Guest Blogger: Stephanie Berget

03 Feb

Romance With Real Life Horses

Reading a book about a barrel racer trying to make it to the National Rodeo Finals, was one of the main factors in my decision to write. The author had a likeable, determined heroine, and her hero, well, any sane woman I know, wouldn’t mind having him hang around the barn. The problem? The author hadn’t taken the time to research her subject. She knew the craft of writing her book, but she clearly hadn’t spent any time with a professional barrel racer. So, having never written anything before, I thought, “How hard can this be?” I decided I could write a better book.

When you’re done laughing, I’ll continue.

I’m still waiting . . . Okay then.

Three years later, I’m revising that original book. I’ve spent countless hours writing, then rewriting as I continue to learn all that I didn’t know. The rodeo and horse training information shows the reader a good view of reality, but I had to learn the writing craft, in particular, romance. It turns out writing is every bit as hard, if not harder, than training a champion barrel racing horse.

For some reason, authors who write about cops, Navy Seals and even time travel put a lot of effort in researching their subjects, but when it comes to cowboys and horses, they just put in any old thing they think sounds good, and that’s too bad. Most good trainers or riders will be more than happy to let you into their world and explain any questions. Barrel racers love to talk about their horses and lifestyle.

As I thought about most of the rodeo books I’ve found, I came up with ten facts many writers miss when including horses in their stories.

  1. Know the difference between a halter and a bridle. A halter is for leading a horse, and a bridle is for guiding and control of your horse when riding.
  2. Stalls are bedded down with straw or shavings, not hay. Hay is fed in specific amounts according to the horse. The porky ones need less than the nervous ones.
  3. If your heroine is riding a top-rate barrel horse, don’t have her make fast runs ten times a day to practice. Real reining, rodeo or cutting horses are athletes. To keep them focused, calm and confident, trainers work them slowly and rarely run at full speed except during an event.
  4. Learn the terms of the tack used on your horse. A cinch or girth is used to secure a saddle, not a strap.
  5. Finished (trained and hauled) horses are comfortable riding long distances in today’s trailers and even sleeping in them. They don’t need to sleep in their own stall at night.
  6. Most of the time when horses sleep, they remain standing and only lay down for short periods. Their brains are active when they lay down to protect against predators.
  7. Well-trained horses will stand tied to the trailer quietly while the rodeo or horseshow bustles around them, although sheep will sometimes provide a negative response.  (I have personal experience with this one.)
  8. Unlike in the cowboy movies, real horses don’t whinny at danger. The only times most horses make noise is when their buddy is taken away. They are very herd oriented.
  9. Horses aren’t afraid of snakes. They don’t rear and throw their riders off at the sight of a snake in the road. They usually don’t notice them.
  10. Rodeoing is one of the most unique and exciting sports in the world, but it is also hard work. It involves all night drives, lack of sleep and taking care of your horse before yourself. You make split-second decisions to help your horse by giving the right cues, all while running at top speed. A winning run at a professional rodeo is under 17 seconds. Winners work hard and treat it as a business.

I hope this has been of some help. I’ve spent most of my life around horses and wouldn’t change that for the world.

Oh, one more thing. When your heroine starts into the arena to make her run at the BIG rodeo, don’t have your hero take the microphone from the announcer and ask, “Will you marry me?”

She won’t stop her horse, get tears in her eyes and say yes, as the crowd stands and cheers. She’ll try to regain her concentration enough to complete her run then she’ll hunt down the hero with murder in her eyes. It kind of ruins the Happily Ever After.

I’m just saying…


Posted by on February 3, 2012 in Idaho, romance, writing



19 responses to “Guest Blogger: Stephanie Berget

  1. ramblingsfromtheleft

    February 3, 2012 at 6:47 AM

    Staphanie, welcome to GSW and much thanks for this post. I am a 100% city gal, born and bred in Brooklyn … but fast foward to my son. We lived in Washington Heights, Manhattan and my eleven year old was doing his premier imitation of “Bad Boys.” So off to a friend’s camp. The place was Brandywine, PA. the camp, a ranch camp. The kid they labeled “the boy from new york city,” like the song (doo-wa-didi) became a campion that first summer. The rough guy, an old cowboy throw-back from another time, taught the kid horses. He lived, breathed and became so involved, he gave up the bad boy and got three ribbons his first summer … Oh yeah … for barrell racing.

    Oh course, now he’s a dad and I am sure he doesn’t tell his kids these stories. I am equally sure he would barf if the hero took the mike and proposed. The girls he met at ranch camp (friends to this day) would also have barfed at such foolishness. Not only did the kid from nyc learn respect and love of horses, his mom did as well. Love, love that you broke it down so well. One thing he always told me is that if you don’t care for them first, you can’t expect to win. Thanks for the memories 🙂

    • Stephanie Berget

      February 3, 2012 at 9:53 AM

      Ramblings (and I love that Lynn calls you that),
      horses can make a huge difference in a kids life. All my children were raised rodeoing. Out of three, only one has continued but they all have fond memories.
      Thank you for letting me in on your son’s journey to responsibility via horses.

  2. Liz Fredericks

    February 3, 2012 at 7:04 AM

    Stephanie – WONDERFUL! Thank you for blogging with us. I admit having hay as bedding has always been my pet peeve and it shows up in books by well known authors. I really enjoy your voice in writing and look forward to reading more.

    • Stephanie Berget

      February 3, 2012 at 9:55 AM

      Thanks, Liz,
      Yup, it drives me crazy. If I bedded stalls with hay, both of my horses would be so fat they couldn’t walk. They would be happy though not much good in competition.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  3. Janis McCurry

    February 3, 2012 at 7:15 AM

    Thanks for blogging at Gem State Writers, Stephanie. I’ve had to write a couple of scenes with horses and consulted with two different veteran horse people. Not saying this to brag, but it’s hard to believe that a writer wouldn’t try to research using experts. Perhaps, culturally, the western movie is so ingrained that it is assumed they are accurate? A question to ponder.

    • Stephanie Berget

      February 3, 2012 at 9:57 AM

      I hadn’t thought about the movie aspect. Thank you for taking the time to research. It’s so easy. Cowgirls and cowboys are mostly very eager to explain their lifestyle. Barrel racers in particular, love to talk about their horses.

  4. johannaharness

    February 3, 2012 at 7:34 AM

    Love this post, Stephanie! I’m so glad you’re writing from inside this world. I can’t wait to read more.

    • Stephanie Berget

      February 3, 2012 at 9:59 AM

      Thanks Johanna,
      Rodeo is an amazing sport and a great community of wonderful people. I have yet to read a book about contemporary cowboys and cowgirls that gets it right. One of these days, I hope to do that.

  5. heath

    February 3, 2012 at 8:36 AM

    Great post – these kinds of details can make or break a book’s credibility!

    • Stephanie Berget

      February 3, 2012 at 10:02 AM

      Thanks you heath. Even for readers without specific knowledge of the subject, details can provide a clearer picture of the world you’re writing about. Thanks for your comment.

  6. Jennifer Kellie

    February 3, 2012 at 2:52 PM

    Great article Steph! If I ever decide to include horses in one of my stories, I know where I’m going for advice 🙂

    • stephanieberget

      February 4, 2012 at 9:03 AM

      Thanks for visiting, Jenn. You know I always love to talk horses.

  7. Clarissa Southwick

    February 3, 2012 at 5:27 PM

    I admit to knowing nothing about horses. I’m always grateful to find someone who can double check my riding scenes. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful horse knowledge with us.

    • stephanieberget

      February 4, 2012 at 9:05 AM

      Thank you for asking me to write this blog. It is something I find everywhere. I think it’s important to get the details right. Anytime you have a question, ask away. I love to talk horses and rodeo.

  8. Paisley Kirkpatrick

    February 3, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    Thanks Stephanie. I write stories in the west and am always pondering how to handle the horse facts. Luckily I just made a friend who owns riding stables and I’ve been invited out there whenever I need help. Always best to see the ‘facts’ up close and personal.

    • stephanieberget

      February 4, 2012 at 9:08 AM

      How lucky to have found a new source of information. Feel free to ask me if you have any questions on rodeo, barrel racing or horse training.

  9. Mary Vine

    February 4, 2012 at 10:02 AM

    I don’t know much about horses, at all. The only horses I’ve riden want to take me under a tree so I can get knocked off, and they ran like crazy heading back to the barn (thus the expression). I plan to save your blog for reference for my historicals. Thanks for blogging!

    • stephanieberget

      February 4, 2012 at 6:55 PM

      Thanks for your comment Mary. One of these days you can come out and ride one of my horses. I promise to take care of you.

  10. Carley Ash

    February 10, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    Fun read, Steph.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: