The Writer’s Guide to Horse Myths: Part 3
This is my third and final installment on misinformation about horses. After this, I will be moving on to historical clothing.
As always, magic is the exception to the rules. Because magic.
Training for Battle
Horses are naturally flighty, easily startled animals. After all, in the wild, they are in almost constant danger from predators. A horse’s natural reaction to any scary situation is to spook and run away. When humans started using horses in battle, they had to train this flight reaction out of them. It’s similar to a human who trains themselves not to freeze in a dangerous situation through martial arts or other combat instruction. A critical part of normal training for a horse is to trust the rider and every horse must be desensitized to one extent or another. For some, it’s learning to not be afraid of the hose; for others, like police horses, it’s learning not to shy at gunshots, explosions or screaming people. Here is an interesting video about training police horses.
Horses experience a wide variety of emotions from joy to trauma to grief. They bond with horses, people, and other animals. They will put themselves in danger to save the ones they love.
A friend of mine told me a story of having to put a horse down. They led him from the corral to the barn and as my friend was walking back afterward, passed the horse in the next pen. The horse looked at him, look toward the barn and nickered. My friend said, “I’m sorry. He’s gone.” The horse let out a loud whinny and charged for the gate, calling for his friend. Then he turned and walked back slowly, his head held low.
Becoming a Good Rider
Becoming a competent rider takes time and training. Most people cannot mount a horse for the first time and be good riders. Yes, you can be told the basics of steering and getting the horse to move in a few minutes and probably do well enough at slow speeds but you are probably going to be in trouble trying to do anything more advanced like jumping or mounted combat. Another detail to keep in mind is that riding uses muscles that normally don’t get a lot of exercise so even if an amateur rider is fit, they are probably going to be in a world of hurt after a few hours.
Writer’s Tip: I would love to see a scene in a book showing the struggles of a first-time rider.
Breaking a Horse
Breaking a horse to saddle also takes time. If the horse has had little to no contact with humans it will take weeks to months before the trainer can even touch the horse. Once the horse is used to being touched and groomed, then they must become accustomed to the tack being put on them then weight put in the saddle. Generally, it’s not recommended to ride horses before the age of 2-4 because their skeletal and muscular structures are still maturing and too much weight could hurt them.
There are people who claim to be able to break a horse to saddle in a day or a week but usually most of their methods are abusive and involve terrorizing the horse into compliance. These methods are sometimes called rough breaking.
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