Thundering hooves echo through the arena accompanied by the harsh throb of ragged breathing. Rippling muscles testify to the sheer power stored within. A spirit that submits, but is never subdued. Even through the layers of saddle and pads you feel it.
But you feel it most of all in your aching forearms. The constant pressure on the reins as your steed strives to throw off all encumbrances and embrace the heady power of the wind and freedom.
Why? There are a couple of reasons, but mainly because I’ve grown up around horses. I started taking riding lessons at seven, and have owned my own horse since the year I turned twelve. Now I work at a place where I have a whole herd of horses under my charge, to look after and ride.
So folks automatically assume I’m a horsey-girl.
But I’m not.
Don’t get me wrong, I love riding. There’s nothing quite like the feel of the wind in your hair, and the strength of the steed beneath you, and the beauty of willing submission when the horse bends its will to yours.
True horsemanship becomes about understanding and sympathizing with the horse, rather than having good old fashioned horse sense. A horse that misbehaves is just a horse that is misunderstood.
It’s due in part to these novels and movies that horses seem to have been relegated to something that only girls are allowed to enjoy. That bothers me. What happened to the age of the cowboys? To mounted warriors and the magnificent chargers ridden into battle by knights.
True, horses and riders can bond. And when it truly does happen, it’s beautiful to watch. I’ve experienced it. I’ve owned my horse, Ariat, for five years now. Seems like sometimes he can tell what I’m thinking before I have time to cue him. Horses, like dogs or cats, get to know their riders and their habits. Ariat recognizes the sound of my spurs and knows my whistle—and if I’m lucky, he’ll actually answer it and come when I call.
I’m a one-horse rider, and he’s a one-rider horse. We get along just fine.
All that to say, I never thought I’d write a horse novel.
But I am.
Of a sort.
It’s an epic medieval fantasy that takes place in a country of horse-masters. Horses tend to be a natural part of most fantasy—who could resist the knight in shining army, or the flash of the tournament lance, or the charge of the Rohirrim?—but even more so of the fantasy world I’m imagining. The novel may not be about horses, but they are a necessary piece in the story.
There is a delicate balance required to write unique steeds that are realistic and horse-like and to present the true bond between horse and rider, without painting horses with a human shaped brush.
When we do that, we fail to portray the true beauty and majesty and nobility of a war-horse and its master.
What do you think? Do you enjoy reading novels where horses have more human characteristics? Is there a book you can think of where this has been done really well?