My friend, the historical author, Julia Ross, once contacted me for my opinion on some horse stuff. She was speaking at a RWA nationals workshop, and she wanted my take on a few things.
Can you say flattered?
She rides classical English; I ride only western.
My expertise comes from a lifetime of riding and coaching horse knowledge bowl teams. Julia is an accomplished horsewoman herself, even taught community college classes on horses. But I digress…
We talked about the differences between English and western riding…colors of horses, styles of riding, etc. But we agreed completely on one thing– all good horsemen have some things in common, whether it be riding in an dressage saddle or an old roping saddle.
One thing she said that I took away from that conversation and carried with me ever since is about heroes in romance novels.
Julia said, “A hero who abused a horse would abuse the heroine, if even off camera.”
I hadn’t thought of it until that conversation, but I have never liked a hero (or heroine) who whips, spurs, yanks or jerks on a horse in any way.
Romance authors often use the abuse of a horse (not intentional) to show their characters’ angst. You often see a fuming gallop, a hard yank, a spur to make the horse whirl because the character is upset. While this is good for drama, it turns me off.
It makes the book an instant wall-banger for me.
While the author probably has no idea how bad that makes her hero or heroine look, any of the above actions are extremely abusive and leaves me with no sympathy for the character. In fact, I generally detest them from that point on.
It’s funny, authors often use cats and dogs to show their characters’ softer side, and they would no more have their character yank a dog’s leash or kick a cat than spit at the moon, but that same author has no problem jerking, spurring or galloping a horse hard.
Odd when you think about it.
This post was originally published on Ridingwrite May 27, 2011