Worldbuilding: 10 Things You Should Know About Writing Horses

Horses can be difficult to depict accurately in fiction.  As someone with lots of personal experience with equines, I thought I’d offer some points of interest about working with them that I haven’t seen on other lists.

1. Horses don’t need shoes.  Proper trimming and exercise is enough.

2. Horses can’t gallop for long periods of time.  They can trot for miles when conditioned but it’s very uncomfortable and tiring for both of you.

Ari
My boy Ari. That thing on his neck is a cribbing collar.

3. Riding all day makes you sore.  

4. A horse can’t be parked in a stall and forgotten for a month.  They have to be exercised or at least allowed to roam because part of their vascular system relies on the compression of soft tissues in the hooves.

5. Horses need lots of water and food throughout the day, mostly grasses.  They can’t live on oats.  Oats are a good supplement for hard working horses or when in cold weather because they provide energy, but can’t sustain a horse.  Also, horses can’t throw up, and rarely burp.

6. Horses shouldn’t go straight from hay only to lush pastures or vice versa because they’ll likely colic (the broad definition of a horse stomach ache, which are often fatal).  They need time to adjust.

7. A horse cannot whinny when galloping or jumping.  In fact, they’re pretty quiet unless calling to another horse.

8. Your body language affects a horse’s mood.  They can feel a single fly land on their fur so they can sense if you’re tense in the saddle.  If you’re scared, they’ll get scared and will be more likely to spook.

9. Horses spook at the stupidest things.  They have some of the fastest reflexes of land mammals and can kick before you realize what they’re spooking at.  Don’t stand right behind one, don’t stand right in front of one.  Also, when they bite it hurts.

10. Horses operate based on respect, and (in almost all cases) have no sense of loyalty or affection toward humans.  Even a horse that respects you will be more than happy to abandon you to tigers to stay alive.  A horse not trained to charge into battle will run the other way.  A horse not trained to be mounted from behind will kick you.  A horse not trained to ignore gunfire will bolt.  So in scientific terms, horses are jerks.

And there you have it.

Got anything I missed?  Any particularly awful examples of mecha-horses?

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2 thoughts on “Worldbuilding: 10 Things You Should Know About Writing Horses

  1. Thank you! I have horses in my story, but I want them to be REAL so I’ll use your guidelines here to make them believable. Good luck on your writing!

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