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Workshop: Doing and Using Your Research


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- [ From: Jacqueline Lichtenberg * EMC.Ver #3.0 ] -- circa early 1997


(1999 comment: "Mary Lou" when referred to on Virtual Selyn Listposts (that's the List of Sime~Gen Fandom) is Mary Lou Mendum, whose Sime~Gen novel and stories are available in Rimon's Library and on the CZ website.

--------------- Below is Karen Litman discussing Mary Lou's comments on my (JL's) comments on Cheryl Wolverton's S~G story that I mentioned I was dying to read all last week. Cheryl is busily working on a rewrite. I absolutely adored the story and my comments ran over 20 pages by email - which could be why Karen got a divide by zero error message with it - it's HUGE for an email message.

I'm posting this cryptic piece to the workshop for 2 reasons: #1. A lesson in using and consulting Tech experts while drafting a story (i.e. doing your research!). #2. which comes first, the chicken or the egg? How to USE tech commentary.

Read the following patiently and ignore the story concept while focusing on the horse-lore aspects.

Subject: Companion's Heart (From Karen Litman)  (1999 comment -- I've changed the paragraphing for easier reading.)

  Due to an error message I received in AOL, for the moment, I can not read   Jacqueline's post regarding "A Companion's Heart." I have transferred the file  to another disk, and I'm hoping to read it in WinWord when I get done here .  

Message was: [Application Error: Interger Divide by 0]  I am responding to Mary Lou's post regarding the story though, as that I  was able to access. I did not go into too many horse details when commenting  on Cheryl's story because some people rightly think I'm too involved with the  beasties due to my owning one, and riding many over the last 9 years at the  riding center. People think I get on a soap box when I discuss them (or cats). 

There is a lot of stuff I either missed or thought not important enough to   comment on. I hate boring people who know little or nothing about horses. By   the way -- I grew up in New York City, so I've learned loads about them over   the years......

Here's what I found interesting in Mary Lou's post:  Anyone humane enough would loosen the girth, or remove the saddle and  pads entirely. Horses should never be tied while bridled. They could spook and  in their haste to get away from the source of fear would rip their mouths open  (bit goes entirely from one side of cheek to another) and be injured.  Haltered horses, or those who would be tied while bridled would be tied with a  "panic knot" a slip knot which comes undone easily when the horse puts pressure  on the tie line/rein. Bridling any horse can be a challenge, and never done  quickly. As well as I know Frosty, or some of the other horses I work with, it  can take 15 minutes or more if the horse decides he just _doesn't want to_ !  With a stranger it might not get done at all.

Riding a horse bareback can hurt  his back and his bony spine does nothing for the rider at all!!!!! I've ridden  with padding between me and the horse, and it still can be painful to the  rider. A well trained horse does not have to be tied to an object. He can be  "ground tied" with reins or rope just hanging down. Usually this is not done,  since a horse can injure himself by steping on the rope and panicing when he  can't figure out why he can't raise his head. That would end up with a horse  who could snap his neck and die.

You've seen this in cowboy movies and Bonanza.  One of our horses was really good this way, he'd stand until someone would  pick up the reins. That would make for an easier getaway than untying,  saddling, etc. 

You can control somewhat without a bit. Then again, the horse has to be  very well trained........ The riding center horses can be reined with  reins/rope attached to the halter near their mouth, and steered almost as well  as those with a bit. Pressure on the noseband of the halter helps direct them.  That's how a hackamore works -- which is a "bitlesss bridle." 

There is some famous show jumper (name I can't think of now) currently  competing in a hackamore. You can steer somewhat by shifting your weight over  your seat bones, leaning a bit more weight to one side than another (which I  have learned to do, and Frosty sometimes does well). But none of this is  recommended in situations similar to those in stories. In that case I totally  agree with Mary Lou.  It is recommended _never_ (as in absolutely) stand behind a horse. 

Even experienced people braid the horse's tail standing to their sides. We  always walk in front of a horse, or very far behind (further than the length of  a kicking leg). I have a whole article I can copy and send to people  interested in how a horse sees. They also don't see objects well very close to  their faces.

I agree with Mary Lou that part of Alissa's training should be in  horse care, riding, etc. I can help with that, because I train even 7 yr. olds  to do it. Even the most experienced rider falls -- I've seen my instructors  fall, and Lord knows I've done it enough myself. She needs to learn how to  fall, or do a "emergency dismount" so she won't get hurt. Part of learning to  ride. Grabbing a fistful of mane (if the horse has one) helps you stay secure  on the horse, I've done it when learning to jump. Frosty tends to rub his mane  off on the fence rails reaching through them to get grass -- so it's not often  possible for me to use that option.  

Horse manure when fresh out of the horse is noxious to those unfamiliar  with it. It does not have an odor after sitting a bit. The urine on the other  hand is always noxious, even after standing. Cleaning a stall well (and with  experience) takes about 15 minutes. More than 1/2 hour doing one stall is  uncalled for. (I can clean a stall one handed -- holding my crutch to help me  balance in the other hand -- not easy -- in about 30 minutes)

The horse must  also be removed from the stall when stalls are cleaned. As far as winter care  of a horse --- the only time we stable them is when the footing is icy -- they  slip as much as we do. Their thick winter fur is OK even in the coldest of   days, especially if there is a little run-in shed available for them to stand   out of the wind. Horses are stabled also on days of extremely cold rain where   being wet on top from the rain, and damp from the ground could be harmful to   their health.

As bad as the winter was in the East last year with 30" of snow,  our horses were rarely inside (they get too antsy and unruly if not allowed to  exercise outside and if confined for long periods). If the weather is truly  horrid they are often hand walked for 1/2 hour periods. They loved cavorting  in the snow. Our horses are brought in to feed them, in the summer they are  left out in the cool of the night, brought in during the heat of the day. They  are stabled when getting ready to be used, and stabled usually at night.  Pastures are often cleaned of manure, since manure in horse hooves causes  thrush, which is a disease of the feet which can make horses lame if not  permanently injured. So she can also clean the turn out areas.

I would  suspect these areas would be small and located close to the barn/stable area so  you wouldn't have to search acres of land for the riding horses used regularly.  Breeding stock could be in a larger pasture further from the barn. Stallions  separated from the mares and young stock. Geldings (neutered males) apart from  both is usually the custom. 

Blacksmith point: Horses without shoes have better traction in such  weather than horses with shoes. Those with shoes in snow tend to get snowballs  in the space of the hoof between the edges of the shoe, and then no traction.  Horse shoes, usually made of metal (steel, aluminum) would be too dear in S~G  times, so they probably wouldn't be used much -- being hard to come by.  Usually the front feet are the only ones shod. You can get killed by a shod  hoof kicking in the rear, and badly hurt by a kicking front hoof. 

Leaving a horse with a stone in a hoof is a good idea. But remember a  horse can be lame for a day to a week or more if such a thing really happened  and was un-noticed for a period of time. Would you want a horse out of  commission for that length of time?

Having the horse poorly groomed is another  way to humiliate Alissa. You have no idea how hard it is to brush out all that  dirt, and many a time I've missed his topline (higher than my head, where  saddle sits) in spots. Or she could be in a hurry and not comb mane and tail,  which would make the grooming job incomplete...and look bad.  

After I wrote all this -- I experimented and was able to read Jacqueline's post   in WinWord, so I'll go a little further: I am sure I missed some S~G's been a long while since I read such detailed stuff. (Funny:   One of Andrea Alton's stories intended for CZ -- precursor to ICY NAGER never   made it to the zine for the similar reasons JL wants this one professionally   published -- that's 2 for me as a find) 

I can't think of convenient harness repair tools (I can check with Mike  Tartaglio who does leather work) other than an awl and some leather thong or  rope for emergency repairs on the trail. However, I can think of a  blacksmith's tool which would work as a weapon but not recognized as one. A  hoof knife -- very sharp, small with a curved blade, to trim hooves, or remove  stones from feet. It might not be used to "insert and twist" to injure, but  you sure could get cut up by one.

Horses don't like confined dark places so  bringing one into the Shrine would be difficult, but if the horse trusts the  human, he _might_ do it if being led, not ridden. Riding into the Shrine is  unlikely, and dangerous. We can make a horse poop almost anywhere. Fear  usually does it, jostling around (such as a bouncing horse trailer) always does  it. They poop or pee usually any time they want to.   Sometimes it's territorial...we have a horse who rolls in a stall which is not   his (any stall) but behaves perfectly in his own. He recognizes the other   stall as not his own. They will defend their own stalls from another horse who   would be put in (accidentally, such as "following in") his stall... especially  if he is already in the stall when the other horse comes up to it. It is their  home and they know it, and would attack another horse walking by or sticking   its nose in the direction of the occupied stall.   This sounds like a very wonderful promising development for "A Companion's  Heart" and for Cheryl. I'll be happy to help further if I can with it.

Karen Litman 


JL here again:

Now, all of this lore is very interesting - as a general background read for any writer working with any sort of animal - even extraterrestrial animals. Karen is a RESOURCE for us, as is Elise Hill, our resident Vet!

However, all of these very interesting points are utterly IRRELEVANT and totally useless to Cheryl at this stage - a mere distraction from the actual challenge I've set her to.

A writer must first CREATE the story-dynamic from the material of the Characters the Situation, the Theme, and the Setting-Background. It doesn't matter which of these 4 key elements you start with, but by the time you're done all these 4 elements have to be welded and fused into a single uniform composition - all of one piece.

Once that's DONE - then you look at what you must have happen in a particular horse scene - and THEN you consult the experts - not to tell you that you can't do that but to tell you HOW TO DO IT regardless of the fact that it's implausible or impossible.

For example, I had suggested that the better horsewoman of the two riding double should get off that horse and steal another horse. Our experts came back with reasons why this is implausible. But IT'S NOT implausible - all that's necessary is for the young channel to recognize one of the horses as one of her very own that she helped raise and which was stolen in a raid a few months ago.

You see - first you decide WHAT has to happen, then consult the experts, then work out how to do what you must do to make your story work right.

Now, as tech consultants to a writer it's your job to figure out and discuss HOW TO DO IT - not to explain why you can't do it that way. See?

And that's how real-world background tech points have to be handled, which is identical to how I handle Sime~Gen background tech points. FIRST decide what your story requires - THEN figure out how to make it plausible.

Live Long and Prosper, Jacqueline Lichtenberg



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