That's right. These critters have "minds" of their own, with their own personalities. Most are reasonably functional, while others are marginal (those that are not good at being domestic are either eaten or escape to the wilds).
While I know this and a few tiny things about horses, I don't know much about their day to day existance. But to add this flavor to the game, horses (other mounts- say Dragons- and important pets) became minor NPCs.
Horses as NPCs can literally double the number of characters you have to keep track of as a GM. This can be a little daunting. So, if you want to have spirited horses, use troupe styled play for the horses. Other players are assigned other player's horses to play (the limit on this is that you can not run the horse of the person running your horse). Most of the time, there will be little "horse roleplay". Every now and again, the horses will "act uppity" (mostly because the players are bored).
To keep this from being abused, tie "horse play" to standard rewards for each player's main character. The quality a players Horse RP becomes a minor modifier to the experience reward for the player's main character (+/- 10% in our case).
This rule made buying a horse a careful decision it is in the real world, rather than the "off the equipment list" sort of purchase it is normally. Players begin to carefully evaluate the mounts after this, to make sure they have compatable personalities and acceptable disads.
(We gave horses extra disadvaantages, like characters, and they used those points to buy extra abilities. So you can have a stronger, faster, smarter horse, but it might be a bit too quirky to be handled except by an expert rider (and even then it might be an issue) ). Go to Comment
One of the funny things about horses is when you find one of the hard to handle horses, they are generally some of the better horses you can find, being stronger, more dynamic, and self confident. An easy riding horse isn't the sort you want to take into battle, or any other strenuous activity say beyond a casual trail ride, or for the kids to play with.
As for flopping around, the best way to see a horse do that is to spend a few hours washing them, shampooing their mane and tail, and generally working your butt off to make the animal smell good and look great (assuming you have a good looking horse to begin with) The first thing they will do, when given a chance is to go roll in either mud, or dirt.
If you have a white horse, this is where it gets fun, they can get grass stains on their white spots / or body. My, what a green horse you have sir knight...where did you rest last? the pasture? Plus, as Murphy's Law dictates, your glistening white steed is going to get as dirty as possible, in as little as time possible. This comes mostly from listening to my wife talk about getting her horses ready to go to competition.
I really like the idea of giving horses attributes, but I wouldn't go into great detail myself. I might stick with a giving them a few attribute points, and maybe some flaws if they need them.
Example: Fritz, a large black warhorse
Adv. - Endurance
Adv. - Doesn't Spook
Flaw - Likes to bite
Flaw - Aggressive
I gues one thing I would have to point out is that horses are first and foremost social animals, they hate to be alone. This comes from the fact that they are prey animals, instead of predators. With this in mind, their instictive reaction to stimulus is to seek out other horses, and run away. Go to Comment
Or when your valiant steed takes a nosedive through a fence.
Being a horse is a dangerous business, if you stay around horses long enough they will let you know just how scary the world really is. As a large grazing animal that relies on flight to avoid predators, horse tend to be on the flighty side. Some of their favorite games include the long time favorite 'Shy at Familiar Objects' which involves a horse being spooked by a very ordinary object, often even an object that they have seen time and time again. In a game this can translate into the horse giving a start and squeal when something about the gate out of the barn seems very scary. It can also be good, albeit safe, way to remind the characters that their mounts are indeed living animals that all to often develop a mind of their own.
Another fun horse game is "Stick My Nose Where It Doesnt Belong." This game is characterized by scuff marks and cuts and scrapes generally on the horse's head and face. They are very curious animals and are capable of removing simple gates, operating simple mechanical levers and the like. While I don't intend for anyone to try to get their horse the Pick Locks skill, a smart horse can take a gate off of its hinges without breaking anything. This is assuming that the gate is sitting freely in an attached hinge, which isnt all that uncommon today.
Its all fun and games until someone gets hurt. Horses generally tend to have thick skin and are fairly tough when it comes to getting bruised up and scraped. but when they get hurt enough to tear through the skin and into the muscle, that's when things get iffy. Such injuries swell and become feverish to the touch, and a horse with a swollen knee or hock is going to make for a slow and uncomfortable ride. Riding an injured horse can easily make certain injuries even worse to the point of laming the horse where it can no longer bear a burden on its back. These wounds are the most severe when they are on the the legs or joints of the horse.
Basic first aid, along with letting the animal walk without a heavy burden, like a rider, is the best course of action. Blood flow is vital in the health of the animal so tightly binding a wound can be as much of a problem as the injury itself. Horses are resilient and can come back from signifigant injury. The racehorse Cigar was caught in a wire fence as a yearling and flayed his shoulder muscle off of his shoulder and down into the chest. He had several pounds of hanging bloody meat and a useless leg. After some excellent veterinary care the leg and shoulder were restored and the thoroughbred went on to win over 1 million dollars racing.
Horses fall down. It can be because of mud, bad footing or the like. When a horse encounters treacherous footing feel free to make a balance check for the horse, modified for the weight of the rider and all of his munchkin crap as well. All of these make the animal more top heavy. Getting pinned under a fallen horse is a heart-stopping event that can frighten even the most accomplished rider. (which I am not) The potential for horse and rider to be injured in such a fall is quite real. Take into account the horse's speed when doing the check, a fully barded warhorse, bearing a valiant knight in armor while trying to cut a turn from a full gallop while running across mud splattered cobblestone can result in a thrown rider and alot of beat up armor, and possible an animal with a broken leg. Keep this in mind during those gritty fight and flight scenes Go to Comment
I do like the old forum posts, yes I do. In my opinion it would not hurt with some more landmarks to follow. Bold headers. But beside that nitpick this really is a good and USEFUL thread. Go to Comment
When I wrote my game Fantasy Imperium, I discovered that horses aren't very detailed in most games.
I like the comments above about horses that have a mind of their own. You could incorporate this into your stories by thinking of the horse as another character.
How many players know the names of thier horse?
What i've discovered about horses is that there are many kinds of horses and each have their own perculiarities.
Every breed of horse will have a different set of gaits.
Walk, trot, canter, gallop, are some of these.
Gaits are the different way in which a horse moves. These determine how fast the horse is moving and how well balanced he is.
The natural gaits are walk, trot and gallop. Other types of gaits are inherited by the particular breed of horse or can be trained.
A horse that has been trained to employ certain kinds of gaits will move more efficiently and will give less fatigue to the rider and horse alike.
Suddenly stopping a horse may require a riding skill check.
When using a particular gait, it could bounce the rider around more, and this will affect his ability in combat too.
Horses do not move backward normally, but can be trained to do so.
A special type of gait called, Ambling Gait, has been used for centuries to lessen the rider and horse fatigue over long distances. War horses don't usually have this type of gait.
So when traveling, a knight will not ride his war horse. This expensive horse is trained for combat and could be ruined by simple travel. A knight would probably have a riding horse, and a squire would also ride along to lead the knight's warhorse and to take care of him.
Another thing to consider is that if you get on a horse that has been ridden by someone else, you can notice it, because it will affect the horses movement.
If you try to ride a very good quality horse, but don't have much riding skill, it could ruin the horse. Conversely, if you try to use your excellent riding skill on a poor quality horse, it wont work so well.
I would add that horses take an enormous, just enormous amount of time and care, in addition to the food you mentioned. My sister-in-law has time for nothing else outside of her job, as well as my niece. Both horse nuts. They spend approximately $5000 US per year per horse, and it's only that cheap because they do all the work besides the medical stuff themselves.
My niece's Percheron (a big draft horse) is an eating machine. It weighs over 1200 pounds. My sister-in-law's Arabian, a racing horse, eats only half as much. The monster horse is docile and easy to ride. The little Arabian will kill you to go full tilt if it can get away with it.
Interestingly, both are now trained in dressage, and can perform fancy moves that are unbelievable. Especially the Percheron. It is the "darling" of the spectators when it shows up to compete, especially with the teenage girl on its enormous back.
I have also watched rodeo horses that seem to think faster than their riders when roping steer or calves. It is amazing to see these quarterhorses "cut" a huge, heavy, and angry bull from a herd of cattle, hold it independently while the rider dismounts and runs up to rope the furious critter, then slack off when the cowboy signals. Fantastic cooperation between man and animal. Go to Comment
Good idea, I'll add just a little information on my family's real horse, maybe that will be helpful:
His name is Fatboy(well, now it is, he used to be called Bugle Trill) and he is a retired race horse with bad ankles. He eats too much and had to go on a diet and wear boots(for his ankles) once. He will run around our back yard, but refuses to be ridden, when someone attemps to ride him he will take them to the nearest tree and try to knock them off of him. Now, why isn't anyone's noble steed like him? Go to Comment