I realized with all the complaining I do about incorrect horse facts in books I should just do something about it! I mean I have been around horses my entire life. I started riding when I was two. I’ve had my pony since I was five. I know some stuff!
Here are the most common things I see that bug me:
- kicking the flank to get your horse moving
Well, I get it sounds all specific and smart, but if you look at the image above, the flank is the right in front of their back leg. The only thing you will be touching that part of the horse with is a whip, if your foot is back there then you aren’t riding properly at all, you’re probably falling off and holding onto the horses neck actually. You’re kicking the side of the horse. And honestly you shouldn’t be kicking at all, just squeezing/applying gentle pressure. The only time I actually kick a horse is when they are being a brat and need a little smack, they are pretty sensitive and responsive creatures.
- Neighing of horses
It’s like every time a horse enters the scene it’s with a whinny or a nicker or something. Horses are pretty quiet animals. The only time they will usually neigh is when they are calling to each other. The only other time I hear it is when they know it’s food time.
And now fun facts!
- Horses cannot breath through their mouths. When you see a horse “yawning” it’s really clearing its sinuses
- Horses can sleep standing, they lock their knees. And if a horse is sleeping laying down then other members of the herd are standing to keep guard
- Horses are actually pretty good swimmers
- Horses can run up to 45mph, it’s not sustainable though
- Walking, horses can usually cover about 30-40 miles in a day
- The average horse has 4 gaits: walk (4 beats) , trot (2 beats), canter (3 beats), gallop (4 beats). This website has a good description of the gaits and the general rider position in each.
- There are 2 general riding disciplines, English and Western. The easiest visible difference is the saddle type, western has the horn on the front. There is also an Australian saddle, which is like a hybrid between the two. The main no-no I see with this stuff though, you do not want to jump with a western saddle, no one wants a horn in their stomach.
- Ponies and Horses are different breeds. There is also a height limit, usually if the animal is under 14 hands it’s a pony. My pony is pony size but a horse breed, he’s special. And miniature horses are a horse breed, not a pony.
Overall, horses are awesome and I love seeing horse/rider relationships in books. They are caring, smart, protective of their people, and have great personalities. And when you have a good relationship with your horse it’s a partnership. If you watch equestrian in the Olympics (the only time I think non-horse people are exposed to it) you can see that bond, because I mean there is no way a person can control a 1,500 lbs horse without their consent.
I hope this is helpful if you are writing horses into your stories! And if you have any questions that I didn’t specify feel free to ask!