Today I am hear to clear up any misconceptions and give you readers some tips on how horses think and function that may keep other horse-enthusiasts from rolling their eyes at your equine characters. Nobody wants an eye-roll from an equestrian, trust me. We are the judgiest people on the planet.
So, without further ado, here are some tips on crafting equine characters in your stories...
1. HORSES ARE NOT SMART
Horses are often crafted in movies to be a Lassie-the-dog type character: clever, understanding, careful and ceaselessly benevolent. To that I utter a resounding HA.
Horses are pretty much anything but benevolent - most horses anyway. They are some of the dirtiest tricksters around, especially ponies.
(By the way, ponies are not baby horses, we'll get to that in a minute.)
If you're going to write about a horse, no matter to what extent and in what genre this is an important concept to grasp. Horses are ANIMALS not PEOPLE. They cannot reason, they cannot think through things and make a cohesive plan. They learn through association and repetition, not because they're good at figuring things out. Would you climb on a 1200 pound animal who knew how to "figure things out" - things like getting you off him? Yeah, I wouldn't either. So remember, treat horses like the dumb animals they are. Yes, they are beautiful and athletic and intelligent enough to learn what we teach them, but they would never accomplish anything like that on their own. One of my biggest peeves is seeing any animal portrayed on film - especially horses - like a rescuing angel, sacrificing themselves for their mistress/master. Horses DON'T DO THAT. They don't care squat about their human when scary things start going down. Have you ever watched a horse freak out about something and completely ignore its rider/handler in the throes of panic? They really don't care an ounce about you when there's something dangerous. Really, they don't.
Anyway, now that that's out of the way...
2. PONIES ARE NOT BABY HORSES
This is a super annoying misunderstanding that definitely evokes a large eyeroll from myself. So here, let me say it again.
PONIES ARE NOT BABY HORSES.
Baby horses are called "foals", males are called colts and females, fillies.
A pony is a small horse, much like a Chihuahua is a small dog. The dictionary definition is "a horse of a small breed, especially one whose height at the withers is below 14 hands 2 inches (58 inches)."
3. HORSES MOVE IN FOUR DIFFERENT GAITS
A horse has four "speeds" or "gaits" as they are commonly referred to. Walk is the first, slowest and most obvious. Trot is the second speed, it is a bouncy, jogging sort of gait. The canter is next and it is like a slower, more collected and controlled version of the last and fastest gait: galloping.
Here is a video to help you get a better visual idea of the four different speeds so you can apply them to the horses in your story more accurately.
4. HORSES HAVE A LOT OF DIFFERENT COLORS
Are you imagining a specific shade of horse for your story but can't think of any names besides black? Well, I am here to help!
Horses actually have so many cool colors and learning about them is really neat (says the kid who grew up mostly on equine non-fiction books during her formative years).
Here is a basic chart to get you started on the most common horse colors...
And there (in this last ditch, night before effort to get a post on time) are some of my helpful hints for writing about horses in your fiction. Did you learn anything new? Have you ever written about horses in a story before? Is there something horse-related you would like to know about? Feel free to ask me! I will talk about horses forever with a willing listener. :P Or you could ask Google, I'm sure Google knows better than me. XD