Characters must be believable or they sour the story. Creatures like werewolves and vampires are easy to incorporate because they are more rooted in myth than fact, so liberties can be taken. What if the creature is already part of normal life though? Hardcore expectations come into play, and those need careful changing or the character going to appear fake or corny. This is especially true for something as commonplace as the horse.
SOH, has two sets of horse characters, the plain equine and the Arkillians. The plain equines act like normal horses, mostly. A majority of the characters humanize them because they are so used to working with horses they can pick up on their personalities. Due to interactions with two Arkillians, one horse is given the gift to understand and communicate with certain humans. Now, the level of two-way interaction depends on the human. One character can talk to him as if they were two humans. Another only understands the horse. To everyone else, he appears super intelligent.
The Arkrillians are an interesting race. They are limited equine-humanoid shape changers with mental abilities that allow them to connect with others through the past, present, and future. They can’t stay in the infinite too long or they’ll lose themselves. Most only master a defensive, offensive, and neutral form in their subspecies. Members of the ruling herd enjoy the wealth of shapes combing the two, but even they can’t achieve the ultimate levels. When Arkrillians shift they add or release mass by exchanging it with the surrounding atmosphere. They create bonds with everyone they meet. The depth of connection depends on the relationship. Their strict code of ethics prevents them from probing too deeply into another entity’s mind without permission or interfere in their connections’ lives.
I created the Arkrillians and their abilities because I wanted more than a normal horse. As I move the series into the 26th Century, regular fade from the story lines. How do you fit a horse on a starship? The Arkrillians’ apparent god-like abilities evolved over time. Originally, they were just going to be horses who could shape change into unicorns and pegasi. Then, as I developed their back story and ideas for the stories involving them, it became apparent they needed to do so much more.
Although I’m no expert, my love for horses runs pretty deep. I’ve never shown or raced a horse. Well, at least not the track betting kind. Plenty of races along the trail or in the ring. Some of them planned, others, not so much. I’ve also watched rodeos, the Lipizzaners perform, and a few horse races. My favorite television shows, books, competitions, and movies all involve horses. I don’t own a horse now, but they are still a part of my life in my figurine, stuffed animal, and art collections.
The ones I lived with will always be a part of me. Miss Ani, the pure bred Quarter once picked me up by the suspenders and put me over the fence. JP, a Welsh-Morgan pony, was as unpredictable as his spots. Buddy, a sweet gentle Anglo Arab, chased our lopped ear rabbit around the yard. Honey, another Quarter, climbed the stairs and stuck her head in the back door. I taught her son, Desert Diamond, how to play tag and regretted it later. Ginger followed me around like a puppy dog, especially after I scratched her butt. Dubbers, her companion, couldn’t go anywhere without her. Chalk, a high-strung Thoroughbred hated the touch of a fence or gate, but stood stock still when I unclipped his feet from the fence wire he tangled them in. They are all part of the horses in my stories because all meant so much to me. Most we gave up as life changed, except Ginger. We had to put her down after a seizure. She asked us to with her eyes.
In the video below, from this year’s Brain to Books Cyber Convention, I read my favorite chapter from Spirit. The opportunity came about because Joe Compton from GoIndieNow.com had an hour of live time he needed to kill and I was his last guest. In the chapter, Jo gets a chance to do the one thing I wished for, have a two way conversation with my horse.
All these experiences allow me to create depth of character in the SOH’s horses and their interactions I hope you, my readers, will enjoy. Let me know about your own experiences with horses, or your favorite horse stories, in the comments.