Anatomy of a Horse

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Buying a Horse

Base Market Prices
Item Cost
Donkey 8 gp
Horse, heavy "Drestrier" 200 gp
Horse, light "Courser" 75 gp
Pony 30 gp
Riding Horse "Palfrey" 80 gp
Warhorse, heavy 400 gp
Warhorse, light 150 gp
Warpony 100 gp
Mule 8 gp

Horse Types

There are three basic types (not breeds) of horses found in a fantasy campaign. Following the real life mold, these types have their specific uses and are not suited to be utility creatures to handle any situation thrown their way. The three basic types of horse are the Palfrey, Courser, and Drestrier.


The Palfrey is an exceedingly light horse with short legs and a long body. These horses are well known for their gentle gait and even tempers. They easily can serve as mounts for women and the elderly without reservation. Due to these qualities, many people seek these animals out as the preferred riding animal for leisure riding. Nobles will often keep several of these horses around for pleasure riding as well as aiding visitors who may not be skilled riders. These horses are seldom trained in the art of warfare. Their gentle natures tend to make them unwilling to tolerate melee combat. Mounted archers sometimes train Palfreys as their steeds to capitalize on the steady gait to minimize interruptions in their aim. A Palfrey can live 30 years with good care.


The Courser is normally referred to as a charger. They are slightly larger than the Palfrey but are much faster. These are the mounts of messengers and riders who enjoy speed. These strong, lean horses are often used in horse races and have been breed for speed above all else. Coursers tend to be more spirited than Palfreys and do not make suitable riding horses for those not skilled or the infirm. When breed and trained for war, the Courser is the typical "light warhorse" seen on the battlefield. Although speed is it's greatest asset, this horse is capable of wearing armor and when properly trained will not shy away from melee combat. A Courser can live up to 30 years with good care.


The Drestrier is typically called simply a Warhorse. These large breeds are uncomfortable to sit on when not in battle so make poor mounts for travel or every day use. Most Drestrier are not trained for battle, instead they utilize their great ponderous size in labor such as pulling wagons and farm use. Because of their great bulk, they make the ideal warhorse for the mounted knight. When trained as a Warhorse, they use their size and bulk as deadly weapons putting their weight behind a charging spear or lance. Although slower than the Courser, these animals make up for that deficiency in their ability to simply bowl over lesser opponents. Skilled riders can make these horses terrors on the battlefield. A Drestrier can live up to 25 years with good care.

In Dungeons and Dragons as well as Pathfinder there are only two classifications of horse, light and heavy. Considering the descriptions of the three basic types of horses, there is one horse not seen in their system. The Palfrey seems to have been left out. In Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition there were three classifications of horse, light, medium, and heavy. In that system it assumed the Palfrey would be trained as a light warhorse. Version 3.5 is more realistic in that it considers the Courser as the light warhorse but it fails to include the Palfrey at all. This convention has carried over to subsequent versions of D&D and Pathfinder. I have adapted the Palfrey into the rules as a simple "Riding Horse" to be included with the other types of mounts available.

Donkeys and Mules are also underrepresented in the documentation for D&D and Pathfinder. A Donkey is a medium sized horse like creature typically with long ears that is similar to the Drestrier in that it is too broad across for comfortable riding but makes a wonderful pack animal with it's surefooted nature. Given proper care a Donkey can live as long as 40 years.

A Mule is a sterile offspring of a male Donkey and a female Drestrier. Breeders raise these hybrids because they are larger than their fathers and capable of carrying much greater loads. Mules also make excellent substitutes for horses for a peasant who needs the muscle but can't afford a heavy horse. Both the Donkey and the Mule will travel into caves and underground complexes without much prompting so are prized by adventuring parties who need to carry large quantities of equipment or treasure. Neither is a comfortable mount but may be ridden in emergencies for short periods of time.A mule with good care can live 30 years.

A Pony and Warpony are basically small Coursers. Typically these animals stand under five feet at the shoulder but are strong enough to support the weight of a rider and equipment. The Pony looks exactly like a miniaturized horse and can be mistaken for a full sized mount at a distance. Some breeds of Pony grow exceedingly long manes that riders braid or otherwise decorate. Warponys are fierce in battle often carrying the smaller races into battle in a miniature cavalry charge. Ponies can live up to 40 years with good care.

All horses and mules are measured at the withers, which is the highest point on the shoulder where the body joins the neck. They are not measured from the head as that moves around too much. The accepted measuring unit for a horse is the "hand" which equals four inches. A horse that is 14 hands tall will be 56 inches at the withers. We are using inches for greater clarity.

Horse Statistics

Pony: 44" to 56"
Mules: 56" to 64"
Palfrey: 62" to 70"
Courser: 64" to 72"
Drestrier: 68" to 76" (rarely 80")

A horse is sexually capable at the age of two. Gestation is 11 months long and mares will generally have their first foal at age three.

The average horse can:
Walk 5 Miles per hour, no fatigue checks. 0.5 mph less for size under average, 0.5 mph more for size over average
Trot 10 Miles per hour, (a courser can trot up to 15 mph) normal fatigue size doesn't matter
Canter 16 Miles per hour, double fatigue size doesn't matter
Gallop 28 Miles per hour, triple fatigue size doesn't matter
Jump 10 Feet horizontal. Drop two feet for each size category over or under large. OR 4 feet vertically. drop 0.5 feet for every size category over or under large
Carry (On it's back) 20% of it's body weight without strain up to a maximum of 250 lbs.
Pull (In proper harness)
Sledge on hard level ground: 50% it's body weight without strain.
Wheeled cart on hard level ground: 150% it's body weight without strain.

Greater amounts or less than ideal conditions risk injury to the horse.

Swim 2 Miles an hour, NO LOAD. A rider can hold on to a swimming horse by the saddle or tail but trying to remain astride will force the horse's head under water. Pack animals must be unloaded to cross water over their heads. Horses stay afloat very well, they do not swim quickly. Hooves make lousy paddles

Horse FAQ