The valiant knight leaps upon his steed who rears back in a majestic half circle, only pausing long enough to get his feet under him before thundering away to face unknown perils and evil....
Too bad horses aren't like motorcycles with legs and an appetite for hay.
Fantasy gaming is ripe with many misconceptions about the noble animal we name the Horse. The most gratuitous of these is that a horse is just like a machine, needing fuel and a place to keep it safe from being stolen, ready to ride at a moments notice, always at a gallop. The purpose of this article is to try and bring some information to make role playing horses more accurate, authentic, and hopefully more fun to play and interact with. To a rider, his or her horse is going to be as important to him or her as a familiar is important to a wizard or sorcerer.
A Mind to Eat
A horse has a large stomach and as a herbivore, he likes to keep his stomach filled. Horses consume a mixture of grain feed and forage such as hay and alfalfa. This is one area where the onagers, such as zebras and donkeys, differ as they do not require more expensive grain to supplement their diet. Denied either side of the diet and a horse becomes sickly, without grain the horse looses muscle mass and strength, while without fodder the digestive tract doesn't work properly and the horse becomes sick.
A Beautiful Mind
Unlike motorcycles, horses have a mind and will of their own, even if most of the time it is subservient to their rider. A hungry horse will find something to eat, even if it means jumping fences to get into greener pastures, tearing open grain sacks or the like. Horses have demeanors just like people do, some are bossy, aggressive, cowardly, too smart, or just plain stupid. Unlike people, horses don't make much of an effort to hide their nature, an aggressive horse looks arrogant and ready to fight, while a cowardly horse will step timidly, ears always peaked listening for the first scrapping sound of danger.
Daily Grooming Equipment
Curry or Currycomb: A tool with short "teeth" on one side, that slides onto the hand of the groom. It is usually the first tool used in daily grooming. The horse is rubbed or "curried" in a circular motion, which helps to loosen dirt, hair, and other detritus, plus stimulate the skin to produce natural oils. The curry comb is usually used in a circular motion to work loose embedded material. Curries are generally too harsh to be used on the legs or head.
Metal currycomb: a currycomb made of metal, with a handle. They are designed for use on show cattle. There is no reason for a horse owner to buy one. However, some barns have them sitting around and use them for cleaning out softer-bristled brushes. For removing mud and winter hair, as well as for cleaning brushes, a shedding blade (see below) is preferable to a metal curry, and a shedding blade can also do double duty for cleaning out other brushes.
Dandy brush or Hard brush: A stiff-bristled brush is used to remove the dirt, hair and other material stirred up by the curry. Brushes are used in the direction of the horse's hair coat growth, usually in short strokes from front to back, except at the flanks, where the hair grows in a different pattern. The best quality dandy brushes are made of stiff natural bristles such as rice stems, though they wear out quickly. Dandy brushes can usually be used on the legs, but many horses object to a stiff brush being used on the head. Some dandy brushes do double duty as a *Water Brush, dampened in water and used to wet down the mane and tail.
Body brush or Soft brush: A soft-bristled brush removes finer particles and dust, adds a shine to the coat and is soothing to the horse. A body brush can be used on the head, being careful to avoid the horse's eyes.
Grooming rag or towel, also called a Stable Rubber: A terrycloth towel or other type of cloth can be used to give a final polish to a horse's coat and is also used after riding to help remove sweat.
Mane brush or comb: Horses with short, pulled manes have their manes combed with a wide-toothed comb. Horse tails and long manes are brushed with either a dandy brush or a suitable human hairbrush. Most agree that it is best pick out the tail, and long manes, by hand. The mane comb is also used when pulling the mane.
Hoof pick: A hooked tool, usually of metal, used to clean the hooves of a horse. Some designs include a small, very stiff brush for removing additional mud or dirt. All four feet of the horse need to be cleaned out before riding.
Shedding blade: In special weather conditions, a metal shedding blade with short, dull teeth is used to remove loose winter hair. A shedding blade is also useful for removing caked-on mud. However, grooming tools with metal teeth can split and dull the horse's hair coat and may irritate the skin, so must be used with appropriate care.
Bot knife: used to remove bottfly eggs from the horse, which are usually laid on the legs or shoulder. Bot eggs are yellow and roughly the size of a grain of sand, they are clearly visible on dark hair, harder to spot on white hair. A small pumice stone is also commonly used for the same purpose.
Scissors or Clippers: Sometimes, though not always, horses are clipped with scissors to remove or shorten unwanted hair. Left untrimmed, horses can and do grow whiskers around their mouths.
The most common part of feeding time is turning a horse out into a pasture or other forage area where they can graze on grass. This can be a grand as a fenced pasture or as simple as tying the animal off on a long enough leash that he can walk around a small area, eating the grass present. Feeding Time proper is generally doled out in feed backs when in the field, scoops of grain to keep up the animal's strength.
Neglecting Basic Care
This can be glossed over most of the time, unless it seems likely a group is not taking proper care of their animals. A malnourished horse will be thin and sickly, an unbrushed one will have it's mane and tail matted with knots and burrs. Neglect of the feet can have dire consequences, a thrown shoe impacts the overland speed of the horse, damage to the hoof can leave a horse lame and unrideable.
Basic Equipment for your horse.
Riding a horse generally requires a large amount of equipment, as few riders have the courage, or the skill to ride a horse bareback. This equipment list is going to try to follow the english style of riding since it is closer to the old style than western.
Bit and Bridle
The most important piece of tack is the bridle. This is the contraption that holds the bit in the horse's mouth, and the reins. Without a bridle, the rider has little control over the horse directly. With some animals, that can be a very dangerous thing. My wife will occasionally ride her horse bareback, but she has owned her horse more than a decade, so they have had a lot of time together. A few words about the bit, they can range from items resembling torture devices (though these are very rarely if ever used now) to very horse friendly items. When a horse is wearing a bit, they can still drink, and eat, but it is very messy. Also they will sometimes drool, and froth around the bit. A strong headed horse can put his head down, and get the bit in his teeth. This takes the bit off of the gums and puts the animal in control. A horse who has taken the bit can ignore his reader with impunity, running, jumping, and generally being a hazard to his rider.
If you are wearing white, a drooling horse will have to rub his face on you, leaving green drooly horse kisses, generally on your shoulder, or back.
The Saddle's the thing
The saddle comes next. There are three types of basic saddle, the English, Western, and Medieval. The English saddle is the smallest and most basic of the three, and is generally used in eventing, endurance and cross-country, and dressage. Eventing is a three day affair of jumps, crossing water, and following precise routines, and is as demanding as figure skating for accuracy. Dressage is even more demanding, and strongly resembles technical ice skating crossed with a parade. Plus they get to wear the jodhpurs, pants that flare out at the hips, and taper off in the legs.
The English saddle is primarily a small seat, and side panels with stirrups. There is a girth that secures the saddle to the horse. The English, being small, is easy on the horse and would facilitate easy riding for many hours if need be, but should still be taken off when the horse is being walked, or rested. If not completely removed, the girth should be loosened. A note on a loose girth, if the girth loosens while someone is riding, they can slowly start tipping to the side as the saddle moves. This can be the acme of situational humor as the rider starts throwing their rear to one side in the hope of getting the saddle to slide the other way. Or...the saddle can come off in the blink of an eye, leaving the rider surprised and on the ground.
The western saddle has a prominent horn that is absent from all other saddles. The horn is used for roping wild horses, and errant cattle, and uses the strength of the horse and girth to hold a struggling animal. The Western is also larger, but spreads the rider's weight out better across the animal. This is good for long distance movement that doesn't involve a lot of running, or jumping. A western saddle will also generally come with, or have room for saddle bags, something the English most certainly does not.
The War Saddle
The medieval saddle is the largest of the three. It has a high raised back, or cantle and a well raised pommel, or front. These were intended to keep the rider on the horse as stirrups were not yet in wide use. It was similar to having bucket seats on a horse. Once stirrups were introduced by the Mongols, the cantle and pommel were reduced in size, and the medieval saddle would eventually give way to the English, and the campaign saddle. The medieval saddle was still used, albeit with stirrups, for jousting, as the high back was good about keeping a rider on his horse in spite of the strike of a lance against his armor, or shield.
The Campaign Saddle
Not really a type on it's own, the campaign saddle is still around today, and in use by the militaries of the world. While functional military horse cavalry is a thing of the past, police on horseback have demonstrated the value of the size and presence of the horse for crowd control. Horses can also work in places that are too small and confined for large automobiles. The campaign saddle is built to be light, but still carry saddle bags, and other needs. It will also have a sheath for a weapon, with modern saddles having a rifle sheath. A more fantasy flavored saddle could have loops for swords and other weapons.
In older times, it was considered improper for a lady to sit with her legs astride a a horse. A proper method for riding was a saddle that accommodated a woman sitting sideways on the horse, her legs over one side and her upper body twisted to face forward. A side saddle can only be sat in from one direction, and for anything other than a casual ride, requires more skill to use and stay seated in than a regular saddle.
Quick fun fact, most horses can sleep standing up, and will only lay down for an hour or two during a day. This is a vulnerable position, so they will only do it if they feel absolutely safe. A smart group might be able to use it to their advantage.
Horse Types and Breeds
There are well over 100 different breeds of horse, but perhaps less than a dozen of those are well known outside of horse circles. In terms of generic horses, I will try to parse the list of breeds down into something manageable for casual game use. Horses are divided into hot blooded, and cold blooded horses. Mind you, this really has nothing to do with blood temperature, as being mammals all horses are warm-blooded.
A Hot-blooded horse breed has thinner skin, fine bones, and comes from a hot, desert climate. The Arabian is the penultimate hot-blooded horse. On a side not, there is not a horse breed alive, save for the oddballs, that do not have some infusion of arabian blood somewhere in their lineage. Hot blooded horses have bad tempers, are flighty, and can be dangerous to their riders and those around them.
A cold-blooded horse is the common term for the indigenous horses of old Europe. The Shire, Clydesdale, and all other draft horses are termed cold blooded. Cold blooded horses tend to be thinker skinned with considerably larger feet, and much more profuse body hair. In the winter, these breeds are hairy enough to be called cave horses. Cold blooded horses are remarkably gentle, and even tempered, though, they can be pissed off just like any other creature.
A popular trend since the 1900's is crossing hots and cold producing the Warmblood. It is a combination of the good points of both types, but the outcomes of such breeding can be ambiguous sometimes. Later on I will compare the horse types to cars for ease of understanding, and in this sense, the warmblood is like having an SUV without that damn roll-over problem, well at least until they are washed.
A note of horse breed names, almost every horse breed name is a reference to where the breed originated, or the location of it's most prominent population. Arabians are from Arabia, Shetland Ponies are from the Shetland islands, and the Percheron drafter is from LePerche, France. This could be placed into a game setting by placing a certain generic horse type in a city and naming the new 'breed' after the city.
For a more in depth look at creating fictional horse breeds, please see 30 Horses.
Carriage Breed - These horses have been around longer than horses have been ridden. The first horses were used to pull chariots or wagons. Carriage horses will often be bred for strong conformation (fitting a certain set of physical parameters) as well as even temper, endurance, and having a clean, efficient gate (horse term for walk/trot/canter/gallop) These can range from charioteering horses to animals for pulling personal coaches and carriages. Nobility will most certainly have these animals, and they would be the same thing as owning an expensive luxury car. Another thing to note, each type of conveyance can conceivably have it's own pertinent pulling breed. It would be unseeming to have a chariot carriage horse pulling a lord's personal carriage, or vice versa.
Sport Horse Breed The sport horse breed has been bred for the purpose of racing, eventing, and other forms of athletic demonstration and entertainment. The Thoroughbred was created for the sole purpose of racing. There are dozens of breeds that fall into this category, the hunting horse, the jumper, and others. These horses are the equivalent of sports cars, fast, temperamental, and usually spoiled. My wife has a TB, and that animal is a handful and a half. Owning a sport horse means you'll never be without at least one worry in your life.
The Light Horse This is a very common horse, just watch a western. The pinto, paint, appaloosa, andalusian, these are all light horses. They are fast, but have endurance over a long distance and are feisty enough to not be intimidated, but not as fiery and obnoxious as other 'hot' horses. It is conceivable for every geographical region to have it's own light horse breed, some can be named for their region (Andalusian, Lusitano) or they can be named for their color (Pinto, Paint, Palomino, those are blonde horses) The car equivalent of the light horse is the regular car. There are variations, but all fall within an average ability of one another.
The Medium Horse The medium horse breed is a working breed, often pulling trade wagons, and carts, but not the large carts, that is the venue of the drafter, and the medium horse is still not a drafter. These are also often used as war horses, as they can be controlled, but are larger and stronger than light horses. They are also well suited to barding. Many of the warmblood horses would be classified as medium horses. They are like the average full size pickup truck.
The Heavy Horse The heavy horse is always a cold blooded drafter. They have massive feet, and thickly muscled bodies well suited to the rigors of pulling heavy loads long distances. The main drawback to the drafter is they eat, and eat, and eat. They make poor mounts as their backs do not support weight well, and to ride a draft horse is like trying to put a saddle on a refrigerator. That is a large, and uncomfortable ride. Heavy horses pull large wagons, and the largest of carriages. The King of England retains a horse drawn carriage that tips the scales at a whopping 3 tons. This does blur the line between carriage breed and heavy breed, but none of the lines in horse breed are 100% distinct. This is the equivalent of the large moving trucks, and semi-trucks of the highway.
The Pony This horse breed is always less than 14 hands (1 hand = 4 inches) at the withers (shoulder) They are much more hardy than larger horses, and can live twice as long. Surefooted, and strong for their size, ponies have been used in industries such as mining for centuries, pulling mine carts, pulling logs for loggers and the like. They make poor mounts as they are really not large enough to ride comfortably, unless you like constantly picking up your feet to avoid things. Ponies are really neither hot, or clod blooded, and are similar to compact cars, or light tractors
The Onager Donkeys, zebras and tarpans are all onagers, or primitive horses. They can subsist on grass alone where other horses and ponies require a steady supply of grain in their diets, and can also withstand more heat, and dryness. They are also very well known for being dour, and stubborn. Dwarf with hooves? Not much common use outside of desert areas, and then only as beasts of burden. Horse + Donkey = Mule, mules are infertile/barren.
The Stock Horse: The stock horse has much in common with the Light Horse, but there are a few differences. The stock horse is the product of local breeding, but not to the extent that a breed can be recognized. Some modern horse breeds are less than 100 years old, such as the Trakainer, while breeds such as the Barb, and the Andalusian are thousands of years old. Stock horses are 'generic' and while they most likely fall into the light horse class they are the horse equivalent of a mongrel, or mutt dog. Conformation is generally very poor, despite the actual attributes of the animal. These horses can be strong and surefooted, flighty or bad tempered, but will lack the defined arched neck of the Morgan breed, or the distinctive white feathering of the Clydesdale, or the dramatic color pattern of the Blanket Appaloosa. This is the cheap car from the corner car lot, either a real lemon, or a real trouper.
Conformation is the overall shape of a horse and is variable between breeds in details such as average height and weight, overall build, refinement of head, etc, but to remain sound, all breeds must have the same basic correct conformation. A well-conformed horse of any breed has a look of balance and squareness, and an imaginary plumb line should equally bisect any limb all the way to the ground. The neck, body and hindquarter must all be in proportion.
Back at the knee
The knees of the front legs extend backwards past the line of the fetlock and shoulder.
knee joint is shallow from front to back. Poor action in the joint.
hocks (back leg 'knee' joint) turn inwards when viewed from behind. Knock-kneed
Neck is concave on the top, and convex on the bottom, a thick and droopy neck.
horse has an upward slope from the front to the back of the belly. Looks like a greyhound. May have cholic and digestive problems.
Over at the Knee
Horse has knee joints that protrude forward. Knobby knees.
Toes turn inwards. Poor action, possibly much easier to injure legs, joints
Spine has exaggerated upward curve, really unpleasant ride, later on, back problems
horse's ribs are flat, as opposed to being rounded outwards, or 'well sprung'
Splay Footed Toes
turn outwards, horse has very sloppy walk.
Horse has exaggerated downward curve in spine. Looks broken down, despite age or condition
Colors and Markings
Included for the sake of completeness, horses come in colors other than black, white, and brown. Facial markings are also included as their terminology is not quite as obvious as one would first think.
Colors flown proud
A mixture of black and white hairs throughout. Coat varies from light to iron grey. Skin is black. (BTW, I absolutely Love greys)
Grey coat flecked with brown specks
Grey Light grey base coat with dark grey spots or rings.
Reddish coat with black mane, tail, and points (limbs, see socks). Coat color may range from red to brown or yellowish.
Lady, my wife's horse is a blood bay, meaning she is a vivid red, or auburn color with a black mane, tail, and has three white socks. Her right front leg is solid bay in color. She also has a white star on her face, and a coronal scar on her right eye. Chestnut
Varies from a pale golden color to a rich red gold. The mane and tale may be lighter, or darker than the base coat.
The darkest shade of chestnut.
a light red chestnut
A mixture of black and brown hairs with black points, mane, and tail. A very dark brown horse may appear black
Any body color with white body hairs interspersed. Overall lightens the color of the horse.
Chestnut body color with white hairs, giving the horse a pinkish tinge
Black or dark brown horse with white hairs giving a blue tinge
Light sandy colored coat with black mane and tail, often accompanied by a dark dorsal stripe extending from the line of the neck to the tail, and sometimes by stripes, or bars on the withers and legs. These are considered primitive markings. Dun can vary from yellow to a buckskin/mouse color. The skin is black
Gold coat with white mane and tail
Small, more or less circular patches of hair a different color from the main body color. Sometimes called Leopard Spots if the spots are small and in profuse number
Large irregular patches of black and white
Large irregular patches of white, and any other color, except black
Cream colored coat with unpigmented skin. Also called Cremello
Brown or grey streaked or patched with a darker color
Horse has small spot, or splash of white in the center of the face, usually near the top of the head, between eyes.
Thin vertical stripe of white running from the position of the star, down to the nose.
Star located on the nose, or muzzle of the horse. Uncommon from the horses I've seen.
Snip, star, and a separate bar between the two.
Wide white stripe extending from the top of the face down to the muzzle. Blazes are common.
Face Horse has a solid white face
generally a horse with white, or black feet or legs and a coat of a different color. Socks can range from coronets that are little more than a white ring around the top of the hoof to High socks that cover the majority of the leg.
(I will probably chime in occassionally. We owned a horse for a few years while we lived in Spain and it was a riot. Brings back some fond memories.)
Some horses will also lay on the ground and flop around itching their back after a nice long ride. It is a sight to behold when a horse gallops and jumps around in excited freedom after a good ride and then lays itself on the ground, rolls onto its back flopping his feet over to one side and back, just like a dog would to do to itch a hard to reach place.
That could be embarassing for a stoic professional that has a reputation to uphold. He unsaddles his horse in town after a long ride, a couple of people are eyeing him as he drops his horse at the stables. As the groom takes off the bridle and saddle the horse busts away to the small corral and proceeds to flop around like a fish.
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) ).
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.
Can you imagine my fingers itching for creating a generator for authentic horse personalities?
But this is better left to the imagination of players and GMs. (There are already a few interesting quirks, will we create a list of them?) One case, when a horse (dog, or any pet) clearly must have personality of its own, are One player campaigns.
I've heard an old story of a preacher, that had the horse of some heavy drunkard. So whenever they passed a bar, the preacher had to enter it, at least for a moment, or the horse would not continue. Soon gossip started to spread, and the poor honest man really ended up as an alcoholic!
But if there are adventurers, what if some notorious adventure-seeker's horse has a bit of supernatural sense, and can feel dungeons, and other 'adventure-worthy' locales, if coming near to them. While this may seem as an excellent plot hook, the characters may not appreciate it, if they must enter every little hole, finding usually nothing, sometimes murderous enviroments...
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
Thanks, Scraz, that was useful and interesting.
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.
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? Responses (21)-22
Excellent, looking forward to this. One of the most memorable players I gamed with had a horse with a major attitude. It was the most stubborn thing imagineable, but he and his horse had an understanding. Probably not the greatest thing in real life, but made excellent fun in the game, whenever the horse was being really stubborn a stern fist on the nose would knock some sense into the horse for a bit. But then the horse would always get back by dragging him against a tree, low hanging branch to stopping suddenly from a gallop and flinging him. It was great fun to see what he and his horse would come up with next. Basically always doing pranks on each other.
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.
Just a few thoughts.
Since I made Scras do this thread, I should vote on it.
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?
BUMP! An excellent resource on this topic.
the only thing I didnt see, was a zorse :) Everything else seems covered! Thumbs up!
A wealth of information!
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.
Ummm. Mike. This wasn't a forum post. It is a V2.0 native.
Awesome. With a little reorg could be a Golden Nominee in my book.
Updated: Reformatted and edited to make the submission more cohesive.
Not to forget: there is a horse generator out there: http://www.strolen.com/random.php?page=horses
This is a special kind of awesome.
Excellent. Resourceful and detailed. I haven't seen many other articles on horses like this, and most are not so good.
I'm 6'5' and the first horse I rode was 15 1/2 hands w/an English saddle, felt too small. I started off at a trot, but did not realize that I was so nervous, I began to squeeze my legs together, which to horse meant, 'Oh, you want to go faster? Sure!' Off he went. I guess I also lifted my butt up and arced slightly forward, which I was told was correct by the owner. She kept asking if I was sure if I'd never ridden before, that I was a natural. That was hilarious to me at the time, because it sure as hell didn't feel like it. :) Lucky I got an even tempered horse.
This is a top of the line submission, but I believe the reason most people don't RP their horses is because the game is about the player characters - not their horses. It's the same logic as why many DMs just assume a spellcaster has all the components they need in their pouch, no one wants to keep track of those details. Gaming is about fun and adventure, not record keeping and minutae and unless you have a serious love of horses the very large equipment list needed is nothing but minutae. I was hoping the article could provide some more insight into how to incorporate those details without it being distracting or droll.
Great write up, so glad it is here, a lot of the stuff on the site is not the necessary kind, but the nice to have around if you need it kind of stuff.
Normally for non-fiction stuff it would be nice to have some references, but I am just going to cite this as a primary source.