The next thing I must do is plenty of research; this is where my seepage of ideas gathers volume and force, and hopefully begins to flow along in a sparkling torrent (if I’m lucky!) Researching this story took me back to the 1830’s, a time of wilderness and trapping, fur traders and explorers,  long portages, white settlers – and of course, the First Nations people who lived with such superb skill on the land, using the rivers and lakes to travel long distances in their birch bark canoes.

Below is a bibliography of my research sources for Red River Stallion.


Ballantyne Robert Michael, Everyday Life in the Wilds of North America, Blackwood, Edinburgh 1848

Brightman Robert, Grateful Prey: Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships, University of California Press, 1993

Brown Jennifer H., Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Company Families in Indian Country, UBC Press 1980

Brown Jennifer and Brightman Robert, The Orders of the Dreamed: George Nelson on the Cree and Northern Ojibwa Religion and Myth 1823, University of Manitoba Press 1988

Campey Lucille H., The Silver Chief: Lord Selkirk and the Scottish Pioneers of Belfast, Baldoon and the Red River, Natural Heritage Books, Toronto 2003

Carpenter Jock, Marie Rose Smith, Fifty Dollar Bride: A Chronicle of Métis Life in the 19th Century, Gorman and Gorman, Alberta 1977

Chamberlain Edward J., Horse: How the Horse Has Shaped Civilizations, Knopf Canada 2006

Daniel R., Anderson M., The Métis People of Canada: A History, The Alberta Foundation of Métis Settlement, 1978

Daniels George G, The Canadians, Time Life Books 1077

Dutson Judith, Horse Breeds of North America, Storey Publishing, 2006

Eaton Diane and Urbaner Sheila, Paul Kane’s Great Nor-West, UBC Press 1995

Editors of Time Life Books, Hunters of the Northern Forests, Time Life Books, Virginia 1995

Elliot David R, Adventures in the West: Henry Ross Halpin, Fur Trader and Indian Agent, Dundurn Press 2008

Edwards Elwyn Hartley, Ultimate Horse, Dorling Kindersley 2002

Gireaud Marcel (translated by Woodcock George), The Métis in the Canadian West Volume II, University of Alberta Press 1986

Gnarowski Michael, I Dream of Yesterday and Tomorrow: A Celebration of the James Bay Cree, The Golden Dog Press, The Cree Project, Ottawa 2002

Hill Douglas, The Opening of the Canadian West, Heinemann, London 1967

Hope Lieutenant Colonel and Jackson GN, The Encyclopedia of the Horse, Peerage Books,

London, 1973

Jennings John, The Canoe: A Living Tradition, Firefly Books 2005

Jones David, North American Wildlife, Whitecap Books 1999

Karklins Karlis, Trade Ornament Usage Among the Native Peoples of Canada: A source Book

Kramer Jack, Women of Flowers: A Tribute to Victorian Women Illustrators, Stewart, Tabori and Chang, NY 1996

MacEwan, Memory Meadows: Timeless Horse Stories, Greystone 1997

McLeod Neil, Cree Narrative Memory, Purich Publishing, Saskatoon 2007

Payne Michael, The Most Respectable Place in the Territory: Everyday Life in Hudson’s Bay Service, York Factory 1788-1870, Canadian Parks Service 1989

Poling Jim Snr, The Canoe: An Illustrated History, Key Porter Books, Toronto 2000

Rider Peter E and McNabb Heather, A Kingdom of the Mind: How the Scots Helped Make Canada, McGill-Queens University Press

Silversides Brock, The Face Pullers: Photographing Native Canadians, Fifth House,1994

Siggins Maggie, Marie-Anne: The Extraordinary Life of Louis Riel’s Grandmother, McClelland and Stewart Toronto 2008

Stark Raymond, Guide to Indian Herbs,  Hancock House Publishers BC 1992

Van Kirk Sylvia, Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur Trade Society 1676-1870, Watson and Dwyer Publishing, Manitoba 1980

Ward Donald, The People: A Historical Guide to The First Nations of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Fifth House Publishers, Saskatoon 1995

Video Sources
Quest for the Bay, Monarch Films Inc, Winnipeg

Internet sources by name

A Song for the Horse Nation: Horses in Native American Cultures, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Boreal Forest Library

Canadian Heritage Rivers, Manitoba

Canadian Museum of Civilization, The Métis

Early Canadiana Online 

Empire of the Bay


Hudson Bay Lowlands, Parks Canada

Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site of Canada, Parks Canada

Manitoba Archives

Manitoba Historical Society

River Stories: Canoeing Down the Historical Hayes River

Rupert’s Land Colloquium

The Hackney Horse, Wikepedia

The Hackney Horse Society

The Horse in 19th Century American Sport, The International Museum of the Horse

Regency Horses by Shannon Donnelly

Wilderness Classroom, A Voyageur History

York Factory National Historical Site of Canada


The Horse Road

Again, I began with an idea based on a short passage that I read about an armed battle for horses that took place in Central Asia. The inhabitants of the Ferghana Valley prized their horses so highly that, when an army marched to take them by force, the people brought their herds inside the walled capital city. The army laid siege; food and water ran low. Then the people sent a message out to the army, suggesting a trade of horses for rare silk -- or else, they would kill every horse and fight to their own deaths. What drama! What high status accorded to horses! How could I not want to write a novel about it all – especially as this event resulted in the western portions of the famed Silk Road?

But what breed of horses would they have been? They were probably Persians, also called Turkman/Turkoman, and now known as Akhal-Teke – a rare breed known as ‘the greyhound of horses’, and with a genetic difference in their coat hairs that lends them a metallic sheen. You can read more about the breed here:

And where was this Ferghana Valley anyway?  Turns out it is in the country now called Uzbekistan. This was once the country of the Scythians, a race of tall warriors with women riders and priestesses who were buried with their horses. It is believed by some archeologists these people were the ancestors of the Celts, another ‘people of the horse.’ The Ferghana Valley was ridden through by Alexander the Great on his famous horse Bucephalus, and it’s likely that the fearsome light cavalries of Genghis Khan swept this country too.

The research for The Horse Road took me to a time long ago -- 102 BCE –  to a place that was a rich cultural crossroads; a place where the religions, languages, and horse skills of every compass point met and mingled.  It was exciting to create characters who would inhabit such a diverse world!

Here's a bibliography for my research for The Horse Road

Book Sources

Ahmed S.Z., Chaghatai: The Fabulous Cities and People of the Silk Road, Infinity 2010

Arthus-Bertrand Yann, Horses, Artisan 2008

Avis-Kimball, Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines, Warner Books 2002

Barclay Harold B., The Role of the Horse in Man’s Culture, J.A. Allen London 1980

Belliveau Denis and O’Donnell Francis, In the Footsteps of Marco Polo, Rowman and Littlefield Publishers 2008

Beveridge Annette Susannah, translator, The Baburnama in English (Memoirs of Baburr), London 1921

Bloom Greg, Noble John, Starnes Dean, Central Asia, Lonely Planet (fourth edition) Bradley Mayhew 2007

Bonavia Judy, The Silk Road: Xi’An to Kashgar, Odyssey Books and Guides, Hong Kong 2008

Brent Peter, The Mongol Empire,Wiedfeld and Nicolson London 1976

Brosius Maria, The Persians, Routledge London 2006

Chamberlin Edward J., Horse: How the Horse has Shaped Civilization, Alfred A. Knopf Canada 2006

Colledge Malcolm A.R., The Parthians, Frederick A. Praeger NY 1967

Golden Peter B., Nomads and Sedentary Societies in Medieval Europe, American Historical Association 1998

Grousset Rene, The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia, Rutgers University Press 1970

Harmatta Janos, History of the  Civilizations  of Central Asia, UNESCO, Paris 1996

Hendricks Bonnie Lou, International Encyclopaedia of Horse Breeds, University of Oklahoma Press 1995

Herodotus, The Histories, originally written in 450's BCE

Johns Catherine, Horses: History, Myth, Art, British Museum Press 2006

Kalter Johannes, Pavaloi Margareta, Uzbekistan: Heirs to the Silk Road ,Thames and Hudson 1997

Liu Xinru, The Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Interactions in Eurasia, American Historical Assoc. Washington 1998

McGovern Montgomery William The Early Empires of Central Asia: A Study of the Scythians and the Huns, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Rawlinson George, The Religions of the Ancient World ,Charles Scribner and Son NY 1883

Robbins Christopher, Apples Are from Kazakhstan: the Land that Disappeared, Atlas and Co. New York 2008

Romanova Ekaterina, Danilova Natalia, “Horse in the Arctic Culture Sakha”, Institute of Humanitarian Researches of the Academy of Sciences

Sidky H., The Greek Kingdom of Bactria: From Alexander to Eucratides the Great, University Press of America 2000

Sofia Federoff Alexander, “ On Symbolism of White Colored Animals in Altaic Myths, Legends and Epic” International Journal of Central Asian Studies v.2 1997

Xenophon, The Art of Horsemanship, (Xenophon lived between 430 – 354 BC).

Internet sources

Celestial Horses and the Chinese Civilization by Lin Ying, from China Today 

 Fergana Valley 

The Glories of Sogdiana by Albert E. Dien 

The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom 

Han Emperor Wu-Ti’s Interest in Central Asia 

Heavenly Horses by Kerry Ross Boren 

The Heavenly Horse, The Silk Road, and Two Ambitious Chinese 

Early Nomads of the Altaic Region, State Hermitage Museum Collection

History of the Horse in Chinese Art 

Karakum Akhal-Tekes 

The Oxus Treasures, The British Museum

Parthian Horses – Parthian Archers

Turkoman Horse Origin by L. Firouz

Uzbekistan Today 



Red River Stallion

This book was inspired by a brief account that I read of a real horse, a Norfolk Trotter stallion who crossed the Atlantic Ocean from England to Rupert’s Land (now Canada) on-board a sailing ship. Fireaway was a red roan of over 16 hh and after landing on the shore of Hudson Bay, he was taken in a York boat to the Red River settlement, a colony that the fur trading company, the Hudson’s Bay Company, was establishing for its retirees.  Now this had to be a remarkable stallion! His Atlantic crossing would have taken months, and then he was somehow induced to travel 600 miles by river in a York boat; an open wooden vessel rowed by a crew of men with large oars! I just had to write about this! Norfolk Trotters are extinct now (they had been bred to carry men long distances at a trot, and to pull carriages or coaches.) They are a foundation breed for Hackney Horses and Standardbreds. I just happened to have one of these fellows, Malibu, hanging out in my fields with Chinook!


To order Red River Stallion




To order The Horse Road




Horse Stories:Inspiration and Research.

A story must begin somewhere, like a seepage of spring water from underground that gathers volume and velocity until it is a river in full spate, a torrent of flowing energy.  There is so much excitement for me when I first notice that seepage of ideas from the world into my consciousness; as I feel it gathering momentum and possibility! With my Historical Horse series, the first hint of flow occurred when I started looking for a horse to buy, after decades without horses in my life. I am growing older, I reasoned; I should find a quiet experienced horse of about ten years; and I have always wanted a golden buckskin.  So was this what I found and bought? No! Instead I fell head over heels for a young, green, inexperienced horse who was all black! But, it turned out, a wonderful horse who would inspire me to write horse stories. As a child and teenager, I spent countless hours immersed in the horse books of Marguerite Henry, a woman passionate about horses, and of Elyne Micthell’s romantic Silver Brumby series.

Buying my Trakehner  horse, Chinook, was the catalyst I needed to bring my own horse passion and creativity in alignment. Isn't he handsome?

One of the first things I do at the beginning of a project like this is to create a map so I can visualize where my characters are located, and get the geographic details and distances correct in my story.  Here’s the map showing the journey of Fireaway in his York boat along  600 miles of river, rapids, and rocks! 

Troon Harrison

author & editor