In my soon-to-be released novel Montana Rose
, a side character, who will soon have his own book, has this stunning black stallion and he’s making money on stud fees. I have fun with this guy because his horse won’t let anyone near him except the owner…and barely him. And the owner is so cranky that man and horse, are two peas in a pod. Giving this man, Tom, a horse turned into research of course and that led me to today’s blog. Horse Breeds.
I’ll give you a quick run-down of Montana Rose before I start the very sane and lovely talk I have planned about Horse Breeds.
Left pregnant and widowed in the unforgiving west, Cassie is forced into an unwanted marriage to rancher Red Dawson.
No decent man could turn away from Cassie and leave her to the rough men in Divide, Montana. Red Dawson knows Cassie is beautiful and he’s interested in her, has been even when she was a married woman, but she’d spoiled and snooty and he’s purely afraid marrying her is a bad idea. But he’s too decent to leave her to a terrible fate.
He finds out real fast that Cassie’s not cut out to be a rancher’s wife. She keeps trying to help and Red has his hands full keeping her from killing herself with her efforts, and preventing her–in her attempts to be a good wife–from leaving his ranch in ruins.
While Red struggles with his overly obedient but badly incompetent wife, an obsessed man plots to make Cassie his own, something he can’t do as long as Red lives.
Now back to horses: The more I researched horse breeds for that small character, Tom Linscott, the more I wished I’d never started. There are over 300 breeds of horses. And I kept reading about ‘types’ and ‘breeds’. Those are different things. I think. I did find a few really interesting tidbits about some horse breeds we’d all recognize (by name if not by sight.)
Three foundation studs: Byerly Turk-from around 1690, Eclipse from around 1709, and Godolphin Arabian from around 1720. The Thoroughbred line was rooted in horses from the east, Arabians for example and they grew out of a desire to move away from the massive, powerful war horses bred to carry a knight wearing full armor.
Foundation studs? Does that strike anyone else as weird? That they can trace an entire breed of horses to three imported stallions? What about inbreeding? Didn’t anyone bring in a horse and just not mention it? How rare were horses? I’ll bet there are 400 foundation studs but only three guys bragged about their snazzy imported horses. The rest of the men probably had a farm to run.
Thorougbreds were lighter and faster but with great endurance. The main
focus was on race horses and almost all thoroughbreds can trace their line to these original three horses.
This is a portrait of Darley’s Arabian, one of the Foundation studs but note that of course he is an Arabian, not a thoroughbred. A thoroughbred is what grew out of the cross breeding with Arabians and English horses.
The thoroughbreds came to America from the very beginning with the earliest pilgrims.
Is it just me or does the thoroughbred in the first picture, the portrait of Darley’s Arabian in the second picture and the white quarter horse below…all look a lot alike.
I don’t really understand horse breeds. I mean sure, I get Clydesdales. I get Shetlands, they’re different, Welsh, zebras…I get that. But the rest…pretty darned nit picky, I think.
That’s why I studied them. So would my hero have a thoroughbred?
I still can’t decide and his book is half written. Maybe I’ll make that stallion a pure bred Arabian. That would be a little rare in America back then…right? The whole point is, he’s got this great horse and he’s making money on it. Well, that’s not the WHOLE point, but it’s important.
The other main choice is a Quarter Horse. They trace their roots to 1600.
The horses in America at this time were mostly of Spanish origin, with the greatest amounts of blood from Arabian Barbs (Barbs? I’ve got no idea what that means, must be a kind of horse breed though) and Turk lines. In 1611 the first significant import of English horses was made to Virginia. These English horses were of native, eastern and Spanish blood.
When the new English horses were bred to the native stock, a compact horse with heavily muscled hindquarters began to develop. But the horse owners also liked to race. Quarter horses were strong enough and fast enough to do both field work and win a race.
Another main kind of horse is the draft horse..such as Clysdale, Belgians, Morgan. Draft horses predate recorded history. Big strong horses were the earliest domesticated kinds because they could pull loads and work in the fields. In America, throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries, horses in America were used primarily for riding and pulling light vehicles. Oxen were the preferred because they: cost half as much as horses, required half the feed and OOPS
and could be eaten when they died or were no longer useful. Oxen, however, were slow. So there were many who preferred draft horses.
An interesting and tragic detail I found. In the five years surrounding WWI, Europe imported from America over one million draft horses to be used in the fighting of that conflict. Two hundred came home. Many of course remained in Europe but the death and injuries to horses were staggering. British veterinarians in French hospitals are reported to have treated 2,564,549 for war related inflicted injuries.
Mustang- The Mustang is a wild horse that descended from Spanish horses. The name Mustang comes from the Spanish word mesteño
meaning wild or stray. They don’t have a real breed because over the years they became a mix of numerous breeds. These were the horses which changed the lives of the Native Americans living in or near the Great Plains.
Catching and taming wild horses was a good source of income for ranchers. To sell them or to save the money needed to buy horses for their ranch.
I heard a theory once about why Native Americans didn’t make scientific progress, didn’t invent the wheel, didn’t becomes more settled and build cities. Didn’t learn to work with metals or invent guns.
It might have been because they didn’t have pack animals that could be domesticated. In Asia and Europe they had horses and cattle. But the only suitable animal of that type in American was the buffalo and it was just too unpredictable to ever make a good domesticated animal. Pack animals made life so much easier for people who had them, they had more time for pursuits including inventions.
I’ll make one more comment about Montana Rose. Have any of you ever read Janette Oke’s beautiful classic romance, Love Comes Softly? That novel inspired mine in the sense that my novel begins with a widow, pregnant, penniless and alone in the west, who must marry to survive. And the man who marries her because she needs someone and all the other choices are unsavory. (that’s not in Love Comes Softly I don’t think. I don’t remember unsavory?) Both novels are classic marriage of convenience stories. (okay, maybe CLASSIC isn’t quite applicable to Montana Rose…YET!)
Unlike Oke’s lovely, sweet, gentle-hearted novel though, mine veers almost immediately to mayhem, gunfire and comedy. So I think of it as
Love Comes … Hardly.
Love Comes Barely…except that sounds kinda dirty. :)
So, any horse lovers? Anyone have a horse? Anyone fallen off a horse? I got a story there. Or two. And the x-rays to prove it.