Monday, June 17, 2013

Equestrian Resources for Historians

I hadn't realised until this last year that many historical novelists don't have even a nodding acquaintance with the world of horses. While to me it's very easy to visualise how the world looked and behaved when only horses were the fastest means of transport, clearly this aspect of life is - ehem - a closed book for many writers.

I had also forgotten that I have been collecting equine trivia from across history since I first created the Fell Pony Museum web site back in 2000. It's been up there on t'interweb for 13 years, waving gently at passers-by, but not making a nuisance of itself. You can Google "Fell pony history" and the Museum site will appear in the first half-dozen entries on page 1 (and: I manage two of the other sites that are up in that bracket!).

Since the concept of pedigree farm animal breeds didn't emerge in England till the 19th century, much of what I've recorded in the Museum site is generic British pony (horse) information. By definition, "Fell pony history" is not really available before then, but a good deal of information can be found about the animals who were of similar size, use and geographical distribution. So, when questions of colour, type, size, use and behaviour arise among my fellow authors, this site is a useful resource. There is a also long list of links to further reading.

This blog, Jackdaw E Books, also has several posts about horse use, and coaches and carriages, which could save much writerly embarrassment at the book reviewing stage!

Search for posts labelled:


"carriage driving"

"coaching era"

"bluffer's guide"

MM Bennetts' Literary Historical Fiction blog and Jonathan Hopkins' Cavalry Tales blog frequently offer terrific insights into the world of horse usage. Both are riders and Jonathan is a professional saddle fitter.


Sue Millard is the author of several equestrian books including Hoofprints in Eden, Coachman and One Fell Swoop, and two children's educational activity books, Fell Facts and Fell Fun.


MaryWitzl said...

This is a good resource for anybody who writes historical fiction, Sue. I remember reading about a man who owned a 'matched pair' and how proud he was of this. It took me a couple of paragraphs to figure out this meant that his horses moved at the same speed, making the 'driver's' job a lot easier. And I'll bet 'driver' isn't the right word there...

Sue Millard said...

Hi Mary - a matched pair is one that looks alike, eg chestnut horses with white socks, or unmarked blacks. They ALSO have to move alike, and stride alike, and pull equally, and have similar temperaments. Driving a good pair well is very skilful, though putting two vaguely similar horses together and letting them pull a carriage is less of a challenge. "Driver" is perfectly OK, by the way!

Sue Millard said...

A more esoteric term for driver is "whip." Usually implying a good driver. A pretentious, poor driver, though, is a "whipster".