Information on Horses in Fantasy Writing – Part III

The Encyclopedia of the Horse

I have covered common horse traits and descriptions.  But what about the descriptions of horse trappings and armor?  And I still haven’t told you how far a real horse can travel.  Well, here it is.  If you have any more helpful information on horses or if you find some of this information does not fit what you know about horses, please let me know.

* Bit – part of the bridle that consists of a straight metal mouthpiece held in a horse’s mouth by the reins and used to control the horse.  The types of bits vary in size and make.  There are the most common jointed or double-jointed bits which have swiveling mouthpieces also called a snaffle bit, there are bits with chain mouthpieces, curb bits, and more.  In medieval times it may have been believed that the more harsh the bit, the easier to control an unruly horse.
* Bridle – the leather fittings worn on the horse’s head and used to communicate with the horse.
* Cinch – girth for a saddle consisting of a thick strap secured by passing the end through two metal rings.
* Decorative trappings – dyed or bleached ostrich plumes.
* Girth strap – broad band fastened around the belly of a horse to keep the saddle in place.
* Halter – worn on the horse’s head and used to lead and control the horse without the bridle and saddle.
* Harness – the leather straps that help pull something such as a wagon, a bit may be part of the harness.
* Head collar – same as a bridle but without a noseband.
* Lead – rope attached to the collar and used to lead the horse.
* Rug – put under a saddle for comfort.  Also a stable rug and used for weather protection without a saddle.
* Saddle – the seat for a man (or woman) to sit comfortably on a horse.  The basic parts of the saddle are the horn, pommel, cantle, stirrups, rigging, and more.
* Stirrup – where the rider’s feet go.  Stirrups help to give a rider balance, especially in battle when the rider’s hands are being used to hold weapons such as a sword, bow, lance, and others.  Stirrups were not used in medieval Europe until about the 5th – 8th century.  Cavalry in warfare did not become prominent until after the use of the stirrup.
* Tack – everything leather that you put on the horse.
* Trappings – horse accessories or decorative horse coverings.

* Barding – basic term for various horse armor.
* Caparison – decorated horse blanket covering.  The caparison is usually worn along with horse armor.
* Chanfron – armor for the horse’s head.  Chanfron is based on a French word and there are various spellings.
* Crinet – armor attached to the back of the chanfron and trailed down the horse’s mane.
* Peytral – armor protecting the horse’s front neck.
* Trapper – same as caparison except sometimes made with mail.

Miscellaneous Information on Horses
* Cannon – part of the horse’s leg from knee to fetlock.  Long cannon bones are preferable.
* Cold-blooded – term applied to draft horses.
* Colt – male horse under four years old.
* Dam – mother horse.
* Fetlock – below the lowest joint to the hoof.
* Filly – female horse under four years old.
* Foot – hoof and all else between.
* Frog – v-shape in the middle of the food.
* Grooming – dandy brush (stiff bristled brush used to remove mud and dirt from the body), body brush (short bristled brush used to remove dust, scurf or dandruff, and grease from the mane and tail), curry comb (used in conjunction with the body brush – removes mud and dirt from the brush itself and from the body), mane and tail comb, sweat scraper (removes excess water or sweat), hoof pick (cleans under the foot), hoof and oil brush (used to shine the horse’s hooves).
* Hitching post – a post outside an establishment used to temporarily tether horses.
* Hobble – used to tie the legs of a horse loosely together with a rope or strap to prevent him from straying too far.  The horse can walk, but it can’t run.
* Hoof – outer horny layer of the food.
* Horses can travel 20-30 miles per day at a trot if they are well-cared for.  Horses can be specifically bred and trained to go further but they can’t carry heavy weight.  Such horses may be used to carry messengers.
* Mare – adult female horse.
* Shod – shoe.
* Stallion – adult male horse.
* Stud – male horse used for breeding.
* Tethered – horse tied to a post or pole.
* Thrush – decay of the soft horn of the frog on the horse’s foot.  Common problem for horses living in damp conditions or uncared for stalls.
* To saddle a horse – girth up and check the fit.
* If not properly trained, a horse can spook at certain sounds, smells, animals he is not familiar with, or even shadows.
* Horses eat hay, oats, corn, and sweetfeed.
* Riding a horse for a long period results in pain in the inner thigh and buttock muscles, also in the lower back, calves, knees, and hips.  A long period is determined by the frequency of the riding.
* Horses must be walked and rubbed down after working a sweat.
* Horses are prone to stomach problems so do not overfeed or abruptly change his diet.
* Horses do not lap water.  They suck it with their lips.
* Horses have a hard time on rough terrain, marshlands, and mountains, unless specifically bred for that purpose.
* Peasants generally owned oxen, donkeys, or mules, but not horses.

Fantasy writing is not a simple as it sounds.  Although I had a good story in my head, certain details escaped me – such as information on horses.  Without proper research, I could have made many mistakes which could have insulted those who know about horses.  Remember, just because it is fantasy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to make sense.  Use real information when talking about real creatures or objects.

More detailed information on horses can be found 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.

One Response to “Information on Horses in Fantasy Writing – Part III”

  1. Fantastic information!!! I never know that it took so much research to write a novel. No wonder so many people only just dream of writing a book. Good luck to you and your writing endeavors.

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