6 Wrong Ways to Write About Horses

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So, you are just writing a book, and there’s something about horses in it, and you definitely want to jot down the equines right. Great!  Perhaps you have already done your homework well, watched quite some movies with horses, or even read various horse books.  

Luckily, numerous films and books portray an excellent understanding of horses as well as horsemanship. Nonetheless, the truth of the matter is that occasionally, several books and movies out there are marred by a lack of proper knowledge on these ‘divine’ species.

In most cases, those books and movies are giving you inaccurate information.  Unfortunately, these same errors end up being passed down from book to book and movie to movie, with the authors and directors blissfully unaware of a portion of their horse-knowledgeable audience grunting in despair. Nonetheless, you need not follow in their sadly mistake-ridden footsteps! 

If you want to write about horses the right way, be sure to watch out for these six red flags in horse fiction

1. Failure to cool down the horse after exertion

Picture this scene from a romantic novel or movie, where the main character and Hero must ride hell for leather to get to the church where his darling is being married off to another guy.  His horse is lathered-up in sweat. The Hero arrives at the church, hops off and…leaves the horse. 

Typically, any horse-knowledgeable knows that this is a BIG NO-NO.  In essence, a hard-ridden horse ought to be walked until it is cool since if hot horses are given food or water can get permanently injured. 

As such, if your character simply can’t spare some time to do this, kindly create a stable urchin or a person to take care of the horse!  Alternatively, you can hire online writing services by asking ‘can you write my paper for me?’ and if the online reviews about these services from satisfied clients stating that they can write my paper for cheap among others is  anything to go by, then you can leave it to professionals to do it for you correctly. 

Why? Not taking time to cool down the horse can result in various conditions; one such being foundering that can effectively lame any horse.  

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2. Exaggerated horse heights 

It is not uncommon to see horses depicted to tower over men in various fiction tales or even films. While this is acceptable in fantasy, in reality though, the horses often used in such movie/book scenes may top out at approximately 17 hands. 

NOTE: Horses are generally measured in ‘hands’ that is about four inches. With this measurement, a horse’s average height ranges between 15 and 16 hands-usually measured from the ground up to the top of the withers (a ridge between a horse’s shoulder blades). As for ponies, they measure between 14.2 hands and below; while draft horses usually measure between 17 and 19 hands, often more. 

As such, although depicting a ‘warhorse’ as usually seen in various fantasy novels, kindly refrain from describing them to be 25 hands or any other absurd measurement, not unless you are aiming to illustrate supernatural creatures subsequently ridden by gigantic beings. 

3. Tight gripping of the reins and ‘holding on’ with them

Generally, this is a scenario mostly common with media depictions. Also, there are various books where a character is described as yanking or gripping the reins.  To a typical horse person, the aforementioned depicts that your character is an inexperienced rider. 

In essence, the purpose of the reins is guiding the horse as opposed to forcibly controlling it. Likewise, great riders use their legs and thighs in gripping the horse and staying in the saddle.  Only inexperienced riders will usually ‘hang on’ by the reins.  

4. Riding Gear: One can ride a horse wearing just about anything! 

In most films, a person will usually ride their horse in virtually anything they happen to be wearing. Nonetheless, the reality is that while the upper body attire widely differs, almost all riders, however, wear boots and pants. Riding bare feet and when wearing shorts is just inviting injury. 

If your character has no leg protection gear (chaps, pants, jodhpurs, etc.), the chances are that although they will not be risking any significant injuries, they should, however, brace themselves for pain. 

Just imagine your bare skin rubbing against leather again and again…yeah, you rightly guessed it. Terrible chafing or worse, bare calves may get pinched by the stirrup leathers, severely so to leave some scars in some instances. 

In contrast, riding without having appropriate footwear is totally different. Think of bare feet in stirrups and your character need not just worry about a little chafing, but they would be risking serious injury. We are talking about broken ankle, damaged foot, or a broken leg among other risks associated with inadequate footwear.  

This is because if a horse jumps, bolts, spooks or does anything unexpected, the rider may fall off the saddle. If they have no heeled shoe, their foot will slip right through. His/her ankle will get caught up in the subsequent stirrup, and they are eventually dragged beside the horse while he bolts. This happens even to experienced riders! 

Your character riding in stirrups barefoot significantly increases this risk and is a major red flag! 

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5. Using Untrained horses in battle

Horses fear loud noises and fire. Except for a trained horse, no horse is getting close to either scenario. Therefore, refrain from illustrating the typical family workhorse, or an average horse grabbed from just any barn, as one willing to plunge into battle.

6. Depicting Horses as typical wood blocks

Unfortunately, a large chunk of stories that involve horses fails to define them as intelligent creatures, mainly describing them as ‘vehicles in hooves.’  Looking at popular horse characters like ‘Bill the Pony,’ their popularity is majorly because they were important characters in the writings. 

Similarly, consider how horses complement their narratives and how such a concept will benefit your writing. 

Conclusion 

Just like with any other form of writing, research well and write intelligently. Horses are also important!  Frankly speaking, there is virtually not a 100 % right way to write about horses. Nonetheless, similar to any other creature, each horse boasts its distinct reactions and personality. 

While your horses need not be flawlessly realistic (after all, isn’t it called ‘fiction?’), if you, however, consider the significant issues, your horse-knowledgeable audience can overlook the little missteps. 


Jeff Blaylock is a renowned personal development coach and an accredited freelance author. He is the holder of a Master’s degree in Psychology. He often shares his researches telling interesting facts on how different animals help people to improve their health, mental state, and relationship.