Writer’s Corner

Thundering of Hooves

Hast thou given the horse strength? hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? 
Canst thou make him afraid as a grasshopper? the glory of his nostrils is terrible. 
He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength: he goeth on to meet the armed men. 
He mocketh at fear, and is not affrighted; neither turneth he back from the sword. 
The quiver rattleth against him, the glittering spear and the shield. 
He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage: neither believeth he that it is the sound of the trumpet. 
He saith among the trumpets, Ha, ha; and he smelleth the battle afar off, the thunder of the captains, and the shouting. 
Job 39:19-25
 
Horses are beautiful, powerful, and full of fascination. Whether leading charges in battle, carrying kings in triumphant marches, racing across plains with urgent messages, or working in fields and carrying packs for traders and peasants, horse take their place in many books.
But, as epic as horses can be in writing, there limits to what they can do. So how fast and how far can horses really travel?
Horses have four basic gaits.
1. Walk: averages 4 mph
2. Trot: averages 8 to 12 mph
3. Canter: averages 12-15 mph
4. Gallop: averages 25-30 mph
Now it is obvious that a horse can’t sustain a gallop for hours on end. Even after walking it will eventually get tired. Here are a few accounts of horses through history to give you some basic references.
Mounted knights, during medieval times, could move fairly fast and cover 50-60 miles per day. Traveling 20-30 miles a day was considered a good distance, however. (Source)
During the 1860s, the Pony Express horses averaged nine mph over 25 mile stages.
In the Middle East, 26 mile marathons are won in just over an hour.
Texas Rangers once rode 60 miles between noon and dusk.
Mongol horses were hardy. In a history book I read, it said a Mongol horse once covered 600 miles in a single day. That’s 25 miles an hour…a sustained gallop for 24 straight hours. Unfortunately I don’t remember what the book is called, so I can’t verify the source. And this is not something any horse could do. A mounted Mongol army could travel 130 miles in two days, moving without a break.
But how about common travel? Here’s a handy list of the average miles per day a horse can travel under different conditions. This is assuming the horse is suitable for riding, conditioned for overland travel, and in good health. Also assuming that the weather fair, the roads/trails are in good conditions, and the travelers are riding for about ten hours a day.

On Roads / trails
Level or rolling terrain: 40
Hilly terrain: 30
Mountainous terrain: 20

Off-Road (or unkempt trails etc)
Level/rolling grasslands: 30
Hilly grasslands: 25
Level/rolling forest/thick scrub: 20
Very hilly forest/thick scrub: 15
Un-blazed Mountain passes: 10
Marshland: 10

Different conditions will make a change in time, as seen below.

 

 
A horse pulling a cart or a heavily laden horse: half the distance
 

 

Trained horses and riders (rangers, scouts, messengers): add half to the distance…though a horse won’t be able to keep up this pace for more than a few days at a time. An exceptional horse could maybe double the time.
Poor weather (heavy rain or wind): reduce distances by a quarter
Bad weather (heavy snow): reduce distances by half if not more.

(Source)

 

Found on Pinterest

 

 

What about the exceptional horses who make epic runs to carry urgent messages of invasion or pleas for help? How fast can some horses be pushed?

 

 

 

The Trevis cup is a 100 mile competition covering rugged and mountainous trails in the western United States. The Arabian horses that win this race, with little or no baggage, usually reach the end after about 17 hours.
In 1935, 28 riders rode Akhal-Tekes, a rare breed of horses from Turkmenistan who are known for their endurance, from Ashkabad to Moscow, This 2,600 mile ride included 215 miles of the harsh Kara Kum desert. They finished in 84 days.
The Marquis of Huntly rode from Aberdeen, Scotland, to Inverness (105 miles) in seven hours using eight relays of horses. Each horse averaged 15 mph for around 13 miles.
In 1886, Frank Hopkins rose a stallion 1800 miles in 31 days. He averaged 58 miles a day, traveling no more than ten hours a day, and the horse finished in excellent condition.
Found on Pinterest
Now, I have no idea how far or fast winged horses can fly, but here is a picture of what such a creature might look like. I want one. Anyway, I hope this has been helpful. For more writing details on horses (in general), this website has quite a bit of useful information.

 

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Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 2 comments

By Blade and Mettle

 
Swords and sword fights appear in many books and movies. It is also a subject that many writers work with, especially if you write lots of fantasy. Now, if you are anything like me, you may have seen sword fights in movies like Prince Caspian or The Princess Bride and base your own fights off common and seemingly ‘standard’ warrior moves and tactics.
But as I read more about swords, I realized a fact I already knew but didn’t think too much about. The swordmanship in most movies and books is for show only. Real sword fights were much different.
First there are a number of misconceptions about swords, some of which I was surprised to learn myself.
For starters, swords do not weigh 10 to 12 pounds. They were really not very heavy, averaging around 2.5 pounds apiece. Even the large, two-handed blades weren’t normally heavier than 4 pounds. (Now of course in a fantasy world your swords might be heavy. The swords I’ll be talking about in this article are Medieval type swords.)
Also, swords didn’t have blunt edges. Well, actually this depends on what the sword is meant for. If is is a thrusting weapon, then it might just have a well defined tip. But otherwise the swords edges could be sharp and many Medieval swords have been found with edges still sharp. One note…however sharp they were, swords were not meant to cut through armor. That was the whole point of armor, to protect the wearer from the sword. Even thrusting swords were designed to stab through the joints of the armor, not through the armor itself. (Now of course, you might have a super-strong warrior or an armor-cutting sword or something like that, but as a general rule…)
Now about the fights themselves. In most sword fights you see and read about, the blades constantly clash against each other, normally edge against edge. A more realistic scenario is one fighter parring the blade of another with the flat of his sword to avoid damaging to the edge of the blade. But there are other moves to a fight than just metal-bashing, including (at times) simply moving the sword aside so the opponents sword cuts nothing but empty air. Real sword-fighters were less animated and more cautious than many actors performing their choreographed moves. And sword fights general did not take long.
Now let me say right here that the information for this latter part of the article comes from a book I bought and read awhile back. It’s the best resource I’ve found for learning about realistic sword fighting enough to write about it (without learning how to sword fight myself. It’s called Medieval Swordsmanship by John Clements.)
Anyway, the credits for the list of things not to do in a sword fight (below) comes from the book I just mentioned, though I have reworded it a bit. These are notorious and common cliches of choreographed fighting which would (probably) never happen on a battlefield. 
  • Long, dramatic pauses as two foes lock swords and deliver terse short (and, admittedly at times, cool) lines. Swords, when they lock, only pause the fight for the fraction of a second. And, when a person is fighting for their life, they don’t stop to for cute insults and comebacks.
  • Punching and kicking when there’s an opening instead of just cutting or stabbing.
  • Closing in to hit the enemy with the hilt or pommel of the sword instead of the blade (there might be a time when a soldier does use his hilt, but if the fighter can use his sword, then he’ll use his sword).
  • Finishing off the enemy with a simple stab after minutes of nothing but trying to hack at him throughout the fight.
  • Spinning and twirling the sword in one hand during the middle of a battle (or the warrior spinning himself) might look cool but will probably be the last dramatic act the spinner will ever make.
  • Swinging at a disarmed opponent yet still missing him over and over. I mean, the person might be quick, but in a logical situation, he’ll probably be hurt or killed pretty quickly.
  • Missing a strike so that the inertia of the blow spins the attacker around.
  • Having the hero lose his sword and recover it. Sure, it could happen…maybe. It’s cool in books and movies. But for real life, if a soldier loses his sword he’ll probably be killed before he recovers it.
And really…how come the hero can spend ten minutes in a duel with the villain just before or after cutting down ten of minions in one minute? It’s just what happens in a book or movie, but that doesn’t make it realistic. (Not to say I am innocent of this myself, but it is something to keep in mind.)
Anyway, those are a few myths corrected and a few tips on what is not a realistic way to fight. For more information on how a sword fight should progress, I highly recommend the book I linked above.
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Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, writing tips, 1 comment