Welcome to Susan F. Craft, the author of A Writer’s Guide to Horses, compiled for the International Long Riders Guild. I found her account of researching and writing the guide fascinating. Below are her words:Susan F. Craft
My first encounter with the Long Riders Guild occurred via email with the Guild’s founder and president, CuChullaine O’Reilly, on a Saturday morning after finding out about the Guild—an international group of equestrians who, in order to be invited to the group, must have made a journey on horseback of at least one thousand miles.
Earlier that morning, I had spoken to a horse-woman friend of mine and told her that my heroine in my Revolutionary War novel, The Chamomile, travels two-hundred miles from Charleston, SC, to the NC Blue Ridge Mountains and that I wanted to get it right about the horses.
She put out the word on her blog and soon put me in touch with a man in Romania who takes patrons on weekend trips to the mountains on horseback. He gave me the contact information for CuChullaine.
What a fantastic resource. I emailed CuChullaine with about twenty-five questions including: I am writing an American Revolutionary War period romantic suspense. My characters are traveling on horseback and with a mule across South Carolina from the coast to the mountains in 1781. They will follow the Cherokee Trail 168 miles through various terrain–swamps; canebrakes along the river; sand hills; piedmont; to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the far northwest corner of South Carolina.
- How often should they stop to rest the horses?
- How many times a day would the horses eat?
- What could the horses eat along the way? I’m thinking that since they stick close to the river, there should be access to grasses. Should I have them pack some feed on the mule, such as corn or oats?
Within an hour, CuChullaine, responded that I wasn’t the first author who had contacted the Guild, and he appreciated my efforts to be accurate. He answered each of my questions thoroughly. I was amazed. I had more questions, and sent those to him. We spent a lovely Saturday afternoon emailing, with him graciously and patiently answering all my questions.
I promised CuChullaine that I would acknowledge his help in, The Chamomile (which I did when it was published two years later). Pleased, CuChullaine mentioned that I was the first author he had helped to thank him. He explained that he received so many questions similar to mine from authors that he was spending a great deal of his time responding, and he asked if I would be interested in working with the Guild’s Academic Foundation to compile A Writer’s Guide to Horses.
Imagine my surprise! What I don’t know about horses could fill a book. I took riding lessons in my forties with my children. Other than that, my horse riding experience consisted of having my picture taken on a pony when I was 7. But, I had one thing going for me – as an author of historical fiction I do know how I want my research to be formatted in order to easily glean the information I need.
To bolster my confidence, CuChullaine offered the assistance of two Long Riders – Doug Preston, New York Times best selling author of mysteries, and Jeremy James, a founding member of the Long Riders’ Guild who is considered Great Britain’s “poet of the saddle.” Wow! How exciting to work with people of that caliber.
Over about six months, our team came up with A Writer’s Guide to Horses that includes the following topics:
Native Breeds and Long Riders
Gait or Pace
Riders and Their Levels of Expertise
Questions and Answers
Interesting Facts and Miscellaneous Information
As an added bonus, we created a dictionary of horse terms for both the American West and Europe.
Sample of information provided in the Guide –
A horse that is happy and trusting will move in a fluid, loose manner. If a horse’s neck, back, or leg muscles are tight and rigid, it generally will indicate a quick reaction or flight.
Horses require an average of two and a half hours sleep in a twenty-four hour period. They don’t need an unbroken period of sleep time, but sleep in short intervals of about fifteen minutes. They do need to lie down occasionally for a nap for an hour or two every few days. If not allowed to lie down, they will become sleep deprived in a few days. They sleep better in groups, while others stand guard to watch for predators.
Wild horses run in herds, governed by a head mare, who leads. Stallions are there to protect.
Horses are creatures of habit and love to maintain the same pattern.
Here’s CuChullaine’s media release announcing the launch of the Guide.
In addition to supporting mounted exploration on every continent, the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation publishes hundreds of equestrian books in a wide variety of languages. While the Guild’s equestrian expertise is profound, our organization recognized the critical need for an accurate equestrian literary guide.
All writers struggle with dialogue and plot development. Yet when an author attempts to weave horses into a story line the results are often wildly inaccurate and occasionally comic. Who hasn’t wondered about the cowboy hero who magically pulls a big coffee pot and a pot of beans out of his saddlebags at the end of the day? Nor should we neglect to consider the novelists who feature mounted protagonists that gallop everywhere, riding their horses as if they were disposable rental cars.
In this age of equestrian literary amnesia, Susan F. Craft led the international team of authors, researchers, scientists, cavalrymen and Long Riders who created the Writer’s Guide to Horses. Armed with this treasure trove of vital mounted wisdom, Craft has now penned The Chamomile.
Though it is a fictional novel, set during the American Revolutionary War, Craft’s tale of intrepid equestrian travelers rings true, thanks to the horse history and lore she helped preserve for future generations.
I’ve had responses from several writers who have bookmarked the Guide and expressed their appreciation for such a valuable resource. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank CuChullaine O’Reilly and the Long Riders Guild Academic Foundation for allowing me to be a part of one of the most exciting projects of my life.
Famous African explorer, Osa Johnson, on her trained zebra, circa 1930
(The photographs and information contained in this post are used with permission of the Long Rider’s Guild. Please, do not duplicate without the permission of the LRG)
Susan F. Craft is the author of the SIBA award-winning Revolutionary War romantic suspense, The Chamomile. Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas will release two of her post-Revolutionary novels in 2015 entitled Laurel (release date January 12) and Cassia (release date September 14).
Where to find Susan on the Web:
Blog:Historical Fiction a Light in Time www.historicalfictionalightintime.blogspot.com
Other blogs Susan contributes to:
Colonial Quills – the 4th Monday of each month www.colonialquills.blogspot.com
Christian Fiction Historical Society – 31st of months with 31 days ChristianFictionHistoricalSociety.blogspot.com
Stitches Thru Time – Tuesdays www.stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com
A special thank you to Susan and the Long Riders’ Guide for an excellent article.
For a chance to receive a copy of Susan F. Craft’s book, The Chemomile, or a copy of the Christmas Treasure: A Collection of Christmas Short Stories with a short story by Susan, leave a comment. Giveaway closes Sunday, December 14, 2014 at midnight (CST).