Getting it Right: Horses and Tack

Horses, ah, yes, magnificent creatures: bold, beautiful, noble, fast, and usually misunderstood by the common person. Yup, you got it, Joe Schmo on the street couldn’t tell a Hackney from a Hanoverian. So why should writers need to know? Because there are several million horse owners/lovers in the world; and chances are, they like to read too.

You’ve decided to write a story involving equestrian sports. And just where do you start if you don’t have a clue about horses? To the internet! If you can narrow down your story, you have a better chance of getting the right research material for the job; thus presenting a more believable story.

Okay, I’m a horseperson. I’ve been riding and training 20+ years. But that doesn’t make me an expert on everything horse. Admittedly, I have a library of over 200 horse books. Yes, I own three horses. And when it’s not chucking down rain, or knee deep in mud, I get to ride once in a while. But I don’t claim to know everything about them.

In my equestrian-themed story, I have a cowboy (a handsome one) and a rather uppity woman from back east. He rides reining horses, she rides dressage (pronounced Dress-sāge or druh-sahzh)—Yes, I’ve heard it pronounced a myriad of ways. The two meet at the World Equestrian Games held at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2010. The really cool part: I got to go! I tromped around exhibits, walked the entire cross country course, took gobs of photos, watched dressage, and basically sucked in the atmosphere.

Now that I was armed with a preliminary setting for my novella, it was time to put fingers to keys. I ride dressage, so I have knowledge of that, but I didn’t know much about reining. Internet time! Finding the right site was as easy as letting my fingers do the walking. The internet is packed with sites, but the best ones to start with are the organizations for the type of riding you want to cover. In my case, I needed info on reining. So I went to the National Reining Horse Association website. Did you know reining is the ONLY western riding discipline in FEI (international level) competition?—You do now.

I poked around on their site and found some useful info. But what I was really looking for, they didn’t have in “non-reining person” terms. I needed to find their equivalent of the “nationals or world championships” which almost every breed/discipline organization has. It’s the year end finale, the big deal, the show everyone wants to qualify for. But what is it for reining? I found an email address and sent a nice note explaining who I was and what I was doing.

After a few emails back and forth with a very understanding lady, I got the following:

“We do have a program called the Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship. In that program they compete within their local affiliate all year long, gain points, qualify to a regional finals and then qualify to the championship show that is held during the futurity. The winner of each division in the championship show is the Adequan® NAAC Champion. Horse age doesn’t matter in that competition. It’s a buildup and a championship. It sounds more like what you are looking for. The prizes include a saddle, custom belt buckle, Lawson bronze trophy and payout. Of course the payout depends on the division, but it sounds like your character would be in the Open class (the professionals of the sport) and this year that payout was a little over $2,000.”

Life was good; I had the golden email, and the book continued on. It required a little plot modification to make it work. I needed an event where horse age didn’t matter, and was considered the regional finals for the area the story is partly set in (Texas). And thanks to that wonderful lady at NRHA, my book now had all the elements to make it believable in the eyes of another horse person.

Why did I care? Because like I said before, horse folk do get a chance to read once in a while. I’ve picked up books that were horse stories, and as soon as I started finding major flaws with their terminology, training, or saddlery, the book got put down. If the author didn’t take the time to make it right, why should I waste my precious time reading it?

My little novella went on to be a Smashwords best seller. Since then, I’ve written another novella, this time centering on horse racing. I contacted stallion owners and track racing managers for information. So far, that book is doing quite well on Amazon. It’s even helped boost sales of the first novella.

Click (here) for links to great and helpful websites for many of the popular disciplines of riding, training, and horse breeds. Please take the time and do the research! It’s kinda fun, actually. And make sure you get the right horse breed for the job—no Shetland pony jousting, or Saddlebred polo.

For a comprehensive list of resource links, please visit this special page on my blog.

Author: K. Rowe

K. Rowe is an experienced and prolific multi-genre author. She draws from over twenty years of active Air Force service. Kathy lives in eastern Kentucky with her husband and a zoo of farm animals. Among her many duties she finds time to offer services as a publishing consultant for new authors. Learn more about Kathy from Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

11 thoughts on “Getting it Right: Horses and Tack”

  1. Boats are a similar minefield for the unwary and with all the research in the world its very easy to get it wrong without even knowing you’re on shaky ground. For example calling a rope a rope, labels you a non-sailor but how many non-sailors would know that? Every rope has its own separate name. It might be a halyard, a jib-sheet, a main-sheet, a painter, a lanyard, an anchor warp, etc etc. It would be rare to use the word rope on a boat unless you were talking about a lot of different kinds collectively, as in “The foredeck was covered in a tangle of ropes”.

    I’ve done a lot of sailing but as with Kathy and horses, I don’t know everything about the subject. If I wrote about boats I would always get someone else to check it for errors I might not be aware of myself.

    That’s why I had my dolphin story checked by a marine biologist before publishing, even though I had researched to the max during the writing process. A marine biologist might one day read my book. He would toss it away on the spot if my dolphins were born head-first like a human, or if my sharks were always taking hits to their “ribs.”

  2. Thanks for the reminder to do your research!

    When I write, I always assume someone will be reading who knows some aspect of the story better than me – an occupation, setting, hobby, procedure, etc. Like the example you gave, Kathy, I always try to have an expert weigh in. Oftentimes they not only set the record straight, but go above and beyond with additional suggestions and details that add authenticity to my story in a way I wouldn’t even have known about, had I not asked them.

  3. So right with the research, Kathy, always assume someone with expert knowledge is going to be one of your readers. It does make sense; after all most of us read, at some point, something that contains a little of what we might have (for want of a better word) expert knowledge on.

    Great post, Kathy.

  4. Sorry folks if the link wasn’t working– I scheduled it to post 30 mins before this post was supposed to hit, but that evidently didn’t work. Technology!!! ARGH!!

    Here’s the link, it should be working now.

    If you have any equestrian related questions, feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help.

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