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Discussing: Fording a river with horses

Fording a river with horses

I'm after the equine experts again... [bats eyelashes towards Erin and Sulriel and anyone else who happens to be looking] This is just for a brief mention in a chapter; I have a small group of Elves and mortals who need to cross the Gladden with horses. It's in spring so the Gladden, which by the sound of its description in the HASA Library is quite swift-flowing at the best of times, is likely to be swollen by snowmelt off the Misty Mountains. Even I realise crossing fast-flowing water with horses can be a bit of a challenge (Boromir lost his horse at Tharbad crossing the Greyflood, after all, and he was presumably no slouch on a horse). So: how does one do it? Tips to stop yourselves getting washed away? Presumably you stay mounted, since the horse is much stronger and taller than you? When in a group, do you stick together or do you string out? Do ropes help at all? Cheers in advance, Azalais



Re: Fording a river with horses

Erin posted the following very useful reply over on the H-A list, so I hope she won't mind me cross-posting it here: Hmm, high-water river crossings ... In a word, if it's deep enough for the horse to swim, it's dangerous. If its deep enough to get the rider's legs wet, it's dangerous I've been in water up to my hips and so has my hubby - it's very scary, very risky, and I've seen pack mules swept downstream, when they lost their footing in high water. (Thankfully these lived - but other times they did not.) Anywho, let's see ... If the water is deep enough for the horses to walk - albeit with water up over the rider's feet or knees - you can risk staying in the saddle. However, take off stuff like heavy coats/weapons and tie it on the back of the saddle or put it on a pack horse. It may get wet, but better than you drowning under the sodden weight of armor, leather, wool and whatever. You do not bunch together while crossing; safest to go single-file, else a horse losing its footing may collide with another and even paw him under. Also, if the first guy gets across safely, you know the rest can cross there, too, without dropping into a deep hole. Look for a place to cross that has ripples, as that will be shallower and probably have a stony, firm bottom. Don't try to cross where the water runs deep and smooth, as the current may be wickedly treacherous. Now, if you have no choice but to swim the crossing, if it's snowmelt flood, say your prayers. ;-) Pick a spot without big rocks poking up and with an easy bank to climb out the other side - bearing in mind you may wash up two or three hundred yards downstream of your entrance to the water. Again, remove all weapons and heavy clothing. You ride only until the horse sinks to start swimming - then you *must* slide off into the water and hold onto the saddle. This enables the horse to swim freely, without your weight up there throwing his balance off and pushing him down. If a horse starts panicking, whatever you do, don't get in front of him, as he will happily paw you under in his frenzy to find solid ground. Swimming rivers, *especially* during spring thaw, scares hell out of me, if you haven't guessed by now. *G* Anywho, for simplicity in your story, perhaps you would consider your characters finding a nice stony-bottomed ford, where the stream widens out and becomes a bit shallower. There they could cross in greater safety, and while they may end up in water up to the rider's knees or thighs, the horses are not actually swimming and the whole thing stays a little safer/calmer. They'll be cold and wet when they come out, and the humans' feet will be freezing, (getting off to walk a while is very helpful) but they should make it safely.



Re: Fording a river with horses

You are very welcome to cross-post, Azalais. If I'd seen her query here, I'd have done the same. Thanks for beating me to it. Hope it is useful! Cheers ~ Erin



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