Thursday, August 2, 2012

What Did You Learn Today?

My brain is filled to overflowing with more undoubtedly useless trivia, except perhaps as it pertains to my current novel. I have been steadily researching to add more accurate detail to my story, and as I continue, I will post about the random things I learn and include in my story. Today, however, I would like to focus on a topic I have always taken an interest in, though never had the means to pursue fully.
I have always loved horses, and what girl doesn't, really? When I was very young, we had a few horses, I couldn't tell you without asking my mother for specific details what breeds they were, but at a very young age, I learned to ride Western. I was astride a horse at the age of two, with my mom's assistance, but could ride by myself before I even started school. I was riding horses before I could ride a bike, and when I learned that, I liked to pretend my bicycle was a racehorse.
All of the women in my family are decidedly short-statured, and it stood to reason that I would be as well. I grew up reading books like Black Beauty, books by Marguerite Henry, and my absolute favorite was Walter Farley, who wrote The Black Stallion series. (Although I always preferred Flame, the Island Stallion, over the Black.) I dreamed of becoming a jockey and riding in the Kentucky Derby.
Alas, by the time I was twelve years old, I was already too tall and too heavy (not fat, just, well, have you SEEN some of those jockeys?). So I decided I would become an equine veterinarian, instead. By this time, my parents had divorced, and we no longer actually owned horses ourselves, but my step-sister showed Arabians all the time, and I thought she was just sooooo cool because she got to ride in such pretty costumes, on such pretty horses, and she even met Patrick Swayze once! Hey, it was the 80's, that was a really big deal.
Then I discovered the length of time it would take to obtain my specialized degree in equine medicine - 8 years. That seemed like a millennia to a pre-teen. Not only that, but did you know that there are only 28 vet schools in the entire US, so the competition is fierce! So that really put a damper on things. I was a smart kid, granted, but I wasn't sure I had that kind of dedication. It was around that same time that I discovered romance novels, and the idea of becoming a writer was born.
Well, needless to say, here I am years later, and nary a degree in vet medicine, nursing, or even assistant do I have. But I still have that love of horses...
Sorry, I know I am getting long winded here, so let me hurry up and get to my rambling point. My heroine has a dream, too. She wants to turn her plantation home in Charlottesville, Virginia into a stud farm and breed champion racehorses. Well, for starters, she's in the right place. Secretariat was from near there, and Virginia is noted for its many, many horse farms. Luckily, my hero also shares the heroine's (and mine) passion for horses.
Which brings me to my research today. One simply cannot broach the subject of racehorses without a look into the pedigree lines that developed today's modern Thoroughbred. Nearly all Thoroughbreds can trace their lineage back to three primary Arabian studs, the Darley, the Byerley, and the Gandolphin. These were horses brought from Turkey and Arabia to England and bred with other horses to develop a fast racer. So of course, this is what I had to look up. I chose to give my heroine a Stallion with Byerley Turk lineage, and added a Mare to her stables of Gandolphin heritage to give her the best fighting chance for developing a prime racing breed. (Note the Gandolphin was the featured star of the Marguerite Henry book, 'King of the Wind'.)
Horse racing was a huge pastime of the Regency Era, which brought together all types of people, especially the ton. One of the biggest events of the Season was the Epsom Derby, which took place in early May or June. The winner of the Derby in 1811 was a fantastic horse by the name of Phantom, who won by a head at the last moment at 5/1 odds. Naturally, my hero and heroine will be attending this particular race, and my plucky lady will have placed bets on the winner. Great excitement and bonding moment between the pair, don't you think?

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