Horses have an important role in the ongoing plotline of the Gauntlet Series. When I first came up with the idea of Alyn as a “horse mistress” it seemed somewhat common, so I decided to make her position much rarer than simply a girl who was good with horses. Instead, the fact that she had a horse at all made her immediately special, a fact that was recognized by both protagonists at once. She was also a force to be reckoned with because of it. Once I decided that horses were in very short supply, I had to decide why they were so rare, especially as their usefulness is unquestionable in pre-industrial times. A horse-hoarding country became a necessity.
Horses are in short supply in Brydon’s world, largely because they have been selectively bred and obsessively kept track of in Akarska. The Akarskan founders had little to offer the world by way of trade. Aside from lumber, Akarska has few natural resources and little farmland. They are a self-sustaining people and don’t need much from outsiders, therefore they trade just enough (non-breeding stock) horses to get by. This prevents the rest of the world from forgetting about them entirely, although some places (Tar-Tan) are far more interested than they should be. With that said, the desire for horses is far greater than most Akarskans suspect. Of course they deal with occasional horse-thieves and raiders, but they tend to collectively believe that if they leave the world alone, they will be left alone. In truth, it is geography that keeps Akarska safe from invasion.
Akarska is bordered on three sides by inhospitable terrain. The the east is the volcano-strewn lava fields of Canaar, and to the south is the near-impassable Abyss. The west side is protected by the murky, deadly swamps of Terris, leaving only Falara to the north as a potential threat. With that in mind, Akarska has always remained on good terms with the Falaran leaders, going so far as to supply horses to their resident religious orders, and gifts of an occasional steed or two to the reigning king. Given the rarity of the animals, the ruling class of Falara has never felt it necessary to demand more, in addition to being reluctant to start a war on a second border, given their all-encompassing preoccupation with Redol. Falara’s ongoing war with Redol is Akarska’s greatest hope for continued freedom.
Without dire threat of invasion, Akarsaka has been able to maintain a near monopoly on horseflesh for centuries. Of course, these things tend to change without warning. Shortly after meeting Brydon and Toryn, the three travelers find a group of stray horses–extremely unusual in Akarska–and Brydon acquires Darkling, a black stallion that Alyn is determined to take away from him once they reach the border. Later, Toryn is gifted with a very special steed who plays a pivotal part in more than one chapter of the series, making the horse, Bloodsong, almost a main character rather than a simple draft animal.