And the Horse You Rode In On

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 or monstenco 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.
Or maybe-
Love Comes…Loudly.
Or possibly-
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.
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Author of Romantic Comedy...with Cowboys including the bestselling Kincaid Brides Series

36 thoughts on “And the Horse You Rode In On”

  1. Mary, great blog! I’ve been a horse lover forever.

    Believe it or not, registered Thoroughbreds really can all be traced back to those three Arab stallions. These were horses bred by the gentry for sport, not for work, so records were carefully kept, though no doubt aome fudging happened along the way. The genetic diversity came from the mares.

    As for Barbs, I believe the term came from Barbary, as in Barbary Coast. There’s a lot of Thoroughbred blood in the Quarterhorse genealogy as well.

    I used to ride as a girl and also have the x-rays to prove it. My horse was a little paint of obscure breeding. I called him Calico, and I loved him dearly. He was gentle and easy-going, but not without a sense of humor. There was a stack of firewood at the beginning of our usual riding trail, which he’d shy at every day on the way out. He always ignored it on the way home. That was Calico’s idea of a joke.

  2. I too looooooove horses.

    Montana Rose sounds great, definitely will add to my to read list.

    Running last have a great day

  3. That is I am runnnig late, but last does describe me to because if I were running it would difinitely be last

  4. Ooooh, your book sounds yummy. I LOVE marriage of convenience stories, and ‘Love Comes Softly’ was a pure pleasure to read. I will have to add this one to my ‘must buy’ list.

    You really know about horses?
    So, would this horse just be a really cool thoroughbred? Would he be a Quarter horse? And Arabian? Were there Arabians in America in 1870-ish?

    I believe, Winnie that I mentioned that the book is quite UNLIKE Love Comes Softly. Just a warning.

  6. Hi, Sherry. We’re amazingly tolerant of typos here on P & P and immediately set out to try and figure out what our readers MEANT not what they actually said.

    We hope and pray for the same kindness from others. 🙂

  7. Love your book, Mary! I grew up in a small town where a lot of the farm kids had horses, but my parents were teachers, and all we had was a chihuahua (sigh). I always wanted a horse till I helped this man I was dating shovel out his horse trailer. That did it.
    Was interested in your story about Tom and his stud because I use something similar in the book I just finished, a sequel to HIS SUBSTITUTE BRIDE. My hero is on the run with this amazing thoroughbred stallion he “borrowed” from his sister’s late husband. My heroine, Clara, takes one look at the stallion and knows she’ll do anything to breed him with her mares (and the man isn’t so bad, either).
    Thanks for a delightful and informative blog.

  8. LOL Mary, All of the above! I’ve had a horse since I was old enough to ride, I’ve fallen off of horses(have a misshapen collar bone to prove it),and that’s a story all unto it’s self.

    Fun blog and your book sounds fun.

  9. Loved the horse post, Mary. Great info. I’m looking forward to Montana Rose.

    Maybe the question we always ask in writing will apply to help you decide the best horse for Tom. Who is his target market? Who pays for the use of his stud? Are they mainly rich folk who want horses to race or are they ranchers who are looking to sire dependable cow ponies? If he’s catering to the racing crowd (and I’m not sure how much racing was going on in Montana back then or if owners would transport mares all the way to his ranch from back east), I would vote for the Thoroughbred or Arabian. If he his marketing to area ranchers, I would lean more toward the Quareterhorse.

    I don’t know if that helps, but I thought I’d through that out there.

  10. Elizabeth, you went with a thoroughbred, huh? I need to double check. Montana Rose is ready to release so, though the man has only a tiny part in that book, chances are I already named the breed of his horse. So I may be stuck with it. Probably thoroughbred. But I can get by with only a passing mention of it in this book.

    But when Tom has his own book, I’m going to need more details.

    And please tell me you didn’t ride the chihuahua.

  11. Ouch Paty. Collar bone? That seems like the worst. They can’t really put a cast on it, can they? Yikes.

    I broke my arm falling off a horse when I was five.

    I was never very fond of horses since.

    Then I broke my arm falling out of the barn hay loft when I was a bit older. I was never very fond of the barn after that. Of course that might be because Dad made me milk cows every morning at sunrise. But let’s go ahead and BLAME the fall and not the cows. Make me sound less lazy. 🙂

  12. I had no idea about horses. I’m like you, sure Zebra and Clydesdale I can see the difference, but otherwise… It was a horse. I have only had the opportunity to ride about three times in my life, really ride, and loved it. One day…

  13. Hi again Mary, when I was a kid I devoured horse books, especially books about Thoroughbreds. Yes, your hero could have a Thoroughbred. In fact, my hero in McShannon’s Chance does too. Horse races like the Kentucky Derby were already in existence in the mid to late 1800’s, and Thoroughbred breeding was well established. Remember Mrs. Tarleton in Gone With The Wind? She raised Thoroughbreds, which were tragically lost in the Civil War. Jeb Stuart’s Black Horse Regiment was made up of Virginia gentlemen riding their own Thoroughbreds. Racing – “the sport of kings” – was a pastime of the rich and leisured, perfect as a hobby for plantation owners.

    Thoroughbreds in the West would have been brought in from the South and East, and they would be a rarity. Your hero certainly could make some money with his stallion. He’d stand out a mile.

  14. Great, Jennie. Are you sure horse racing is the sport of kings? I thought that was bowling. Wait, maybe that’s the sport of king pins. Or just of pins.

    My sports memorability section of my brain is a little underdeveloped. 🙁

  15. Hello!

    I am totally a horse girl. And I want to help.

    Horse breed really is quite important to a story; it sets up everything about the horse for later. What is the horse supposed to be like? Is it fast over short distances, or better on a long haul? Or is it agile, with good “cow-sense?” What is its personality? All of this goes into the choice of breed. If it really does not fit, your story will seem off, and horse experts will hate you. (Alright, maybe not hate you, but they will be disappointed.) After all, the horse may be almost another character…

    Thoroughbreds are good over mid-range distances, and are often bred purely for racing. They have (or at least once had) a good combination of speed and endurance, and are the fastest in normal length races.

    Quarter Horses are more specialized for work on a ranch; they are very agile, often have good “cow-sense,” and are fast over shorter distances (quarter mile or so, and it’s where they got their name), while being able to roam the ranch for long periods when at slower speeds.

    Arabians are often fiery, and excel at long endurance, but are still swift. They are not as fast as the others over just a few miles, but would outlast them in longer races. The availability of Arabs at that date may be an issue, I don’t really know. They are also more different in appearance from the other two, with a curved neck, wedge-shaped head, and high carried tail.

    Mustangs in general are tough and wild little horses, though they do vary because of their differing origins. They are rather compact in build. They are good at endurance, while still getting up to a good speed when they need to. How valuable a captured mustang would be is debatable, and comes down to the specific case.

    You said the horse is black, so that works with all of these breeds. Some breeds have limited colors that are allowed and accepted, but it is not a problem here.

    I hope this helps…


    P.S. I may be writing a blog about horses soon, now that have though this through.

  16. mj@ creative madness…HI! Thanks for stopping in.

    I’ve lived on a farm and/or ranch all my life and I still don’t quite get it.
    The difference.

    Conspiracy theory alert!!!

    I seriously doubt there IS any difference and the horse people just want to fool us so they can charge more. A horse grows unusually large, it’s a Belgian, a runt? Call it a shetland.

    I mean they don’t pretend people are a different species, right? And we come in all sizes.

  17. LOL! As a bowler, well, I’m a good baker. I think it makes sense that there would be folks out West who wanted fancy horses, and others who’d just be wanting to improve their working stock, which in most cases would have no breeding to speak of. I doubt if people would send mares from back East to be bred, but there would be lots of local mares to supply business.

  18. EAGLE GIRL!!!!!!!
    Thanks for the input. I think I’m going to stop all this silly research stuff I do for my books and just start asking the P & P readers to help. It would save so much time.

    I read that head and neck thing about Arabians. Pretty, small, graceful arched neck. That seems lovely.

    We had a horse called Studly once, named by my husband when he was old enough to know too much but too young to know better.
    That was a freak, “Wow, our mare has a baby beside her this morning.” situation.
    That baby, who’s father was never known, but long suspected, was a clunky horse, sort of un-beautiful as horse’s go. Cranky, too.

    Still the kids rode him quite a bit. We had Studly, May and Rex over the years. May was the nicest, an old mare, NOT Studly’s mother. Rex wasn’t well broken, but as gentle as a dog and young.

    Studly was mainly impossible to catch, that was his claim to fame, the brat.

    We had horses when I was a kid, too. And the neighbors had MORE horses.
    Susie was their old white mare. And Sandy was their shetland pony. We owned Sparky, a welsh pony. I was never the horse nut my older sister was, but we did a lot of riding.

  19. Hi Mary, great post as usual. I know nothing about horses but I totally adore them. I mean to take riding lessons but well, that hasn’t worked out yet.

    Montana Rose definitely sounds wonderful. I totally love Janet Oke’s Love Comes Softly series. And Hallmark has good movie versions. I recently DVR’d them all again.

    I appreciate all the horse info today, and from Eagle Girl too. Thanks, ladies!

  20. Horses and I are rarely mentioned together! The
    closest connection is a photograph of me sitting
    on a horse as Mother is holding me in place. I’m about one year old. The story: the photo was taken
    when an itinerant photographer came through the
    neighborhood with his pal, the horse, taking child
    photos. The photograph had to have been taken in
    approximately 1937. (I was born in 1936)

    Pat Cochran

  21. Mary, I love horses and though owning one was a fervent dream of mine since I was barely out of diapers I’ve never had the opportunity. They are such majestic animals and have their own personalities. I think if you want a really unique horse that few people of the West have seen I’d make it an Arabian. But if the owner isn’t rich enough and it’d be too great a stretch for him to come up with the money (or maybe he stole it??-the horse I mean)I’d go with mustang. When I think of Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds I tend to place them in the present. Anyway, that’s just my thoughts.

    Love Comes Softly is one of my favorite Janette Oke books. It made a great TV movie too. I cried when her husband died and they had the service in the pouring rain.

    Can’t wait for you to finish Montana Rose! Wow! You’ve really piqued my interest. Sounds absolutely wonderful.

  22. Horses are a lot of work. Not to burst your bubble, but they eat a lot, too. Eat like a horse, perhaps you’ve heard of it?

    Expensive, moody, they kick and bite. They’re living creatures and as such, not all that predictable. Just so you all don’t begin sinking into melancholia for want of a horse. (Melancholia…I’ve been reading regencies lately)

  23. First, Elizabeth, you totally cracked me up with the chihuahua.

    Mary – AWK! Love Comes…Hardly. Now that’s hilarious, and I think you should title a book.

    You did so much research and work…wow…I have about six books here at my side, and when I need a horse I check them out- and then a double check wth my bud Kayla who is an expert and steers me in the right direction. Want her email?

  24. Wow, Mary! I love this blog. I so love horses, too, although they usually see me as a push over and push me around instead of the other way around. : )

  25. Ooooh horses love them!!! Such beautiful animals! 😀 It has been years since I rode one… instead I collect pics, statues, calendars, etc.

  26. Here’s a pathetic horse story from my childhood.
    I was five. I was at my cousins. Me, my (geez, give me an hour to count) five brothers and sisters and my cousins had a family of four, and they had a horse.
    YAY! Can I ride?

    Nag, nag, nag (no, I’m not referring to the horse-that was ME!) My mom said yes IF they led me around, do NOT let her have the reins.

    Mom went into the house and I stayed out with the ‘big kids’. Nag, nag, nag…they gave me the reins.

    The horse ran away.
    I fell off, broke my arm and (snickering) all the BIG kids got in trouble.

    Well, unless you count a broken arm as trouble. So maybe I got in a little trouble, too.

  27. Loved this blog, Mary. I have always thought that horses were beautiful. romantic animals. Yes, romantic. I think that I could love any man who cared for his horse thay way cowboys do. Never have had a horse though I always wanted one as a child.

    I am reading ‘Nosy in Nebraska’ and loving it.

  28. Hi Mary, I sure enjoy the titles you came up with. (he, he) I read Love Comes Softly eons ago but your version of the marriage of convenience sounds like it is going to be a hoot. When does Montana Rose get released?

  29. Mary, excellent titles 😉 I’ve always loved reading horse stories, but didn’t actually ride a horse until just last year. Thankfully I managed NOT to fall off! Whew!

  30. I fell off a horse about…ten? maybe fifteen years ago…fully adult…all my own fault, just messed up my dismount and landed on my backside.

    You know how they say you’ve got to get right back on or you never will?

    I stayed off. Forever. I’m happy, the horse is happy. I own a car…and feet. that covers my transportation needs.

  31. Montana Rose is coming July 1st. It’s available for pre-order now on Amazon.

    And I had a lot more titles I considered.

    Love Comes…Eventually

    Love Comes…Chaotically

    Love Comes…Unfortunately

  32. Wanted a horse as a kid (what little girl didn’t?), but a shetland pony rearing up on me as I was leading him down a ramp cured me of that. Have ridden a few times, but they are big and stronger than I am. Sorry, don’t trust them. My mom scared me when I was a kid. Her cousin’s horse bolted as they were heading out of the barn. She didn’t have time to duck and suffered sever head injuries. My daughter worked at a Boy Scout camp as a wrangler at their Wagon Train unit. She went out to get the mules one morning for the wagon. She was riding one and leading the other. Something spooked them and one went one way and one the other. She was pulled off and landed on her hip. She lay in the woods for a while before someone found her. They called the rescue squad, carried her out and took her to the small local hospital. They decided it was a bruised hip and sent her back to work and told her to take it easy a few days. She rode and wrangled another 3 or 4 weeks at least. It has bothered her for years and when she went to the doctor recently, he took x-rays. Seems she actually broke her hip way back then and now has arthritis. She has horses now, but nobody rides. My sister was thrown by a pinto many years ago. I can remember how blue in the face she got. She had the breath knocked out of her and it seemed to take her forever to start breathing.
    Ok, give me a good reason to ride a horse.

  33. Hi Mary!!! I read one from your LASSOED IN TEXAS Series and adored it! This is so great with a new series too! I see I have much to catch up with you with your new series now! I’m excited about after reading the blurb on it! Huge congrats! I didn’t realize so many breeds of horses. I do want to try again to ride one even tho I walked like I was doing a split, for a few days I had to experience it before the kids did i the camp when I worked in a camp with children who are deaf. Ouch. I guess it really is something to get used to riding!!

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