Of Handsome Men and Horses, by Sharon Lathan

Of Handsome Men and Horses, by Sharon Lathan

In the 1997 Disney film version of the classic cartoon “George of the Jungle” there is a hilarious scene of a buff, long-haired George (Brendan Fraser) running alongside a frisky horse, his shirt open and sculpted chest gleaming. Jane and several other women are watching him, utterly spellbound and drooling, when one of a group of men observing the scene says, “What is it about chicks and horses?” The joke, of course, is that the women are obviously NOT mesmerized by the horse. Nevertheless, would even George/Brendan be as appealing, virile, and sexy if he were chasing a poodle?

There IS something about chicks and horses – at least where they are involved with handsome men. I have been atop a horse maybe five times in my entire life, counting pony rides at the fair, so I am miles away from any kind of an equestrian expert. Obviously women, even small ones, can handle a horse. They do it all the time. And a mature horse is certainly gorgeous and awe-inspiring all on its own. But, come on, be honest, don’t we females love visions of a powerful stallion in full gallop mode with a rugged, whiskered, and sweaty man controlling? Maybe wielding a sword at the same time? Or roping wild steers? Sure we do!

When I decided to write MY Mr. Darcy as a superb horseman, I wasn’t thinking of George of the Jungle, but I was inspired by the general idea of men and horses. Primarily, I was inspired by the scenes in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice when a masculine Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen) is sitting on that black stallion glaring at Mr. Wickham, and later when he is crazily racing through the wood after being rejected by Elizabeth. Yum. I loved the images and had to include that facet as a part of his life.

Then I decided to take it a bit further. Research came into play as it always does in my story. Why stop at just creating a Mr. Darcy who is a skillful rider? That wasn’t all that unusual in an age where horses were the standard of transportation. Having a manly hero who can manage a huge beast can be creatively used in a clichéd chase scene or something, but it does not make him unique. So it occurred to me that all these horses had to come from somewhere, didn’t they? Someone had to breed them, right? Ends up that not only is the answer obviously yes, but horse breeding was a very lucrative business, and one that was undertaken by wealthy gentlemen, especially those with vast estate lands at their disposal. Fabulous!

My crash course in horses and everything associated with them is not complete, by any stretch. I learned enough to get by in my story. I wanted Darcy to be a man passionate about horses. I wanted horses to be an integral part of Pemberley’s economy. I wanted Darcy to be a hands-on type of Master, in various ways, but especially when it came to horses.

I chose Thoroughbreds out of the various horse breeds common in English history because I also discovered via my studies that horse racing was a national sport that became a phenomenon during the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14). Racecourses, like Newmarket and Epsom Downs, sprang up all over the country. The rage escalated rapidly, leading to a group of elite gentlemen forming the Jockey Club in 1750, a group that still to this day sets all rules and standards for horse racing in England. Among the Jockey Club’s accomplishments was the regulation of all Thoroughbred breeding in the country. Only the purest bloodlines are allowed to race and breeders are required to follow stringent guidelines and keep meticulous records to prove that their horses could be traced back to the original three Arabians imported from the Middle East.

Horse racing was (and still is) hugely important and prestigious in England. I loved being able to write that into the history of Pemberley. Additionally, as financial sound and esteemed as breeding Thoroughbreds would have been, the Regency Era was a time of war. Actually, there had been several wars if you count that minor uprising across the pond in 1776! So breeding swift, intelligent, enduring horses for the military was also a money making proposition. It was almost a no-brainer to write the Darcy family in such a way. I only took it to the fun extreme of assigning a deep passion for horses as a major aspect of my Fitzwilliam Darcy. To the point that he personally commands the stable staff and even gets dirty in the training corrals. Now doesn’t that just sound yummy?


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June 18, 2022 2:55 PM

Love horses although only rode one a few times when I was younger as my aunt owned one.

Michelle H
Michelle H
June 13, 2022 9:13 AM

I love this idea for a story, and I can’t wait to read it! I just love Regency stories with horses mentioned a lot, or an important part of the plot or a character’s life.

I’m totally a horse enthusiast in my fantasies. I’ve been on a horse once or twice in my life, utterly docile, but wanted more. Alas that would never ever have been a reality for me. My son however took to horses when attending a summer camp and we found lessons for him for about a year or so when we temporarily lived in a horsey part of New York State for a few years due to my husband’s work. I lived vicariously through my son then, thrilled for him. There’s just something about watching a nine yr. old boy leading a horse out from the stables…so little compared to the horse. Thanks for that memory.

I read a number of authors who are horsewomen/horse owners themselves and love their realistic scenes involving horses even if it’s not a significant part of the plot. I know all your research will make it read seamlessly. It tells you something about a particular character, maybe the hero or heroine, how they treat animals…whether they are horses or dogs or cats, etc. Best of luck with your WIP. Now I’m eager to do some rereading of your books I own. Your book, The Passions of Dr. Darcy is close to its ten year book anniversary! It is a favorite of your books for me.

Jean Stillman
Jean Stillman
June 12, 2022 8:08 PM

Very interesting article! Thanks for sharing. I have loved your books, and appreciate this insight.

Riana Everly
June 8, 2022 3:54 PM

I love this idea. And what wonderful opportunities to head off with Lizzy, helping her improve her riding!

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
June 7, 2022 8:35 PM

Sounds yummy to me! Love the pics!

Regina Jeffers
June 7, 2022 1:17 PM

Just last evening, I wrote a scene where Darcy is instructing a young groom who will be a jockey on Mr. Bingley Arabian mare at one of those regional horse races you mentioned.

Linda A.
Linda A.
June 7, 2022 12:56 PM

As a horse owner, I’m always aware if authors get it “right” when writing about horses. But, I can just picture Darcy grooming his favorite horse and sharing his thoughts with that horse. Of course, he would be disheveled, sweaty and covered in horse hair by the time he was done, but the connection between the two would be stronger.

Linda A.
Linda A.
June 7, 2022 3:33 PM
Reply to  Sharon Lathan

No problem at all!

If you ever have a horse question, feel free to ask me.

J. W. Garrett.
J. W. Garrett.
June 7, 2022 10:50 AM

Here in Kentucky, we are all about horses. I think I saw somewhere [outtakes or behind the scenes] where it was a stunt man that rode away from Miss Elizabeth. The actors for Darcy and Bingley were not horsemen. In fact, Bingley could hardly control his horse in one scene.

The last time [and let me say the LAST time ever] I was on a horse, my friends gave me an obedience school dropout. Yep, that sucker knew I didn’t know my business and it wanted to go where it wanted to and paid no attention to me at all. Nope, I don’t ride horses. I’ll walk, thank you very much.

Thanks for this delightful post.

Gianna Thomas
June 9, 2022 9:04 AM
Reply to  J. W. Garrett.

Was that the BBC version or the 2005, Jeanne?

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