As equine authors, we all want to get not only the story right, but also the horse part of it right, too. Everyone here is an experienced horse person, and has a broad base of knowledge that we incorporate into our books to share with our readers. However, it is amazing the number of little facts that creep into the story line that need to be researched, not once, but several times. We need to be thorough on our research because, if we get it wrong, at least one reader will step up to call us on it.
I think we’ve all read a book where the author gets a basic fact wrong and it takes us out of the story. That should never happen. Even in fiction, there are facts: a horse is measured in hands, a hand is four inches, there is no palomino color in the Thoroughbred breed. If we as authors get it wrong, we have done our readers a huge disservice.
I showed Appaloosa horses for many years, and the question of their point system came up in my newest Cat Enright cozy mystery, The Fame Equation. I knew how it worked. Or did I? After reviewing the current rulebook and a number of websites, I finally went to the source and called the person at the Appaloosa Horse Club who was in charge of their points system. Yes, I was right. But if I had not been, I would have alienated a lot of readers, and worse, my readers would have lost trust in me.
Quincy is a solid colored registered Appaloosa, but he looks so much like a
Thoroughbred that even his vet and farrier worked with him for
three years without realizing his actual breed.
Authors can never assume.
That is the real concern. If a reader cannot trust an author to get a basic fact correct, what about everything else the author writes? How many other mistakes, factual errors, or misconceptions are there in a given book? I write both equestrian fiction and nonfiction and am sure to find at least two credible sources for every fact I am not 1000 percent sure of. That is maybe a little over the top, but I have written a number of horse books and no reader has yet called me on a fact. I’m sure that day will someday come, and when it does, I will welcome it, for readers are truly the final authority.
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Lisa Wysocky is an author, clinician, and registered PATH instructor who helps people learn about themselves through horses. Find her at LisaWysocky.com.