Information on Horses in Fantasy Writing – Part I

The Medieval Horse and its Equipment, c.1150-1450 (Medieval Finds from Excavations in London)

One of the most difficult things for me to research in fantasy writing was horses.  Sure, I know what a horse is and I know a little about the saddle and reigns.  But how far can horses travel?  What types of horses are best for cavalry, traveling, carrying messengers, pulling carts, or working in the fields?  How do you describe a horse in color or body?  Besides saddle and reigns what are all the other horse trappings?

Without proper knowledge of horses, I couldn’t possibly create realistic fantasy writing.  Sure it’s fantasy, but if I’m using a real creature, I should use real information on horses.  How would it sound if in fantasy writing that a horse could travel a hundred miles in one day, if a lady casually rode a stallion, or if an untrained horse did anything the rider wanted it to do, like jump a chasm?

So how far can horses travel?  What kinds of horses do ladies ride and what kinds are taken into battle?  Below is some of the information on horses that I have found in my research.  I will post more information on horses in the following weeks.

Body Language of Horses
*Ears flattened back – anger
*Ears pricked forward – interest
*Ears flick back and forth when attention is divided between the mounted person and what is ahead.
*Presents a rump – warning to keep out of its space
*Shying – jumping to one side when startled; this can cause a rider to be dismounted.
*Thrust and draw back – fear or dislike
*Thrusts head – aggression
*
Language – squeal (protest), nicker (greeting), neigh (normal sound you think of when you think of horses; generally loud), snort (warning or alert), roaring (wild noises, usually made when two stallions are fighting), whinny (soft neigh), grunts or groans (displeasure)

Gaits
*Walk – slowest pace of a horse; can be a slow or fast walk.
*
Trot or jog – faster than a walk but slower than a canter; best for long distance travel
*
Canter or lope – medium pace of a horse
*
gallop or full gallop – fastest pace of a horse in which all four feet of the horse are off the ground at the same time

Shoeing
*Farrier – makes and fits horseshoes
*Horses can be hot or cold shod – hot is easier than cold
*Horseshoes should not be left on longer than eight weeks or their feet will be “pinched”.
*
When reshoeing, the old shoes must be removed so that the farrier can trim a proportion of the hooves off and ensure that the feet are balanced before putting new shoes on.

More detailed information on horses can be found in the coming weeks at my Squidoo page “Helpful Information on Horses“, and from books such as “The Medieval Horse and its Equipment“, “The Horse in the Middle Ages”, or “The Encyclopedia of the Horse“.  All these books and other great fantasy writing books can be purchased at the Writing a Fantasy Novel Amazon a-Store.

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