deborahjross: (prancing horse)
Horses regularly trained with ground work are more relaxed when ridden | Spellbound

I’m glad to learn research revealed ground work is good for horses. Horses with a low heart rate are relaxed and relaxed horses perform better and live longer. In this day and age of people starting horses under saddle in under an hour and increasing monetary rewards for the “young horse dressage program“, everything seems to be done in a hurry. The entire horse culture seems to privilege “getting up there and riding your horse”. But as one of my favorite writers and accomplished horsewoman, Teresa Tsimmu Martino writes, “In today’s horse culture there are clinics that brag about starting a colt in a day, as if the quickness of it was the miracle. But old horse people know it takes years to create art. Horses as great masterpieces are not created in a day. An artist does not need to rush.” We need more scientific studies like this one to encourage us to slow down and take our time with our horses.
deborahjross: (prancing horse)
This is so cool! Of course, horses can be trained to follow scents. It's something they do naturally to survive -- scenting water, predators, other horses.

“I call it the lost art," says horse trainer Terry Nowacki of Argyle, Minn., who began reviving the techniques about 11 years ago. “It is the best-kept secret in the horse world."

Theodore Roosevelt was aware of what horses’ noses can do, and hired a hunting guide in the 1880s that “followed his horse’s nose to buffalo," according to Roosevelt biographer Edmund Morris.

Four decades earlier, a mustang called Sacramento repeatedly saved explorer Col. John Fremont’s life by scenting enemies along the trail, wrote frontier historian Glenn Vernam. Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie also wrote of horses with exceptional noses in his 1952 book, “The Mustangs."

Tracking dogs can outperform horses in thick underbrush, said Nowacki, 57. But horses often hold the advantage because airborne scent rises, and horses stand taller than dogs, he said.

Tracking horses act like bloodhounds | | The Bulletin
deborahjross: (Northlight)
A wonderful post on the life lessons we can learn from horses. Here's a snippet:

Keep your back to the wind. If it’s blowing up a storm, especially a wet or a snowy one, the best thing to do is put your head down and face your butt into it and let it roll over you. If you’re in the herd, the herd makes a circle and the weak or the high-status horses get the middle, and the rest make a windbreak. And that’s cooperation, but it’s also a solid way to cope with adversity. Wait it out, then when it’s over, shake yourself off and get back to the business of eating, drinking, and living.

The horse on the cover of Northlight is Judith's "Tia."

Lessons I’ve Learned from My Horse | Book View Cafe Blog
deborahjross: (Default)
Last year I began this series on "the stories behind the stories" in this anthology of marvelous fantasy stories I was privileged to edit. I got about halfway through when life in the form of writing deadlines intervened. So I'm going to repost them and hopefully finish the series, then put them together in a companion volume. to The Feathered Edge.

"The Woman Who Fell In Love With The Horned King" is the second story with a woman warrior-as-champion/paladin. One of the most interesting things about putting together these anthologies of romantic, swashbuckling fantasy (2 volumes of Lace and Blade, and now The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring) is the synchronicity -- or parallelism -- or "great minds work alike" thematic resonances. The first had 2 stories about Spanish highwaymen, and the second had 2 stories with Chinese generals. I'm not in the least surprised, but I am delighted and a bit awestruck by the way life works. The cover for The Feathered Edge could illustrate either this story or Sean McMullen's "Culverelle." You get to pick.

Now to the story. No, wait, background! I've loved Judith Tarr's work since I picked up A Wind In Cairo when it first came out. The horse got me into the book, as I'm a sucker for well-written horse characters, but the sheer mastery of storycraft, the depth and nuance, the use of language, all kept me wanting more. Read more... )
deborahjross: (Default)
Deborah J. Ross: ROUND TABLE: Animals in Fantasy (Part I)

To get the ball rolling on this topic, I'd like to point out some general aspects of the use of animals in fantasy. The first is simply their presence. Many fantasy tales take place in low-technology worlds (with the recent exception of urban and other contemporary fantasy subgenres). This generally means that animals will fulfill the same functions as they have historically been used for, such as transportation (horses, mules, donkeys, oxen, reindeer...), food, clothing (cattle, sheep, goats, rabbits, pigs...), hunting/protection (dogs, cheetahs), and so forth. The exceptions (exotic animals or using an animal for an unusual purpose) can be lots of fun, but it's important to do the research and understand the proper handling and temperaments of whatever species is being portrayed. The ridiculously romanticized and unrealistic portrayals of horses in fantasy are notable, and what's sad is that there is a wealth of accurate information available, such as Judith Tarr's excellent Writing Horses http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/writing-horses/

A second role for animals in fantasy involves changing the nature of existing species, such as making them telepathic or giving them magical abilities. I suspect that much of the allure of these animals is our own desire to communicate, but in our own terms. If a dolphin or a dog or an eagle speaks to us mind-to-mind, it is in human thoughts, from a primate perspective. Once we step outside the paradigm of projecting our own thought patterns and emotional responses on to another creature, however, we open the door to true encounters with the "other," which may not only be our equal but our superior, beings who can teach and inspire instead of be tools that obey us. Is there anything more magical than seeing the world through the eyes of someone -- no less a person -- with radically different senses, desires, thought processes, and knowledge?

A third, and perhaps the most challenging, way animals appear is as fantastical beings in themselves - dragons, phoenixes, unicorns, and the like. Every culture has such beings, so there is a wealth of material from which to draw. They can resemble ordinary animals (the kelpie appearing as a black horse, often to the peril of anyone who accepts a ride) or be chimeras, combinations of different animals, or be ordinary animals modified in some way (winged cats). Or they may be essentially different from animals we know, transcending the limitations of terrestrial biology.

A fourth category, perhaps a subset of the third, involves human/animal combinations -- hybrids, if you like. Certainly werewolves (and were-other-animals) fall into this category, as do centaurs and mermaids. One might argue that vampires do, as well. Whether they are essentially humans with the added physical (and magical) attributes of animals, or have a very different consciousness, culture, and personal goals, they offer a chance to explore what it is to be human, to be a person, to be kin to both people and animals. And that sort of exploration is, after all, one of the most profound gifts fantasy has to offer.
deborahjross: (Feathered Edge)
"The Woman Who Fell In Love With The Horned King" is the second story with a woman warrior-as-champion/paladin. One of the most interesting things about putting together these anthologies of romantic, swashbuckling fantasy (2 volumes of Lace and Blade, and now The Feathered Edge: Tales of Magic, Love, and Daring) is the synchronicity -- or parallelism -- or "great minds work alike" thematic resonances. The first had 2 stories about Spanish highwaymen, the second 2 stories with Chinese generals. I'm not in the least surprised, but I am delighted and a bit awestruck by the way life works. The cover for The Feathered Edge could illustrate either this story or Sean McMullen's "Culverelle." You get to pick.

Now to the story. No, wait, background! I've loved Judith Tarr's work since I picked up A Wind In Cairo when it first came out. The horse got me into the book, as I'm a sucker for well-written horse characters, but the sheer mastery of storycraft, the depth and nuance, the use of language, all kept me wanting more. None of this should come as a surprise. Judy knows more about horses than any ten fantasy writers put together, and what she doesn't know, one or another of her nine amazing Lipizzan horses will enlighten us about. She's written the best guide to horses in writing I've ever seen, Writing Horses; The Fine Art of Getting It Right, and if you are a writer and need a horse in your story, it's a must-read.

The other thing about Judy's work is that her careful attention to detail -- the kind of detail not for detail's-sake but that evokes a vivid world beyond the page -- carries over to historical background, culture, world-building, and character. You can read a sampling of her short work free on Book View Cafe here.I've never read anything of hers that's remotely generic, even when it falls solidly within a genre. Her "Alamut" books were among the first to portray Muslim cultures in a positive, yet humanly complex way.

One of the self-indulgent luxuries of editing is being able to contact the writers-of-my-dreams and say, "Hey, want to come play?" It takes a certain amount of chutzpah, it does. So I asked. Judy said yes, and sent me this wonderful, sweeping, heroic tale that reminds me of the best of the women-martial-arts stories from Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword & Sorceress series. Judy's heroine is no bronze-bikini-clad superwoman, but a character set firmly within her world, with hopes and disappointments and family obligations, cognizant of both her strengths and her limitations. And The Horned King, oh my! You'll just have to read to the story...

If "The Woman Who Fell In Love With The Horned King" leaves you, like me, wanting more, rejoice! It's set in the world of The Serpent And The Rose, under the pseudonym of Kathleen Bryan.

The beautiful photo of Capria and Khepera is by Lynne Glazer, used with permission. See more of her work here:

Mirrored from my blog
deborahjross: (Default)
It's hard to convey the sense of speed and height and movement on a galloping horse to someone who's never actually ridden one. This video of Zenyatta comes close. She's about 17.2 hands (non horse people, that's a tall horse) and fast. Watch the shadows.

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Deborah J. Ross

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