How To Write Descriptions People Want to Read: Horses

horsesThis is the second in the “How to Write Descriptions” series (updated from my last post on this topic here). This one is on horses. I had to write about horses in the wild for one of my novels so I spent a lot of time reading about and watching them. Here’s what I learned (as with all of my descripters, these are taken from authors I love. Don’t use them, just get inspired by them):

  • they recognize the distant approach of friend or foe
  • they anticipate storms and earthquakes
  • when they’re happy, they drop their heads, flip them high, maybe make a high and full skyward circle with their noses. Their behavior is eager, interested, alert, playful, responsive
  • they can laugh–not a human laugh. Horses curl their upper lip, fully exposing their upper front teeth. They do a good deal of prancing with raised tail.
  • they will reply to you with raised head, arched neck, muzzle down; they’ll prick their ears forward and might even take off at a dead run
  • when they’re angry, their ears lie back, tail swishes as if at a fly; when they’re angrier, their hindquarters tense; their ears become even closer to their skull, tail more vigorous, and their rear hoof raises slightly
  • they show pride by prancing with ears straight forward, nostrils flaring, tail up, head pointed downward on arched neck
  • they show interest when their nose, eyes, ears point straight ahead at the object of interest, circling in curiosityhorses
  • they show eagerness by stamping their front foot, then hind foot, shaking their head, dancing sideways, ears turned back to rider or forward to where he is going
  • when they’re healthy, their coat glows–reflects light; their mane and tail are soft, not matted, lumpy, or coarse, and their hindquarters are dappled with color in summer
  • when they’re in pain, they shrug or shiver the affected muscle, slap their tail as close as possible to the area of discomfort, swing their head backward to hit the offended part with their  muzzle; when it’s worse, their ears turn back toward the pain, eyes look blank, and they groan; when it’s severe, they groan, tremble and sweat
  • when they’re sharp, they are eager, with a glowing appearance
  • when they’re bereaved, they move around the stall in restless circles, head out the door; their ears prick forward looking for their companion, and they sniff the air for the missing scent
  • when they’re frightened, their ears, nose, eyes point straight at the object of concern; they loudly sniff, furrow their eyes; they’re light-footed, dancing restlessly in place; they try to flee, awash in sweat, whites of eyes visible; they breathe heavily with much nostril movement and frightened nickers; their head hangs almost to the ground, eyes closed, ears flopped down motionless to sides; they won’t eat or drink
  • when they’re bored, they shift their weight restlessly; hold their head sleepily down and then move it actively; they become very mouthy
  • when they’re sick, they are listless, inactive, less responsive; their coat turns dull; when they’re very sick, they lower their heads and are even less responsive

–Beautiful artwork used with permission of Horse Collectionary.

More animal descriptions:

How to Describe Dogs

How To Write Descriptions People Want to Read: Wild Animals

Book Review: Runaway Brain

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is  editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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21 thoughts on “How To Write Descriptions People Want to Read: Horses

  1. Pingback: 70 Collections to Infuse Your Writing | WordDreams...

  2. Hi Jacqui I have signed up just to your WORDDREAMS site.

    I am having trouble writing about exotic women for my latest book have you ever written a post about this subject


  3. Pingback: How to Write Descriptions People Want to Read: an African Landscape | WordDreams...

  4. Pingback: How To Write Descriptions People Want to Read: Wild Animals | WordDreams...

  5. Great list Jacqui I remember when we were kids my father use to say, stay calm the horse can smell your fear, and then they will be the boss not you. Can you do one on terms used for archery, thats my next research job for my book.


    • It’s from books I read so all I do is copy these snippets to a list. It’s 123 pages long so far! Topics are roughly organized. Sometimes, I just read the sections when I’m stuck–how the h*** to I show ‘distress’?


      • I now know why you’re such a successful writer Jacqui and I’m not [not self-deprecating!] It clearly shows your love for horses and your love for writing about them. And I’m sure your love and reader’s joy would come alive in your words. Now I know what I need to do. Thank you. Arun


    • I fell in love with horses when I researched them for a book. What wonderful, loyal, powerful creatures. They communicate so much and we just don’t understand their language. Oh well…


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