The Writer’s Guide to Horse Myths: Part 2
Today we are busting more horse myths. This is misinformation I see repeated by well-meaning authors who unfortunately don’t know they are spreading untruths.
As always, magic is the exception to the rules. Because magic.
Sleeping Standing Up
A horse can enter certain phases such as light sleep while standing but to go into deep sleep and REM (rapid eye movement) the horse must lie down. If the horse is standing when it enters these phases of sleep it would probably fall over due to the muscle relaxation. An adult horse needs a minimum of thirty minutes of deep and REM sleep to avoid sleep deprivation.  Foals spend a lot more time napping, up to half the day when they are less than three months old.  Usually horses will sleep only when they feel safe and often with one of their herd mates acting as a lookout.
Unfortunately, I have read several books where the protagonist rides all day, makes camp at night, and completely ignores her horse except to maybe take the saddle off. Grooming is important to a horse’s health because it removes dirt and sweat from its coat and gives the rider the opportunity to check for any injuries. One of the most important grooming tasks is cleaning the hooves. The sole of a horse’s foot has two grooves. Rocks and other debris can get caught in them and if not removed can cause the horse to go lame. Cleaning the hooves is also a good time to make sure the horseshoes are not coming loose.
Not Warming Up or Cooling Down
Just like it is important for you to warm up and cool down as part of a workout, it is critical for horses. When starting a ride, the horse should be walked or slowly trotted until its muscles warm up before attempting faster paces. The same should be done at the end of a ride to prevent the muscles from cramping up. Yet I see several books, shows and movies with riders mounting and galloping off or galloping up and immediately hitching their horse.
Not Tying Up
Speaking of hitching or tying up your horse, I’m amazed how many times I’ve seen the hero dismount and walk away, leaving his horse loose. It’s not like parking a car because your car won’t wander off. If you want your horse to be there when you get back it’s important to either hitch or hobble them. Hobbling involves connecting the horse’s front legs with a short piece of rope or leather. The horse can take small steps comfortably but can’t go very far.
Riding Without a Saddle
In a pinch, you can ride without a saddle but it does have some drawbacks. First, it’s not very comfortable. You are straddling the horse’s spine with the bony withers right in front of you. Second, without stirrups to help you stay in place you must use a lot more leg which becomes tiring after a while and starts to chafe.
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