Research and horses

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Last month I got to go on a trail ride in the Smokies. Tennessee is entrancing–the trail wound up and down steep paths, over a stream, past a waterfall. Beautiful. And I loved being back on a horse like my sisters and I used to do every vacation.

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But I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the horse. It seemed arduous having to climb so steeply with a rider on its back, going over the same trail time and time again. (This picture doesn’t show the steep parts of the trail.)

I don’t think horses are unhappy being ridden. But I think there’s probably a huge difference between being ridden by someone they know and love, going on adventures together–a huge difference between that and toiling over the same ground over and over with a stranger (usually inexperienced) plunked upon them.

I’d be interested to know what horse enthusiasts think about this.

It did make me remember the research I undertook when I was writing the horse parts of my novel (working title–Three Prayers). One of my main characters was an animal lover/healer. I needed Daniel to be able to lead his horse without a halter, so I started looking on YouTube to see how it might be done. I ran across some videos that showed how to join-up with your horse. Fascinating. They showed how to get your horse to willingly follow you, as if they’re your walking companion. Here’s one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfaUPeYBfTY  It gave me goosebumps the first time I saw it.

They wouldn’t have had this method in 1850, at least not named, but I like to think Daniel would have this same sort of relationship with his horse, Babe.

One of the fun parts of writing a novel is discovering what you don’t know about a subject and then learning some cool and interesting things you might never have looked into otherwise. Working on Three Prayers has taught me about goats, cheese-making, cuckoo clocks, the underground railroad in Indiana and Michigan, folk medicinal plants, pioneer life…I could go on and on. What a world!

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About Judith L. Roth

When I was about ten, it occurred to me that books are written by people and I was a person. I could create my favorite things–I could write books! I got a B.A. in English. My first poem was accepted for publication before I graduated. I had some success with poetry, but my real dream was to write fiction for children. My first fiction piece was accepted about 25 years after the first submission. Things you might want to know about me: I know how to persevere. I’m a third-generation California native, living in Indiana. I have two remarkable sons who are now young men,and a husband who’s supported my writing for over three decades. I love cats and currently have three of them. I love being near water–oceans, lakes, rivers all work for me. Chocolate is probably my biggest downfall. I’m exceptionally curious. (Or nosy, as my family calls it.)

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