Purpose of the Herdercraft

To preserve and improve the many animals who are necessary to human survival on Pern. It is our task to care for them, as by their lives we live. We seek to keep the useful animals of Pern strong and healthy and their bloodlines without taint.

Animal Safety

Animals can be unpredictable - they respond based on instinct rather than reason. Be aware of the animals around you, and make sure that they are aware of you. Treat them with respect, and be aware of each animal's natural defenses and reactions.


The runner beast has over the years been bred for many qualities, not least among which are willingness and honesty. Used for many types of work, each breed has slightly different characteristics. These will be explained in the manual on breeds, however - not here.

Despite our efforts to train and breed completely trustworthy creatures, they are still beasts, and we must be aware of this. Noble beasts, yes - but if we treat them casually or roughly, their instinct can be other than noble.

The ears are the barometer of a runner's mood. When pricked forward, the runner is interested in something - and if it isn't you, be prepared for whatever reaction he might have to whatever he's watching. If the ears are pulled back, it signals annoyance; pinned flat back, anger. Stay out of reach of hooves and teeth. Normally, the ears will be moving back and forth as the runner takes in his surroundings. It usually means that he is keeping track of you and listening to your instructions.

A runner's eyes are situated on the sides of the head - this lets them have a wider view of their surroundings, giving them the ability to spot predators coming from nearly any angle. However, this means that they cannot see the spot directly in front of them, nor directly behind them. If you enter a blind spot, let the runner know where you are.

Runners may startle rather easily, depending on the beast. When they do, their instinct is to run - and if they cannot run, they may panic. When tethering a runner, always use a 'quick release' knot: this is a knot based on a slip knot, such that the rope will not become stuck in its knot if the beast suddenly pulls. The handler may at any time pull on the end of the rope to release the knot, giving the animal his freedom.

Never stand directly in front of a runner, or directly behind him. If the runner startles, you will have very little chance to get out of the way.

Stable Rules

Always keep the feed bins covered and locked. If a runner gets at too much feed, it could mean death.

Take proper care of leather items: if they are allowed to dry out, they become unreliable and dangerous to use.

Keep the aisle clear of all tools and implements, and always store pitchforks and rakes with the tines down. Not only does it prevent injured feet and hooves, the handle hurts when it flies up, the tine shaving been stepped on.

THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE OF THE STABLE: Never allow fire in the stable. If a smith needs to work, there is a forge for that purpose. Hay is a very combustible material, and fire will spread rapidly through the barns.

Care of the Runnerbeast

Sample Daily Routine:

o Check runner for any bumps, bruises, or cuts, especially on the legs. A runner without his feet is useless.
o Feed according to each runner's feeding instructions, then turn runner out to pasture.
o Clean stall and scrub water bucket.

o Exercise first group: Brush and tack up the runner, check hooves for dirt and stones. Jumping should be done no more than four times in a week for each runner.
o On return, check hooves again, wash the sweat off the runner, cool down.
o Groom, then turn out.

o Clean stable area and courtyard, soap and oil the tack.

o Exercise second group: if the day has become hot, make it a relaxing trail ride in the shade.
o Runners should have alternating schedules to keep from souring them to work.
o Same procedure as morning work.

o Bring runners in from pasture and check for injuries.
o Second feed - leave fresh water and hay for the night.

o Last check before bed.

All runners should be turned out on grass for at least an hour every day; however, in extremes of temperature they may be kept inside.

After exercise, make sure a runner is completely cool before leaving him in his stall untended or offering cold water.

Tricks of the Trade

Runners are basically willing beasts, but can be soured or spoiled by a little ignorance. Over the turns, these techniques have been passed down to make our lives a little easier.

1. Be kind and generous, and the beast will perform willingly. However, too many treats will make him greedy and encourage vices. Use food as a reward sparingly - a pat on the shoulder or a kind word will often be just as effective.
2. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it's the rider/handler's fault. Don't immediately blame the runner. Punishing an innocent mistake will only confuse and ultimately sour the runner. However, discipline must be maintained - vices such as biting, kicking, charging, and stepping on feet can lead to serious injury. If a blow is merited, a slap on the muzzle is usually all that is required. However, a harsh word or a threatening posture will often work as well. Never strike an animal on the crown of the head - it can panick him, rather than punish.
3. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
4. The fact that there is a gap between a runner's front and back teeth not only lets us put a bit in his mouth, it gives us a convenient way to get the bit there. The bars of the mouth are sensitive, and putting pressure against them will cause the runner to open his mouth.
5. We generally work from the runner's left side, simply to be consistent. The runner knows what to expect, how to distribute his weight to compensate for our actions when handling or mounting him. The left side is therefore referred to as the 'near' side, the right side the 'off' side.

Apprentice Exam

Take the apprentice through a desc'd barn:

The heady smell of beast fodder and manure prevades the atmosphere. The daylight shines dimly through the 'windows' above each stall, illuminating a vast network of spinners' webs covering the ceiling. One 'stall' is left open, the cleaning 'implements' beside it. A 'runner' is tethered to a ring nearby.

They are covered with slats which turn to let in air and light, or close flat to shut out cold draughts. Right now they are open, directing breezes upwards. They are covered with spinners' webs, but not unusably so.

Some fresh straw has been scattered about, but the dirty bedding has not been removed. While most of the droppings have been picked out, the feel of the bedding is spongey. There are feed and water 'buckets' in the corner.

One has been mostly licked clean save for a few grains left in the bottom. The other is half full of water, with the odd piece of straw and hair floating in it. There are a couple of clear water-level scum-marks on the inside of the bucket.

A wheelbarrow stands against the wall, about two-thirds full of manure and straw. A pitchfork and shovel were leaned against the stall door, though the fork seems to have fallen. If you're not careful, you might step on the tines.

Tied with a simple square knot to a ring mounted on the wall, he stands quietly muching on a pile of fresh hay. He seems to be resting a 'forefoot'.

It needs cleaning. When you get the muck picked out of it, you notice a peculiar odor emanating from the cleft of the frog.

Points to Notice:

1. Spinners should be cleaned away periodically, but not too often - they catch flies.
2. Stable should smell more of feed and hay and fresh straw than manure. The stalls need disinfecting - a sprinkling of lime under the bedding helps.
3. Windows _should_ open up to prevent cold draughts from chilling the runners.
4. The damp straw must be completely removed from the stall, lime sprinkled and the stall re-bedded. This should be done periodically.
5. Water bucket needs scrubbing - the feed bucket is ok, though it too should be scrubbed once in a while.
6. Wheelbarrow should be dumped immediately following use, not left for others.
7. Pitchfork and shovel should be put properly away - but above all, left with the tines facing DOWN.
8. A quick-release knot should always be used when tethering a runner, no matter how quiet he may seem.
9. Thrush in the forefoot. Use antiseptic solution to clean and pack with treated cotton. If the infection is deep, it may require a poultice to draw it out.

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