In Sam Time, the protagonist Samantha time travels to the 19th century. She meets Ulysses S Grant, and he teaches her how to ride horseback. Grant loved horses and was an expert equestrian. I wanted Samantha to develop an affection for horses too.
But how could I write about horses when I knew so little about them? I watched hours of YouTube videos and went on horseback rides. Also I read A Man Walks into a Barn by Chad Oldfather. It’s a nonfiction book about a father of two daughters who love horses and take riding lessons. After finishing Oldfather’s book, I became fonder of these magnificent four-legged animals.
A favorite family dog was my muse. I transferred my affection I had for this pet to my fictional horse characters.
To personify the horse characters, I gave them cute, likable names.
Samantha’s first horse is Beckley, a male. She becomes attached to the horse because she learns to ride horseback without incident.
Later, Samantha is introduced to a female horse, Elise. Somewhere in my head, I remembered this name from the famous Elise the Cow created by the Borden Dairy Company. The two-syllable name would help for quick and easy reading.
Grant’s horse’s name is Yukon, another easy-to-read, two-syllable name. The Yukon River flows through Alaska and Canada. Sturdy and rugged comes to mind for a horse worthy of Grant to ride.
Pet owners often freely express affection and emotion to their animals, sometimes more readily then to humans. Likewise, Samantha conveys her feelings to Grant by speaking to her horse loud enough for Grant to hear.
“I apologize, Elise. I want to be good friends. We did have a nice day together. Good day.”
On another occasion, Samantha says goodbye to Grant, knowing she won’t see him for a while. The passage reads:
“I will miss Elise.” She meant, I will miss you.
She punctuated her sentiment. “She is a fine companion.”
Did he understand her implication? His penetrating stare said yes.
Grant gives Samantha gets another horse to ride. He calls this horse Thunder. Samantha is intimidated by this large horse, the name of which implies a fast and perhaps an unpredictable animal.
In later chapters, Samantha meets Cincinnati. This is an actual horse Grant rode during the Civil War, Grant’s favorite. Only he would ride the horse with two exceptions—President Lincoln being one of them.
The horses play a silent role as vessels for the novel’s human characters. Readers may be charmed too.