I used to write a lot of medieval fantasy – my hero always rode his trusty black stallion, and his sidekick usually rode a mare. And when they went to sleep at night, they’d tie their horses to a tree branch. They’d wake up the next morning, untie their horses and ride off toward the sunset. No problem, right?
So I wrote up my chapter and worked on the sentence structure and plot and dialogue and sent it off to my critique partner, BlueSue.
I quickly discovered I’d screwed up a few, um, major details. You see although I have ridden a horse — okay, I was six at the time and the pony refused to leave the barn – in a very jolting fashion — the horses were basically a means to an end to get my characters over long distances. A car except, instead of wheels, they had legs. Trouble is, Sue told me, horses are characters all their own – they do what they want to do. They can help the hero by warning him of danger. Or just as easily dump him on his backside and take off. And forget about them sleeping quietly at night and finding the horses still there.
Over the years we’ve worked together, I’ve sent a lot – and I really mean a LOT of emails asking about horse shoes, and coat colours, and … oh, everything about horses. Turned out the pony – Dolly – I’d ridden was ‘barn sour’. Who knew?
Well, Sue did – as would other horse owners. And more to the point – those horse owners READ – and they snicker at non-horsey people like me when we try to write about horses.
Sue’s been saving up those emails, and ones she’s received from other authors too, and written a book called The 33 Worst Mistakes Writers Make about Horses.
For every mistake Sue’s seen writers make, she’s got two suggestions of what the writer should correctly have the horse – or rider – doing.
So if you have your valiant hero riding his black stallion and expect him to ride docilely along when there’s a mare in the area – dream on. If you need your hero to be delayed – Sue has a few suggestions. She can tell you how to dump the rider off, or how to keep him on. And when it works and when it doesn’t.
So take a gander over to Holly Lisle’s Shop and make your research on horses – and riding – a heckuva lot easier.