-24-2006, 04:47 AM
Would grabbing the horse's bridle hurt its mouth? If the bit gets yanked sideways, I could see the horse reacting to protect its mouth.
Yes, more or less depending upon the kind of bit. The medievel bits that I have seen in pictures look pretty severe. A modern bit, such as a snaffle, would hurt much less.

TheIT
08-14-2006, 10:55 PM
Hi again, I'm back! I'm finally trying to write a scene with horses in it and could use some advice.

How do you calm a panicking horse in the following situations?

1) You're riding the horse.

2) You're standing on the ground next to the horse.

3) The horse(s) are hitched up to a wagon or cart.

The scene I'm working on has all three situations when an event like a mini-lightning strike occurs. The characters are on a plateau at the top of a hill. Two horses are hitched up to a wagon, one mule hitched to a cart, three riders on horseback, two horses currently riderless but probably tied to the back of the wagon, and several people on foot. I expect all the horses to panic. My guess is the ones who are not encumbered would bolt. Also, I think the characters would park the wagon and cart so they're headed downhill, otherwise I could imagine the horses and wagon sailing over the edge of the cliff (and no, they can't fly).

Soccer Mom
08-15-2006, 07:01 PM
Hi again, I'm back! I'm finally trying to write a scene with horses in it and could use some advice.

How do you calm a panicking horse in the following situations?

1) You're riding the horse.

A good way to stop a runaway or panicked horse is to turn him in a circle. Pulling back with both hands just gives the horse something to balance against and bolt. Notice how hard the jockey's hold their mouths. It is much easier to run a straight line than a circle. As the circle tightens, the horse must slow his stride. Once the speed is slowed, voice and stroking can help calm the horse.

2) You're standing on the ground next to the horse.

3) The horse(s) are hitched up to a wagon or cart.

Voice is a big part of calming a freaked out horse and touch is important. Also how and where you touch the horse really matters. Horses have eyes designed to see far away. They can't see your hand well if you approach from head on and this spooks them. Down low on the neck and on the shoulder is a good place to stroke a frightened horse. Also they can strike out with front legs if you startle them. This is more likely with males (it's a fighting behavior.)

Horses who are frightened are likely to press their bodies close together. Pack=safety to them.

The scene I'm working on has all three situations when an event like a mini-lightning strike occurs. The characters are on a plateau at the top of a hill. Two horses are hitched up to a wagon, one mule hitched to a cart, three riders on horseback, two horses currently riderless but probably tied to the back of the wagon, and several people on foot. I expect all the horses to panic. My guess is the ones who are not encumbered would bolt. Also, I think the characters would park the wagon and cart so they're headed downhill, otherwise I could imagine the horses and wagon sailing over the edge of the cliff (and no, they can't fly).

I hope that helps.

TheIT
08-16-2006, 01:47 AM
Thanks, Soccer Mom, that helps. What I'm realizing is that the one throwaway sentence I had about calming the horses after this incident needs to be expanded. Significant chaos will reign for a while until they get the horses under control. It works storywise since the POV character is somewhat shell-shocked by what happened, so chaos around her while she's unable to act will heighten the feeling.

TheIT
08-17-2006, 03:25 AM
Do horses have a long memory span? If something bad happens, how long before a horse might forget what triggered the bad event?

Soccer Mom
08-17-2006, 09:07 PM
Horse can have a long memory span and make permanent connections. I once had a young stallion who had a very traumatic experience in a trailer. He was in one going down the highway when part of the rotten floor gave out. (Dry rot. No one had realized it.) When the person driving stopped and ran back to check on him, he had a foot in each corner, straddling the gaping hole in the middle of the trailer. He rode like that in trailers for the rest of his life. He didn't trust the middle of the floor not to give way again. He was an Arabian and certain breeds are famous for intelligence and memory. Arabians tend to have long memories and make associations like that. Just my experience.

TheIT
11-04-2006, 09:08 PM
I caught part of a Western this morning on TV, and something bothered me. One of the characters was a trapper in the mountains with a horse and two pack mules. In one scene, he rode the horse while the rope from the first pack mule was tied to the horse's tail. In a later scene, the rope was tied to the horse's saddle.

How strong is a horse's tail? It seems to me that tying another animal to a horse's tail is just asking for trouble. What if the mule had tried to bolt?

Saanen
11-04-2006, 10:11 PM
A horse's tail only looks like it's a bunch of hair stuck to the horse's butt. Actually, the horse has a tail sort of like a dog's, but shorter, and the hair grows out of that. I wouldn't tie a mule to a horse's tail, but I know it's safe (for the horse, at least--there's always the danger of being kicked) to grab a horse's tail and let him tow you up a hill.

Soccer Mom
11-07-2006, 02:27 AM
Yes, I have grabbed onto a tail and let a horse help me get up a hill. It doesn't seem to bother them in the slightest (but I wouldn't try it with a kicker!) The actually fleshy portion of a tail is very short. The rest is just long hair growing out of it. Long hair that isn't cared for can get dry and brittle and break easily. For pack animals or older hunters it was common to crop tails to keep them out of the way or to simply bundle them up. (Called a mud bundle.)

lilyteague
12-06-2006, 10:54 AM
I'm pretty sure that the rigging of the mule to the horses tail is just a picturesque thing. You'll see it in movies and in some western art. The saddle horn is probably the best place to tether animals together because you can quickly get loose if necessary.

If the mule bolted and the lead was tied to the end of the horse's tail, someone would either loose some hair or the mule might get kicked. You can't tie the rope to the horse's dock (the actual tail, about a foot in length) because there is no way it would stay. I think I've heard of tethering your pack animals to D-rings on your saddle.

Horses are very unlikely to spook and go off of a cliff. They will throw their heads, back up (which will angle the wagon) and turn before they move forward. I don't think I would ever stop a wagon angling downhill or uphill. I would try find a level spot. And horses that are under harness and rider are less likely to bolt when spooked than loose horses. They may panic and move around a bit (side stepping, backing up, maybe rearing), but in most cases good horses are easily calmed.

As for memory and lightening, we had a mare that was killed standing under a tree in a lightening storm. Her colt was never able to be in a situation where there were any flashes of light of any kind without spooking.

TheIT
12-06-2006, 11:08 AM
Thanks, lilyteague, and welcome to AW! And thanks to everyone else, too. This is one of the most viewed threads in the Story Research board. Glad to see other people are interested in horses, too.

And bringing this thread back up to the top has made me think of a couple more questions.

About spooked horses (yes, the horses in my story are in for a rough time, but not so bad as their riders ;) ). I'm about to work on a scene where my MC is driving her mule and cart along a forest trail at night. There are two guards on horses with her, and something is following them in the trees. I haven't quite worked out what, but it's definitely a predator and it would smell of blood. The horses won't be able to see it. How would the horses and mule react? Skittish, wanting to bolt, but still able to be controlled? Any specific mannerisms?

lilyteague
12-06-2006, 11:24 AM
When it comes to haltering a horse, it actually depends on what time period you are in. I'm guessing that horses were frequently hobbled instead of tied. We often wrap the reins if no halter is available. The horse is fooled into thinking he is tied. If he pulls back, he comes loose. Just keeps him from wandering around. Some horses ground tie. You drop the reins to the ground and they stand. If a halter is absolutely necessary, you can make a rope into one with a few turns of the wrist.

Tack, or bard if you are talking of knights, can vary drastically depending on the time and the region. Most people associate spurs with the cowboy era, however they are from the high middle ages. I believe most middle age bridles consisted of a headstall, cavessan and double reins. Saddles were very different as well depending on the time.

Soccer Mom
12-06-2006, 08:30 PM
Hi Lily and welcome to AW. Just to echo her, tack varied widely by region as well. A horse that is nervous and on alert will keep her head up and may show agitation by tossing her head or switching her tail. (These are just general signs of agitation and could be nerves or discomfort or just feeling crabby.) Shorter strides indicate tension. Nervous horses are also likely to stop suddenly and snort. Ears that are swivelling around constantly checking for noises are another detail to consider. A horse that spooks at something will either halt or may shy sideways.

CampCreek
12-07-2006, 04:30 AM
About spooked horses ... I'm about to work on a scene where my MC is driving her mule and cart along a forest trail at night. ... something is following them in the trees. ... it's definitely a predator and it would smell of blood. The horses won't be able to see it. How would the horses and mule react? Skittish, wanting to bolt, but still able to be controlled? Any specific mannerisms?

The horses will know about it before the humans do. They're made of meat and let me tell you, they darn sure know it. If there's any threat to them nearby, especially a carnivorous beast that smells of blood, they'll do exactly what you thought ~ skittish, wanting to get away, dancing in place as their riders hold them back. Some mannerisms they would display would be ears alert and popping back and forth like quick radar dishes, definitely paying attention to what's going on behind them a lot. Also, wanting to run but fighting the bit as their rider pulls the reins back to stop them. One might throw his head around trying to get the rider to let loose of the reins so it can take off. Their entire bodies would be stiff and on alert, doing a sort of prance that'd be akin to a trot-in-place. Their tails would be switching all over the place. If this were to go on for long, they'd even work up a lather from sweating from nerves.

That mule, well, it might have a totally different reaction. Donkeys are excellent guard animals for livestock, often stomping dogs, coyotes, etc., to death if the dog were to dare to step foot in the pasture. I wouldn't be surprised if that's where the phrase, "I'm gonna' stomp a mudhole in you!" came from ~ what was left of a coyote who dared tresspass in a donkey's pasture.

Now, since mules are a cross between a horse and a donkey, your mule might have inherited the donkey's agressiveness towards predators. In that case, it wouldn't be unrealistic (a tad unusual perhaps, but certainly not unrealistic or unheard of) for that mule to turn itself around, dive into the bushes, take a big bite of predator butt and drag that thing into the roadway where he could really get at it to work it over. And it wouldn't be unrealistic for that to happen even if the mule's rider was feverishly trying to keep the mule from doing this.

Those mules definitely can have minds of their own!

TheIT
12-07-2006, 05:10 AM
CampCreek, thanks, that post gave me a great idea for handling this scene. Throughout the story my MC has known there's some strange predator out in the woods, but this is the first time she'll encounter it. It's a magical construct, not a living creature, but it would definitely smell of blood and reek of "bad vibes" to anyone as magically sensitive as my MC. If she has enough time, she'd be able to puzzle out what it is, but storywise she shouldn't have the chance yet. So the scene could start with the uneasy horses and the sense that "something's out there", but just as my MC starts to figure out the clues, her mule tries to go into the bushes to attack the threat and she's forced to get control of the mule as she's being dragged along on the cart. By the time she regains control, the predator is gone and the danger is past, but they now have a lot more questions to answer.

MacAllister
12-07-2006, 05:35 AM
I remember seeing pictures of a couple of mules that attacked a mountain lion that came into their pasture, and killed it. I'll have to look for them.

Weirdness. They're pretty tough animals, mules.

TheIT
12-07-2006, 05:41 AM
Very weird. I wouldn't think of a mule as being particularly successful as an attack animal. Is aggresiveness linked to gender?

ponygal
12-07-2006, 06:14 AM
Oooh...you need to read "The Horses of Proud Spirit" by Melanie Sue Bowles.

lilyteague
12-07-2006, 07:48 AM
Aggressiveness really seems to come from the bloodlines and personality of a horse. One bloodline we have consistently produces mares with a lot of attitude. Another line we breed produces horses so calm you can shoot off of them and pack dead animals on them without any problem. It doesn't matter if they are male or female and we handle them all the same.

I've found that mules, donkeys and many ponies are more aggressive. I've heard that it is because they are smarter, but I'm not sure about that. My daughter's pony is always getting into tight situations by being "smarter."

Thanks for the warm welcome!

CampCreek
12-07-2006, 08:12 AM
McAllister, were these the pictures you were thinking of?
http://www.snopes.com/photos/animals/mulelion.asp
That is the debunking of a widely circulated email "forward". As is the case with most of those things, the story that went along with the pictures wasn't accurate, but the photos weren't doctored. The mule did show all the agression depicted in the photos, but the cat was already dead when he took hold of it. I do remember doing some 'net searching for "The Rest of the Story" a year or so ago and found a followup story, an interview of the mule's owner. He said that the mule had continued to gain agression until he was going after cats on his own. Impressive! I'd LOVE to have that mule in my foaling pasture!! YAHAHAHA!!


Very weird. I wouldn't think of a mule as being particularly successful as an attack animal. You wouldn't think it, but all equids can be quite worthy opponents for anything brave enough to try the right one, operative word being "right one" ~ by and large, horses won't stand and fight. But there are always the exceptions ~ I have an old mare who is quite agressive, going after my dogs when they get too close ~ pinning her ears, stomping at them with her front legs, swinging around quickly with her rear to kick out with both back feet. She's only connected once and that was enough to let the dogs know to give her a wide berth. All of them do now except the little Heeler ~ she can't help herself. ;) And she's taught many a neighbor dog to stay out of my pasture. Gotta' love her!

BTW, here are a couple of links regarding guard donkeys you may find interesting:
http://www.uri.edu/news/releases/?id=2714
http://cjlyons.wordpress.com/2006/11/17/this-hero-is-an-a/


Is aggresiveness linked to gender? Overall, I agree with Lilyteague (Hi, LilyTeague! :) ).

Generally speaking, and talking about all kinds of domestic animals (horses, mules, cattle and donkeys), intact males are more aggressive than females, but females can and are MUCH more aggressive than males when they have young babies to protect. Take my cattle for example ~ the bull is more aggressive than the majority of the cows eleven months out of the yeare, but any of the cows will be four times as mean as he is during their calf's first month of life. Again, this is generally speaking ~ I have one mare that's MUCH meaner than my stallion even after her foal's weaned, and I had a cow who would rather run away to save herself, leaving her calf behind at times, than even give a halfhearted try at protecting her calf (she got culled years ago).

Geldings (neutered male mules, horses and donkeys) and steers (neutered male cattle) are a different matter. They're much more laid back than either intact males or females. They will still retain all the instincts of their species, just with a lower reproductive drive. Since most agression is linked to reproduction (stallions and bulls protecting their "harems" and mothers protecting their offspring), they will be less aggressive than their intact brothers and sisters.

Donkeys' aggression towards canines is a different matter. Since that specific aggression comes more from self-preservation than the reproductive drive, gelding donkeys will still be just as aggressive towards canines as an intact donkey. AAMOF, geldings and jennies (female donkeys) are recommended over jacks (intact male donkeys) as jacks are many times too aggressive and will even kill lambs.

Speaking of geldings, your MC's mule is a male, right? If so, he'd almost certainly be a gelding. Mules are genetically triploid hybrids ~ they contain an uneven number of chromosomal pairs ~ therefore are sterile 99.999% of the time (did we already mention that in this thread? Can't 'member...). In light of that fact, there's no good reason to keep a male mule intact and have to deal with the extra aggression and unpredictability, so they're all gelded as a matter of course.


Ponygal, I've never heard of that book. What's the basic premise? Pretty good read? My "To Be Read" pile of books is dwindling and that might just be a good one to add to it!

CampCreek
12-07-2006, 08:18 AM
I forgot to tell you, It ~ your story sounds incredibly interesting!! Need a beta reader? Pretty please?! If so, hurry up and finish writing it! LOLOL! *just kidding* ;)

TheIT
12-07-2006, 10:05 AM
Thanks again, CampCreek. I'm aiming to finish the first draft by the end of February. I want to find out how the story ends, too. :D

At the moment I was going to make my MC's mule a female named Agate, but if it's necessary the gender can change (the mule, not my MC ;) ). My MC lives alone in a cave in a mountain forest below the snow line. She needs the mule and cart to get supplies from the village, also she sometimes needs to prospect for clay in the forest so the mule would need to carry the buckets and tools. All she wants is a sturdy animal that doesn't require much care and doesn't mind being alone much of the time. Male or female, or does it matter? My MC will be referring to her mule by gender, and it'll make for some amusing story moments if the mule is female.

What's the typical life expectancy of horses and mules?

About how much weight could a single mule pull when hitched to a cart?

Apologies if I'm repeating questions, but it's been a while since I've gone through this whole thread and we have some new people now with different perspectives.

lilyteague
12-07-2006, 10:53 AM
I've known a few rare horses that were still able to perform their jobs after the age of 30. Most horses are considered old at 20 (meaning it's only a matter of time). Not sure if they would have lived as long back then as today.

Mules can live between 30 and 50 years -- they get it from the donkey side.

If a mule is pulls too much weight for a long period of time, he will become spavined -- an inflammation in the legs and joints. I'm not sure, but the farmer's tale is that a mule can pull 2/3 of his weight. A mule will not put himself in danger. They will not work themselves to death to please their owners (like a horse will).

Mules have small hooves, which help make them sure footed. Just thought that was interesting sidenote.

If you are making your mule a mare -- the generic term for a mare mule is a molly mule.

Pack and work mules are usually bred from draft horses -- the bigger they are, the more they can handle. However, during the middle ages, mules were very popular for riding (the gentleman's "horse") as they were smaller than the knight's horses (large for the weight of the armour). I would think your MC's mule would be around 1000 lb. and 14 hands. You could probably play with that a bit and be just fine.

More than you ever wanted to know about mules.... I'm an endless source of knowledge that few people ever request!

TheIT
12-07-2006, 11:32 AM
1000 pounds and 14 hands? Note to self: don't let mule step on MC's feet. :D

Which brings up weights and heights. Height is measured from the shoulder to the ground, correct? What does 14 hands translate to in feet and inches? My MC is about 5' 2". Would she be able to see over the mule's back when standing next to it?

Evaine
12-07-2006, 07:23 PM
As far as I remember, a hand is 4 inches.

truelyana
12-07-2006, 07:27 PM
Let's talk horses. They're absolutely indispensable in certain genres. Whoever heard of knights in shining armor jousting on foot, or cowboys jogging into the sunset? Problem is, it's difficult to write accurately about characters who deal with horses when I've never ridden a horse in my life. So, I'm opening this thread to improve my "horse sense". I know a lot of AW members own/have ridden horses, so perhaps they could provide information which can't be found in a library. If anyone else has horse questions, please feel free to add to this thread.

Thanks in advance for any replies!

I'll start. I've got questions about using a horse or mule as a pack animal. If you're loading a horse, how do you put the stuff on the horse so you don't hurt the animal? What if you have bulky objects like boxes? How much weight is acceptable? I'm guessing at least as much as a rider, perhaps 150 to 200 pounds? How will the horse react if you try to overburden it?

Communication, you can ask him/her(the horse) for starters.

TheIT
12-07-2006, 08:52 PM
Communication, you can ask him/her(the horse) for starters.

It's the translating from "horse" to "human" that's the tricky part. ;)

truelyana
12-07-2006, 08:53 PM
It's the translating from "horse" to "human" that's the tricky part. ;)

If you put aside the barriers of the physical world like 'human' and 'horse' you will see that its pretty simple to understand one

TheIT
12-07-2006, 08:57 PM
If you put aside the barriers of the physical world like 'human' and 'horse' you will see that its pretty simple to understand one

How so? I haven't had much direct contact with horses, so my experience is very limited.

truelyana
12-07-2006, 09:02 PM
How so? I haven't had much direct contact with horses, so my experience is very limited.

I suppose it depends on the individual. I can communicate with everything on earth, including animals. Ive never noted any difference between humans and animals, as I seem to see through into each ones core rather than their physical vehicle. I can sense animals as they sense me, its something thats always been within me.

Eveningsdawn
12-07-2006, 09:23 PM
Thanks again, CampCreek. I'm aiming to finish the first draft by the end of February. I want to find out how the story ends, too. :D

At the moment I was going to make my MC's mule a female named Agate, but if it's necessary the gender can change (the mule, not my MC ;) )....
Male or female, or does it matter? My MC will be referring to her mule by gender, and it'll make for some amusing story moments if the mule is female.

What's the typical life expectancy of horses and mules?

About how much weight could a single mule pull when hitched to a cart?

Apologies if I'm repeating questions, but it's been a while since I've gone through this whole thread and we have some new people now with different perspectives.


Mares are, I've found, quite a bit more aggressive than geldings, and smarter, and here's the important part: more protective. I'd stick with the female, if I were you. I've ridden several mares in my ten years of horses, and I prefer geldings, the mares having given me an incredible amount of trouble. All that trouble came from being smart. That mule will probably be able to get your MC out of more tight spots if its female. Don't sacrifice wordplay for gender - it depends on the horse's temperment how they act, and not their sex.

For a horse, the lfie expectancy is probably 25-30... modern day, with all the medical marvels we have nowadays. Ponies, probably 30-35, although I know a 40 year old pony. Mules and donkeys, I *think*, have lifespans similar to ponies. Anyone got anything more specific than that? Some horses can work into their late twenties/early thirties - my pony is 27 and still lively, although he can't handle the same sort of intense riding he used to.


I love this thread.

TheIT
12-07-2006, 10:41 PM
Female mule it is, then. I like the protectiveness aspect. When my MC is out alone in the woods, it's good if her pack animal can help protect her. My MC is a timid curmudgeon, and her mule is just as cantankerous. Given the lifespans you've described, it would make sense that she's had this same mule for about ten years now.

As for the wordplay, I described upthread how my MC's noble guest is a mage and is very "in-tune" with animals. My MC is going to have several snarky comments about how he can get Agate to behave when she can't. "Even the mules are smitten by him." :D

And I love this thread, too. Thanks, everyone. :e2grouphu

Eveningsdawn
12-08-2006, 01:57 AM
That would actually work in another way as well - the noble guest. Mares tend to be nicer to boys, for what I assume is hormonal reasons. It's a bit odd, but a true phenomenon - a female horse may be snarky for a girl and sweet for a boy.

But they'll protect anyone they trust, and if the MC has had the mule ten years, then, well...

Can I read this, when you're done / need a reader?

TheIT
12-08-2006, 02:28 AM
I'm genuinely flattered by the offers for readers. Thanks! I had posted the opening pages in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy SYW forum in the "Shapes and Formalities" thread but the thread has fallen off the end and is gone. Once I write one of the more "horsey" scenes I intend to post it for critique to make sure I get the facts straight. The scene I'm working on now might be a good candidate. After that, we'll see. I already have a couple of beta readers lined up. Right now I just want to get to "THE END" on the first draft. 64,000 words and counting...

And now back to our regularly scheduled questions. ;)

Regarding the fabled stubbornness of mules, under what circumstances would they be stubborn?

lilyteague
12-08-2006, 06:28 AM
A mule would be stubborn in any situation where it thinks it knows better than you do!

The height is measured at the withers (at the base of the mane, before the back scoops down). A 14 hand horse would stand a little over 4 1/2 feet at the withers. A 14 hand horse/mule really isn't that big. Quite a few of the Budweiser clydesdales stand around 18-19 hands. That's six feet tall!

I love this thread, too.

TheIT
12-08-2006, 10:00 PM
What are terms for sounds horses make? Whinny, nicker, what else, and what does it sound like? Do mules have the same vocabulary?

truelyana
12-08-2006, 10:01 PM
mmm foood

CampCreek
12-10-2006, 12:07 AM
If you put aside the barriers of the physical world like 'human' and 'horse' you will see that its pretty simple to understand one
Truelyana has a point here. Too many people try to anthropomorphize horses and that just doesn't work. We are fight animals while they are flight animals ~ we are predators while they are prey. Once you get past that point though, we are pretty similar ~ overall we both just want peace and contentment.

The tricky part for most people is getting past that main difference. You have to put yourself in their shoes and think like they do, but most people can't (or won't?) do that. They insist that the horse think like a human. The human can't get past the barriers of the physical world ~ humans' inherent arrogance that makes their actions self-centered, thinking the world revolves around the human race, therefore all animals will react to stimuli just like a human would ~ ie, with enough force you can make anything do anything. At times this works with horses, but it's not a good thing since they're not willingly doing what you want them to do, but doing it out of fear. When you're putting your life and limb on the line with a horse, which you are doing anytime you are around them, it's dangerous for it to be afraid of you.

With mules it's a different story ~ they don't scare easily, so most times force just plain, flat out, won't work.

Once you can get past that though (thinking like a human and expecting everything else to follow suit) you'll go a long way towards communicating with anything.




Mares tend to be nicer to boys, for what I assume is hormonal reasons. It's a bit odd, but a true phenomenon - a female horse may be snarky for a girl and sweet for a boy. Too true! My ex-husband's sorrel mare was exactly that way. She just lurved him, but grudgingly put up with me. And that only after I "schooled" her (made her work by riding her on a hard trail ride) after she let me know plain and clear how she felt about me (charged me with teeth bared when I got too close to Kenny once). Those redheads sure do have tempers! *Snort!*


Mares are, I've found, quite a bit more aggressive than geldings, and smarter, and here's the important part: more protective. I'd stick with the female, if I were you. I've ridden several mares in my ten years of horses, and I prefer geldings, the mares having given me an incredible amount of trouble. All that trouble came from being smart. That mule will probably be able to get your MC out of more tight spots if its female. Don't sacrifice wordplay for gender - it depends on the horse's temperment how they act, and not their sex.
And again, I agree completely with Eveningsdawn on everything she said including temperment trumping sex every time. But still, when I think of a cantankerous mule, I think "molly mule". There's an old saying in horsemanship: "You tell a gelding, ask a stallion and discuss it with a mare." *snicker*

And if it's easy to care for you want, then you'll definitely want a mare. It's loads easier to clean an udder than it is a penis sheath. Yes, that really has to be done, can you believe it?! http://whinny.org/humor.htm#sheath%20cleaning%20son
Oh, what us horse lovers have to do for our animals. *sigh*


I'm genuinely flattered by the offers for readers. Thanks! I had posted the opening pages in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy SYW forum in the "Shapes and Formalities" thread but the thread has fallen off the end and is gone. BUMMER! I missed it!


Once I write one of the more "horsey" scenes I intend to post it for critique to make sure I get the facts straight. VERY good idea. Looks like there are plenty of us horse people here to help with that. I surely wouldn't mind one bit reading through it and helping you make sure the horsey info is correct and realistic ~ I'd rather enjoy it I think. Do me a favor when you post it, would you? Make a post about it on this thread. I don't always find time to get back to this forum (haven't in a while now. Ack!), but I have my member settings set to email me when a response is posted to this thread. I'd really appreciate that so I don't miss it this time.


Right now I just want to get to "THE END" on the first draft. 64,000 words and counting... Cool!! That's a helluva chunk of words there!


Regarding the fabled stubbornness of mules, under what circumstances would they be stubborn? Lily has it right ~ anytime they think they know better than you do, which is pretty often and often they're right (remember that human arrogance I was talking about earlier? LOL!). Some specific instances where this might happen are when they sense/see/feel danger ahead that you haven't seen (they'll plant their feet and won't continue going no matter what you do), when they're done for the day (too tired) and when it's time to eat, drink or poop.

Sounds? Despite the majority of their communication being non-verbal, horses make a surprising array of noises. Here' a really good list with descriptions: http://www.equusite.com/articles/behavior/behaviorSounds.shtml

I love this thread, too, ED! :)

TheIT
12-11-2006, 11:17 AM
I was mistaken about the SYW thread being missing. I hadn't realized the SYW forum defaults to displaying only the last month's threads.

Here's the link to my "Shapes and Formalities" opening pages. Post #12 is the revised version:

http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=43134

Agate the mule shows up in the second paragraph. All comments are welcome.

==========

CampCreek, that was a very interesting list of horse sounds. The descriptions of the horse's behavior helps a lot. Do mules have the same vocabulary?

CampCreek
12-13-2006, 12:11 AM
Cool! I didn't miss it after all! :) Just wanted to let you know I've been (and still am) VERY busy ~ everyone in the house except me and one baby is sick with some sort of flu (three adults and a three month old). UGH! So me not getting back to you with comments on your story isn't because I don't like it and don't know how to tell you. *Giggle ~ snort ~ guffaw!* I'm saving it for a treat, when I can find time to sit down and savor every morsel. I think they'll be over it enough to sleep through the night tonight, so I'll dope them all up with Nyquil early and have some peace and quiet. ;) I can't wait!! :)

I think mules make all the same noises, but I couldn't swear to it. There may be some that bray like a donkey for all I know because all the mules I've been around were really quiet. I had one molly mule that I don't think ever made a noise that I heard. The horses would get separated from her and she wouldn't be bothered at all. The horses on the other hand would be calling loudly, schitzing out, running around looking for her. All the while she's seemingly oblivious to it all, not showing a sign that they're even gone except to lift her head as they run up to her in relief as if to say, "What's all the hubbub, bub?" LOL!

lilyteague
12-13-2006, 06:59 AM
I've don't know first hand, but I've heard that mules try to bray like a donkey and whinny like a horse, but just can't get it right either way. I believe the sound isn't that pretty.

Soccer Mom
12-15-2006, 05:33 AM
My next door neighbor has a mule and honestly it sounds like a puny bray. I'm not sure if this is a mule trait or just this mule. I don't know so many mules.

TheIT
12-17-2006, 06:06 AM
I was talking with my friend who knows about horses, and the subject came up of how much space does a horse require. She said for grazing purposes each horse would need about an acre of land.

I'm still trying to figure out the geography around my MC's cave. I imagine there would be a meadow for my MC's mule to graze in during the day. What sort of grass? A fence to keep the mule contained and predators away? A water trough or stream? Trees for shade? Anything else?

How much supervision does a grazing horse or mule need? I figure part of my MC's daily routine would be to bring her mule to the meadow to graze while my MC goes back to her cave to work.

Chumplet
01-01-2007, 12:33 AM
I've seen horses staked out all day with no visitors. If your animals need to be in a confined space for a period of time, perhaps a local villager can bring straw or hay for their main meal. You can use a 'line' strung between two trees and a short tether that slides along the line, so the animal can make maximum use of the grazing available.

But there won't be much grass among thick tree cover. A meadow would be better.

Regarding the cave - an enclosed space should have enough head room so they don't smack themselves between the ears if they throw their heads up.

Do you need to describe how it feels to be on a horse's back when it's moving? The rhythm of their feet, the 'figure eight' movement of the rider's hips while the mount is walking, etc.

Oh, and I don't know if anyone mentioned this, but while packing an animal, the majority of the weight should be over the animal's centre of gravity. Usually close to the withers, but can be further back if the animal's spine is short. Look at thoroughbreds on the racetrack. They have long backs, and the jockey is almost directly over the withers. A quarter horse has his saddle closer to the middle of his back so he can swivel easily without going off balance. Plus the quarter horse has a shorter back.

thethinker42
01-01-2007, 01:08 AM
What do horses do if they like you? If they don't like you?

Depends on how MUCH they don't like you. Mine would pin her ears and shake her head at someone she didn't like. Another in the barn wouldn't waste an opportunity to bite someone of whom he wasn't fond. We also had one that would try to walk all over you if you were leading him and he didn't like you. It really depends on the horse.

If you're writing about a horse disliking someone, the way it's manifested in their interactions can speak volumes about both horse and human. A horse that ignores his disliked master's call is, in effect, being passive aggressive. A horse that actively tries to bite the person or strike them is demonstrating aggressive behavior. If a normally docile, friendly horse is trying to strike someone, you have to wonder if something is "off" about the person they're trying to strike. I've often used this kind of behavior to demonstrate that one of my characters is a nasty, two-faced person -- the horse gets it, no one else does.

thethinker42
01-01-2007, 01:14 AM
How do fearful horses react, say to a thunderstorm? Would they try to run away from the noise?

That's something that also depends on the horse. My horse was pretty bombproof, and would startle slightly at thunder/lightning, but didn't really care. My colt, however, was afraid of his own shadow, and a flicker of lightning (or even a camera flash) was enough to send him running. Out in a pasture, they might huddle under a copse of trees if it was raining, but it's true, they really don't get super unnerved about storms sometimes. I personally know of one horse who was struck by lightning and killed in her pasture.

Here's an interesting bit for you: earthquakes. I was riding my gelding in an arena when we had an earthquake. He KNEW it was coming. He was acting completely out of character: shaking his head and flopping his ears (the way he would if he had something in his ear), refusing to go near the arena walls, skittish behavior (he was not a skittish horse by any stretch), etc. He balked at the gate when I tried to lead him into the arena, didn't want to let me get on (highly unusual for him), snorted at nothing. After about half an hour of this, the quake happened. It was a 5.4, and we were about a mile from the epicenter, so it wasn't enormous, but you couldn't really miss that it was happening. He FROZE. Wouldn't move for anything. I got off when I realized what was happening, and we just stood there for a long time. I led him back down to the barn, and had to take my hand off of him for a second to open the gate; he immediately started shaking and getting freaked out until I put my hand on him again, which calmed him down.

Incidently, it was always my biggest fear to be caught in an earthquake on a horse, but figured, what are the odds? So now my biggest fear is winning the lottery...

thethinker42
01-01-2007, 01:16 AM
He might attempt to play with you by grabbing onto your sleeve with his teeth. My daughter's paint will steal her hat or anything she has sticking out of her pocket and run off with it. He will lean over and blow in your face or rest his head on your shoulder.

My horse used to nuzzle my back if I was talking to someone. One time she -- deliberately!!! -- snapped my bra. Needless to say, she had my complete and undivided attention at that point...

thethinker42
01-01-2007, 01:19 AM
""Mares: smart but can be b!tchy. Like whoa.
Stallions: more trouble than they're worth, but pretty and good for fighting
Geldings: easier to dominate, smart, calm.""

Here's another summary:

You tell a gelding.
You ask a mare.
You beg a stallion.

TheIT
01-02-2007, 03:59 AM
Thanks for the replies. Yes, any description of movement would be helpful. At this point my POV character is riding in a cart being pulled by the mule, but that'll probably change at some point.

How would an established herd react to a strange horse, especially if the new horse is traumatized? I'm finally reaching the point where my creepy character shows up. His horse, a gelding, would be passive aggressive toward him and desperate for affection from any other human. How would the horse react to other horses?

Soccer Mom
01-07-2007, 02:28 AM
Hi, IT. Hope you had a great new year! Whenever a my horses meet another and are interested (being nosy buggers, they always are) they would raise their heads, ears pricked forward and nicker a greeting.

TheIT
01-08-2007, 11:13 PM
Thanks, Soccer Mom. So far, so good this year, aside from an unexpected detour in travel plans due to the blizzard which buried Denver before Christmas. ;) I hope everyone else's holidays went well, too, and Happy New Year to everyone!

Let me rephrase the question: if the new, traumatized horse was put into the same pasture or stable as an established herd, how would the herd react to the newcomer over time? I'm assuming the visitor's horse will be cared for along with the rest of the guards' horses (about sixteen horses) and the mule. The newcomer horse would have to establish its place in the pecking order, correct? I need to go back and look, but I believe some of the earlier posts discussed status within a herd.

I'm assuming if the newcomer horse is accepted by the herd, it won't want to leave, so my creepy character is going to have a hard time getting his horse back.

How do horses react to other horse's injuries? Is the injured horse shunned?

Soccer Mom
01-09-2007, 01:16 AM
A new horse introduced into an established herd will most certainly have to find his place in the pecking order. If this is a horse that has been abused, it is not unusual for him to be either bullied or a bully. A well adjusted horse might have some scrapes and fighting and then slip somewhere into the middle of the herd. Horses can form strong attachments to certain buddies. If you want the new horse to fit in, having him bond with a buddy who is well-established in the herd is the best way.

If the new horse is accepted, it won't want to leave. We call horses that don't want to leave the herd (for whatever reason) 'barn sour.' They will often try to bolt and return to the herd and are exremely anxious and unruly when separated.

How a herd handles injuries depends on the individual. Some mares I've owned were very nurturing and would shelter and care for an injured horse. I've had others who would attack an injured horse and drive it away. This makes sense in a preditor/prey situation. Injured animals would attract preditors and herds might drive out the injured animal for their own protection.

TheIT
01-25-2007, 04:03 AM
Harness question. I'm considering a scene where my MC is on a cart being pulled by her mule and something attacks them. What would be involved for her to detach the mule from the cart and ride off on the mule? How long would it take?

TheIT
02-07-2007, 09:17 PM
Hi again. I just read through this thread again, and it's been fun to see how my story has evolved.

A couple more questions (of course ;) ):

When riding, do you control the reins with one hand or two?

The noble guest who comes to visit my MC is still in the story (call him G). He uses a quarterstaff as a weapon. When riding, how would he deal with carrying a six foot long stick? I'm guessing like a lance where one end is put into a stirrup so he holds the quarterstaff in place with one hand. Or is there some way to rig a "holster" so it'll stay in place on its own?

My villain finally decided to do something villainous (he's funny that way) and had his creatures set up an ambush for G. These are the same intelligent predators I mentioned earlier. They need to get G away from his bodyguards, so I'm imagining an ambush in a narrow spot on a forest trail. On the left side of the trail is a stream, and on the right is a rock wall, so the creature can lurk on the wall and launch itself at G sideways as G rides by. What I'd like to have happen is the creature and G land in the stream, but the horse stays on the trail. I'd rather not have G's horse get hurt, but the villain isn't so considerate. Chaos then ensues.

So, plausibility check #1. Is it plausible to have a grown man knocked sideways off his horse by an assailant without the horse falling with him? If necessary, I can have G turned in his saddle talking with someone behind him so he's already off balance.

Plausibility check #2: the quarterstaff. Assuming G is holding it in his left hand, it should fall with him toward the stream. If he'd been holding it in his right, it would hit the horse. If it falls in the stream, I don't think it would land directly next to G unless G reflexively kept hold as he fell. Sounds reasonable?

Thanks.

Willowmound
02-08-2007, 03:56 AM
I've seen people ride with no hands. But I need my two hands to control the horse -- left hand pulls reins (and horse) to the left; right hand to the right.

I'm sure I've seen people ride with only one hand on the reins. I mean, other than in a straight line. Not sure how they do it. I'm hardly an expert on these things, anyway. Hopefully, someone who are will enlighten us all.

thethinker42
02-08-2007, 05:30 AM
I've seen people ride with no hands. But I need my two hands to control the horse -- left hand pulls reins (and horse) to the left; right hand to the right.

I'm sure I've seen people ride with only one hand on the reins. I mean, other than in a straight line. Not sure how they do it. I'm hardly an expert on these things, anyway. Hopefully, someone who are will enlighten us all.

I ride with one hand if I'm riding western or if I'm trail-riding. (English, well, I have to use two hands) I RARELY steer with my hands though...all of my steering is with my legs and my butt.

One-handed riding is generally called neck-reining...you literally push the rein against the horse's neck to turn them. ie., the left rein against the neck pushes them to the right. You'll see a lot of working western horses (as well as pleasure horses in the show ring) doing it this way -- kinda hard to rope calf with both hands on the reins!

I have also been known to ride with no hands, usually if I'm just chillin' in the arena. I can completely control the horse with my legs and seat (including stopping...everything but backing), so if I'm being lazy, I'll do just that.

ETA: Since I rely so little on reins, let me tell you, switching to driving was a HUGE change!! All of a sudden, all I have is my reins and my voice...it was different, definitely!!

Incidentally, one of my friends rides upper-level dressage. WHen she's training, her trainer will put the horse on a lunge line and lunge the horse while my friend rides. My friend has NO reins, NO stirrups, eyes closed, and isn't allowed to use her voice. Walk, trot, canter, the whole nine yards, in a small circle around the person holding the line (for non-horse folks: when you "Lunge" or "longe" a horse, you stand in the middle and the horse goes around you in a circle about 10-20' in diameter).

thethinker42
02-08-2007, 05:41 AM
When riding, do you control the reins with one hand or two?

Either way, depends on how you're trained, if you're carrying anything, etc. I ride with one or two hands depending on what I'm doing.


When riding, how would he deal with carrying a six foot long stick? I'm guessing like a lance where one end is put into a stirrup so he holds the quarterstaff in place with one hand. Or is there some way to rig a "holster" so it'll stay in place on its own?

When flag presentations are done at horse shows, or when a horse carries a flag in a parade, there is generally a small cup below the stirrup or near the girth that the flagpole rests in. (not everyone does this, but it sure makes it easier than trying to hold the flag up on your own!!)

In the situation you're describing, my guess is that he would hold it in one hand and the reins in the other.


#1. Is it plausible to have a grown man knocked sideways off his horse by an assailant without the horse falling with him? If necessary, I can have G turned in his saddle talking with someone behind him so he's already off balance.

Absolutely. It would probably knock the horse off-balance, not to mention scare it, but the horse wouldn't necessarily go down with him. The higher the assailant hits the rider, the less likely it'll take the horse down, I would think.


Plausibility check #2: the quarterstaff. Assuming G is holding it in his left hand, it should fall with him toward the stream. If he'd been holding it in his right, it would hit the horse. If it falls in the stream, I don't think it would land directly next to G unless G reflexively kept hold as he fell. Sounds reasonable?

Sounds reasonable as much as I'm able to picture it after this little sleep. LOL BUt yeah, I would think it would work. I would guess he'd let go of it out of reflex. If he holds on to the quarter staff, he might also hold onto the reins, which COULD pull the horse down with him. Then you'd have an interesting heap!

Anytime I have ever fallen, and it's been only a handful of times in spite of 20 years of riding, I've instinctively let go and put my hands down to try to break my fall (ie., instead of letting my face break my fall). I've never been carrying anything at the time, but I've also never held onto the reins on my way down.

If you want something to give him a nasty disadvantage in this situation, since it sounds like you want him to fight the assailant after his fall, have him land on his hands/arms. Trust me, it HURTS. He could easily jack up one arm and have to fight one-handed or with one hand not 100% up to snuff. Every time I've fallen, I've managed to hurt ONE arm, never both, so I guess if I'd wanted to fight someone immediately afterward, I could have.

Hope that helps...

Willowmound
02-08-2007, 05:54 AM
One-handed riding is generally called neck-reining...you literally push the rein against the horse's neck to turn them. ie., the left rein against the neck pushes them to the right. You'll see a lot of working western horses (as well as pleasure horses in the show ring) doing it this way -- kinda hard to rope calf with both hands on the reins!

Ah, yes, that's makes sense.

But the horse would need to be trained for it, right? Just as it needs to be trained for any other riding method? Including no-hands?

thethinker42
02-08-2007, 06:06 AM
Ah, yes, that's makes sense.

But the horse would need to be trained for it, right? Just as it needs to be trained for any other riding method? Including no-hands?

Sure, but it doesn't take much, especially if the rider turns his body as well (the pressure and shifting of weight will cause the horse to turn). Some horses will turn if you turn your head the direction you want to go (because your whole body shifts, subtly, and the horse will respond to those subtle cues). Even youngsters learn quickly to respond to pressure. But yes, they do have to be trained for it.

TheIT
02-08-2007, 06:50 AM
Thanks for the replies. Cool. I'm glad this sounds reasonable. The characters have gone back and forth on this trail several times now and have been threatened twice, but this is the first true attack. I like the idea of them getting past what they think is the trouble point, they think they're safe so they relax, then wham, they're attacked. Now I just need to choreograph the fight. G has magic, so this ought to be interesting. :D

G also has a troop of about a dozen bodyguards. I figure all the horses will panic at the sudden presence of a predator in their midst. Assuming G is toward the center and the narrow trail at this point is forcing them to ride single file, then I would expect G's horse to bolt forward once it regains its balance after G falls off, the forward guard's horses also should run forward, and the horses behind him would stop short, turn around, and skedaddle back the way they came. Some of the guards might also fall if they're taken by surprise. In any case, the guards would want to get back to help G, but for several moments G is going to be on his own.

My MC with her cart and mule is also going to be in the middle of this mess, probably in line behind G. The mule is encumbered by the cart, so what would be reasonable behavior? Stop short? Run forward once the way is clear?

thethinker42
02-08-2007, 07:24 AM
My MC with her cart and mule is also going to be in the middle of this mess, probably in line behind G. The mule is encumbered by the cart, so what would be reasonable behavior? Stop short? Run forward once the way is clear?

Well, that could certainly get messy...

A horse or a mule that's harnessed is still going to react instinctively, and the "flight" instinct is going to kick in. Now, if he's wearing blinkers (NOT BLINDERS....FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, THEY ARE NOT BLINDERS...sorry, pet peeve...) over his eyes, his peripheral vision will be limited. He'll be responding to sound if somethng is going on behind him, rather than being able to see it, and will likely try to get away by moving forward...he'll be hindered by the shafts of the cart, so turning is difficult. SInce he's got something going on behind him that he can't see, and somethng keeping him from turning easily, he's going to go straight forward. Runaway carts are NOT fun. Think of a runaway stagecoach in a Western...you've got more than just the animal's momentum, you have a heavy vehicle on wheels attached to said animal. Plus, depending on the mule/horse, he might get freaked out at the sound of the cart rattling and bumping behind him if he gets going too fast (the cart makes noise anyway, but if he's going at a high speed and moving erratically, it's going to make a lot more noise than usual, which could scare him even more).

Now, if the goings-on are in front of the harnessed mule, he may balk (stop) or start backing up. This could cause him to get tangled in his harness or spooked by bumping into the cart -- depends on if he has breeching (a strap around his butt that keeps the cart a certain distance away from him).

Hope that makes some sense...let me know if you need further clarification. I've driven horses in "spooky" situations before. LOL

TheIT
02-08-2007, 09:44 AM
This WIP is first person POV of the person who's always driving the cart, so I'm very interested in any description of the mechanics of driving the cart and controlling her mule. BTW, it's going to be a female mule named Agate. I'm looking for basic description on what she'd do to get the mule moving, stopping, steering, what have you.

Agate has already tried to take a bite out of this creature but has never actually seen it (see post #203 and slightly earlier). During that scene I've got Agate pulling the cart into a clearing to get at the creature, then the wheels get caught on some rocks which stops them. Any descriptions of what it would feel like on a runaway cart would help. If the cart stops suddenly, would the driver be thrown off?

In the ambush scenario, Agate and my POV character will be behind the action, so they'll be able to see what happened. I don't think the mule would attack now that she's seen the creature (it's pretty scary), but stopping or trying to back up makes sense. If my POV character gets carried away by a runaway mule the scene would end a little early. ;)