Horses are a lot like people. As my daughter advances in her love of all-things-equestrian, I’ve become fascinated by the many horse-personalities we’ve encountered. From our experiences, we’ve found horses to be:
Stubborn, especially when asked to do work they don't want to do
Sweet, most of the time, considering what's asked of them
Easily bribed with treats; Horses love peppermints! Who knew?
Intelligent and sensitive to their environments. They notice everything.
Scared, often way-too-easily. Anything out of place, say a rope draped over a fence, can spook the hell out of a horse.
Anxious, especially around crowds or unfamiliar places
Social, sometimes breaking out of their pens to be with their significant others
Vocal, especially with each other. Wish I knew what they were saying.
Mischievous—the first thing they do after a bath is roll around in the mud.
Oh, and they're funny, too.
Stories featuring animals are popular, but usually dogs and cats make the page and screen the most, sometimes driving the stories themselves.
Have horses been left behind?
What about birds? Hamsters? Bunnies? Goldfish? Turtles?
It’s something to think about when creating characters. Pets reveal a lot about their owners. We all have predetermined expectations in regard to cat or dog people. What about horse people?
A horse owner doesn’t mind mud on her boots. There’s no quick walk around the block for her—no. Cleaning, brushing, tacking up, it all takes time. Horse owners love to ride; it’s like having fun with a friend. Horse owners muck out stalls, shovel manure, and go home dirty. Strangely happy, too.
Besides, horses are just damn cool. They're huge and beautiful; fast and powerful; they can jump over fences and transport, well, anything, and go to war and do tricks and grow wings and horns and... you get the idea.
Lately, I’ve wanted to pen a horse story. I imagine a middle-aged woman who’s spent the last few years caring for her ailing mother full-time. When the mother passes, she doesn’t know what to do with her life anymore. All the world’s problems can be solved on the back of a horse. She remembers her mother’s words about her own childhood and decides to learn how to ride.
In my coming-of-middle-age story, the MC has to reinvent herself and her horse helps her do that.
A young adult version of this could be awesome, too. Maybe a teen gets into trouble and is sentenced to community service on a horse farm. Angry and overwhelmed at first, the teen comes to change his or her perspective on life along with learning new skills.
Another fun idea—a story about the adventures of a mounted policeman and his horse—told from either POV. A mystery? A comedy? Both?
Edging into the darker side… *grin*
Midsomer Murders—one of my favorite British crime shows—has a murder-by-horse. The killer knocks the victim out, puts him in a stall with a horse, and then shoots a gun, spooking the horse into rearing up on his hind legs and crushing the unconscious victim. Elaborate, but creative.
Other sinister idea-nuggets…
Crimes are often solved by cat and dog hair. Horsehair could be a new twist on an old standard.
A bridle or lead rope could be used as a choking device.
Spur markings on a body could make for an interesting clue.
A horse could be instigated to kick someone walking behind it; such a kick could easily be deadly.
A horse could be used as unconventional transportation through the woods to and from a crime scene, especially in the country.
Maybe my coming-of-middle-age story will have to be a mystery….
So, it’s your turn for horseplay. What’re your thoughts on animals as props, characters, POVs?