Thursday, November 29, 2012

One Saddle, One Butt by Ellen O'Connell



This post was going to be about research for my next romance, but two recent incidents derailed me. The first occurred in a long-running thread about historical romance in the Book Corner of Kindle Boards. Someone mentioned there a romance that included sex on horseback, and there was a lot of oohing and aahing and readers posting how they were hurrying to get the book.

Since I’m probably already considered the chief curmudgeon of Kindle Boards, I made myself keep quiet, but thankfully someone else finally posted how unlikely and uncomfortable such a thing would be, so I could second the sentiment without sounding too cranky. Look at the photo here of a working cowboy taken in 1888. Think about a full grown woman on that horse with him and sexual gymnastics. Would it be physically possible? Probably. Fun, pleasurable or romantic? Draw your own conclusions.

How about an English saddle? Less painful maybe but not more practical. And what about the horse? How many live and undrugged horses do you think would put up with our romantic couple as opposed to dumping them on the ground or running off a cliff with them? I never dealt with the kind of docile, broad-backed beast used by circus performers for bareback performances, but that seems about the only practical possibility, and the whole idea still strikes me as borderline horse abuse and stupid beyond belief, not romantic.

If the second incident hadn’t come right on the heels of the first, I would have ignored it. Romances so often have the hero taking the heroine up on a horse in front of him and the two of them riding that way that I’ve stopped slamming the Kindle shut and zapping books over it. It sounds so sexy. Her backside tight against his frontside. Except take another look at the 1888 cowboy. How exactly is our heroine fitting in front of the guy? Then look at the photo of the empty saddle. Even if the hero pushes so far back he’s riding on the cantle, how is the heroine fitting in front of him without the swell (pommel) and the saddle horn bruising her beyond belief in terrible places? Some stories have the heroine sitting on the hero’s thighs. No, she’s not. Look at the angle of his legs.

I’m sure most all of Romancelandia is going to continue to buy into lovely myths about sex in the saddle and heroines who ride not just for hours but days in front of the hero in the saddle in spite of my rant here, but I feel better now.

Photo of the cowboy is in the public domain and was taken in 1888 photo by John C. H. Grabill. Photo of the saddle is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Source: Modified from Image:Tinker Stute.JPG Author: Modification by BLW, original image by Borsi112.

20 comments:

Caroline Clemmons said...

Ellen, thank you for clearing this up for a few readers, at least. Having ridden double BEHIND the saddle, I can see a heroine holding on and riding that way for a few miles if necessity dictates. My friend only had one horse, so that's why I rode double. But sex on horseback? Why? Sounds like one of those immature "let's see how many places we can have sex" comments from...no, I'd better not go there.

Ellen O'Connell said...

You bet, Caroline. Hauling someone up behind is commonly done and is the way to get a second person on a horse. And I do remember from my teenage years that having a boy I liked riding double behind me was - inspiring - even without the imaginary positioning of some of these tales.

Rain Trueax said...

Bareback, two people who ride well and why? Well same reason people have sex in a lot of offbeat, less than comfortable spots-- because it's fun. I agree on riding in front of a saddle or two in it... not sure that's possible-- certainly not for long.

Regan said...

Now there you go again Ellen, injecting actual history and reality into the dreamworld of some. The first and only time I read a love scene atop a horse was Kresley Cole's IF YOU DESIRE--book 2 in her Scottish MacCarrick trilogy (when she was writing historicals, alas gone are the days). Good books and I can recommend them, but that was one I wondered about at the time. Kept trying to picture.

Regan

Rain Trueax said...

Where it comes to places that show up in western romances, the one that always gets me is in a stack of hay or straw. With a quilt, maybe but otherwise, anybody who has ever lay on one knows how quickly it'd become miserable-- at the least for the bottom. The other one that I let reality interfere with the fantasy is in a nice green pasture, soft grass, but in the sunshine, it doesn't take long for the deer flies to show up in my parts of the West.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Hi Rain - It's good to see you here. Yup, one definitely would need padding for bare skin or even thin clothing in hay and bare skin in straw. I confess I fudge the whole insect thing in my romances myself because being honest about them would kill a lot of the romance. My barn has had an automatic fly spray system in it for more than 20 years, but I remember all too well what the good old days in a barn in summer were like.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Hi Regan - Thanks for stopping by. I don't remember which book it was that got the KB ladies giggling. I'm pretty sure I remember a horseback scene in a Laura Kinsale long ago, but it struck me as vaguely possible at the time so maybe it was bareback (and they took things elsewhere for the finale so to speak).

Ciara Gold said...

I remember riding double once behind my good friend. We rode for 2 miles to a 7-Eleven, stopped for a break and then rode back. I was behind the saddle but I swear, I didn't walk for 2 days after that. I've never, ever been so sore. Granted, back then if the heroine rode at all, she'd be slightly conditioned but still...

Excellent points. Now I need to check and see if I've ever put my heroine in front of her hero while on horseback. At present, I think I'm good as I don't remember such a scene.

Rain Trueax said...

Thanks Ellen. I saw the link in the Forums and it looked like an interesting topic as writing romances is always a mix of what is really possible and the fairy tale.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Hi Ciara - If you hadn't ridden before, or recently, you'd be that sore even if you were in the saddle properly. Every time I didn't ride for months for some reason and then started up again, it meant getting those muscles adapted all over, and the little bones at the bottom of the bottom so to speak would feel bruised for days.

I confess I had the hero in Sing My Name give his daughter a short ride in front of him. However, IMO Matt Slade could slide his butt all but on top of the cantle and pull his kid back tight against his stomach and chest so that the swell at the front of the saddle wouldn't be digging into her. A grown up is a bit different. And of course Matt had a narrower butt than mine ever was after about fifth grade.

Ellen O'Connell said...

It is. I lean to the realistic, which is why I have a good many reviews that use the word "gritty." If I can't believe it, I can't read it and of course can't write it either.

Rain Trueax said...

I try to set mine in a realistic world also but then have things happen that simply don't work out that way very often in real life. I like the fantasy part of it. I call it like going on a roller coaster ride because we know the ride works out for the hero and heroine no matter how dire it might seem as it's a romance. I have done some of my own writing recently (not in my writing blog yet because I write ahead) on some of my favorite books to read and they range between the fairy tale and the realistic but in the end-- either way-- they are that ride. Life gives enough unhappy endings that I want my favorite books to have the fantasy and my hero and heroine to get to the end of the rainbow-- even if it's not necessarily realistic that they will make it past all those obstacles. It's the fun of reading and writing, I think.

Paty Jager said...

I agree. There is no way two people could have sex on a horse. That always irks me too. If there is mention of the horn jabbing the heroine when she is sitting, sideways, on the front of the saddle for a brief distance. Then I don't have a problem, but not riding off into the sunset. I've ridden bareback with two people on a horse that would make for a sexy scene, but no sex. And I've carried children in front of me on a saddle. But they are present day saddles and not the ones of the 1800's. I've also rode in the front of my husband's saddle, when I was younger and thinner. It can work but it's not comfortable.
I like hearing your curmudgeon thoughts, Ellen.;0)

Jacquie Rogers said...

Sex on horseback--only bareback and horse hair is no fun (bad as having sex in beach sand). Riding double, well, it's not just the saddle issue. The poor horse has to carry two people which is quite a load. You see that in movies all the time. The horse gallops for miles carrying two people. I don't think so.

mesadallas said...

So, ah, Jacquie.... are you speaking from personal experience? (the horsehair and the sand) Lift of eyebrows and a wink.

Ginger Simpson said...

I definitely can't think of a worse place to have sex then on a horse. Plus, the mention of horsehair and the saddle horn sound almost as painful as sand from having sex on the beach...not that I have, but there are certain places I don't want sand.

Strange what some people think is romantic. The waves crashing on the beach, the tide rolling in, seaweed wrapped around your face, and sand in your crack. It's sort of a toss up. Saddle horn or sand! Neither sounds very appealing to me. Great post, Ellen.

Jacquie Rogers said...

I plead the fifth.

Ellen O'Connell said...

Thanks, everyone. I did a lot of bareback riding in my teens and this discussion is reviving memories - how insecure the seat is; how no matter whether the horse was super clean, you got off with the inside of your legs and your seat filthy; how sweaty and itchy everything felt, even through jeans and undies; how in spite of the negatives I kept right on doing it because it was cool.

mesadallas said...

I know this story sounds a little far-fetched but I swear every word is true. When I was 16 we spent Christmas at my grandfather's farm. He had cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and poultry but refused to keep a horse as the only time it would be ridden would be when we were visiting. I used to pester him relentlessly to cave in and get a horse and I figured Christmas would be a good time to continue asking. On Christmas Eve when I said my prayers I made sure I asked God to please send me a horse for Christmas. Well, on Christmas morning there was no horse. I was out in the yard feeding the chickens when a horse came galloping down the dirt road. It ran by but stopeed when it came to the end of the road and began walking back toward the house. It allowed me to take it by the mane and I walked it into the front yard. It had no tack of any kind so my dad made a bridle out of a rope. Obviously it had gotten loose from a neighboring farm and my grandfather began making calls to neighbors. We didn't locate the owners for three days but in those three days I spent almost every minute I could on that horse. I had to ride bareback with only homemade rope tack and I was so sore I couldn't hardly walk but I didn't care; I got my horse for Christmas.

Ellen O'Connell said...

What a nice story, mesadallas. Your grandfather wasn't the only one who looked at the economics and said no. I had a friend once, a busy vet, who told me he calculated if he kept a horse, as often as he'd get to ride, it would cost him a couple of hundred dollars for every hour.