A Horsey History

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One of the people I follow on Twitter is @Tourscotland, which is Sandy Stevenson’s account. He posts beautiful pictures of Scotland and her people. Today, he posted some pictures of a lady riding a Clydesdale in a horse show.
This reminded me of a project I did for a science fair when I was in the seventh grade. I traced down the ancestries of all the modern horse breeds and found that all but two modern breeds go back to Arabians.
Thoroughbreds, for instance, all go back to three stallions, the Darley Arabian, Godolphin Barb and Byerly Turk. The Byerly Turk didn’t cover many of the blue blood mares, but his descendants were noted for their form and speed and there is an unbroken male line cited in Mr. Weatherby’s English Thoroughbred stud book. The Darley Arabian is linked to 95% of today’s Thoroughbreds.
Ponies, war horses, race horses and draft horses all trace back to the Arabians with few breed exceptions for two main reasons. The Romans used Arabians in their conquests and invariably, the horses were crossed with local horses. The second influx of Arabians returned to Europe following the crusades.
Horses play a large part in the BLOOD KNIGHT series, starting with FAR RIDER.
This connection isn’t as obvious in book one as it will be later when my MC, Gentyl, actually becomes a Far Rider. I cut several scenes from FAR RIDER to get the word count down. One is a scene where Gentyl’s father, Gaeryn, approaches a madam and asks her to locate two Fast Horses for him and he leaves money for his daughter in case something should go wrong and she needs help. The madam has known him since they were children together and she’s surprised he wants these horses. She even comments it’s been a long time since he rode the Fast Horse. He and his wife have decided to stay on her farm and help escaping M’Eiryn to safety, but he wants to make sure they have some good horses to get away on should the farm be attacked.
Fast Horse is actually the name of a breed of horse in this world, but it also refers to a type of horse. These are horses bred by Gaeryn’s people. They are lighter than war horses and much faster. Think of today’s running Quarter Horse. In addition to being fast, they are also very hardy.
This is important to the Far Riders who are couriers and trained warrirors. For this reason, many of the Far Riders are women. When I researched ancient armies, I came across a group known as Sarmatians. They dealt the Roman armies some resounding defeats even though they were eventually subdued to an extent.
This was a remarkable situation since Rome wasn’t accustomed to barbarian armies outfighting them. One of the reasons the Sarmatians were so skilled was their light cavalry. They swooped in, hit hard and melted away. Everything they did was based on horses. They had cities, but by and large, they were a nomadic culture, following the horse herds.
Their armor was made of sliced horse hooves that were tightly pieced together like a pine cone according to one Greek scholar. This “mail” armor was as tough as the metal armor of the Romans. When you combine an effective armor, highly trained horses and riders and bowmen who were deadly accurate, you got a formidable fighting force.
For FAR RIDER, I combined the Sarmatian armies with a Celtic culture and came up with the M’Eiryn. This is interesting to me because both the Sarmatians and Celts had women warriors. Archaeologists have unearthed several graves from both people where women were buried with their weapons, armor and sometimes their horses.
If the series gets picked up, the later books will go more into the M’Eiryn culture. Many of the battle campaigns will draw heavily from J.E.B. Stuart’s riders.
Gentyl’s father is M’Eiryn. Her mother is Tamarl. Theses two kingdoms battled for years as the Tamarls tried to encroach on the M’Eiryn land. They didn’t cease hostilities until they had to join forces to defeat a demon lord and his army. The Tamarl king made good use of the Far Riders in the campaigns and encouraged the people to intermarry to strengthen the alliance.

Poor Gentyl longs to be like her father’s people, but she’s been raised in Tamarland and she’s expected to be “civilized” like them.

Life isn’t easy for a girl who just wants to be a Far Rider.

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