In a world of spaceships, technology, and super-weapons, the last thing you would expect is a horse. In the difficult life of rim planets, despite the fact they have hover cars available, most folk can’t afford them and turn to easier forms of transportation. This gives a mood of early settlers, and contrasts to the core worlds with their flashy modern technology. Characters can talk about how different the rim and core are, but seeing it first hand with an old west setting complete with horses vs shiny skyscrapers and hover cars makes it all the more potent, and we can understand why there was a civil war between the two.
Lord of the Rings—Cavalry in Battle
In the fight against Sauron’s evil armies, Gondor stood alone with few to no horses. They were an army on foot, and while that is needed in battle, it was not enough to come close to defeating Sauron’s forces. What they needed was a mobile, well trained cavalry to give them an edge. Enter the Rohirrim—originally raiders who came swooping in to raid and pillage, until a brilliant Steward of Gondor offered to give them their own kingdom instead. As a result of his foresight, Rohan and Gondor became allies—the foot soldiers and the cavalry. This alliance became crucial during the Second War of the Ring, when mobile troops became imperative. When writing epic fantasy, ask yourself where the cavalry is.
Star Trek: The Next Generation—Characterization
The holodeck is a wonderful place to show what a character cares about—some put themselves in ancient battles, others at a quiet fishing spot, and who can forget Voyager‘s black and white scifi serial adventures of Captain Proton. One of the only times we see Captain Picard alone on the holodeck is when Dianna Troi interrupts him while he is out riding a lovely white horse English style. We see Picard’s love of elegant, civilized pursuits, are reminded of his European origins, and see that in his down time he is not interested in more battles or beautiful women everywhere—he loves a quiet country ride.
The Chronicles of Narnia—As Characters
Sometimes horses feel like a character, such as Shadowfax in Lord of the Rings, but rarely are they one of the main characters. In The Horse & His Boy, Bree shoulders his way into the spotlight as a captured foal forced to become a war horse, and determined to return home. He is brusque, full of himself, yet also a mixture of cowardly despite his prowess in battle. For all his faults, it is easy to care about him as a character, made possible because he is a talking horse. It is easy to turn a talking horse into a cartoonish animal, but treating them like any other character with backstory, depth, motivations, failings, and character growth can overcome that brilliantly.
There is a request I would like to make of any fantasy or science fiction authors eager to include horses. Please, no more white or black ones—almost every horse present on screen or in books that has a major role is either white or black. There are many beautiful horses that are other possibilities to use!