UNCOVERED: Horse Personalities

UNCOVERED is a series of articles in which I look at aspects of real life horses that are not usually acknowledged by video game representations of horses.

If anyone were to base their perception of horses solely on representation in video games, they would probably be surprised to learn that horses can have such a thing as different characters and personalities.

Two horses playing. Stock Photo by pexels.com

Two horses playing. Stock Photo by pexels.com

It’s easy to see that different breeds and different specimens of equines differ in their stature, their color variations and their stamina, but that is far from all of it.

The horses I have personally interacted with enough to really know their character are relatively few, but even in the handful of animals I’m personally familiar with, there are a lot more different personality traits than in all the digital horses I’ve ever seen combined.

Horses can be relatively smart or pretty dumb. They can be very docile or easily spooked. They can be lazy, or compliant or hyperactive. Some horses are very peaceful and social, others are mean or aggressive - towards their herd, or even towards humans. Some are very playful and exciteable, others less so.

Some of these traits are influenced by their breed, but that does not mean that horses of the same breed will share all their personality traits.

As often, it’s easy to see why this aspect of real life horses is usually left out of video games: it would be incredibly time consuming to include. Interestingly enough, the personality aspect is something not only left out from mounts in AAA games, but also from games focused entirely on horses.

Still I believe that there would be relatively simple ways to acknowledge that not all horses are differently colored copies of each other in a video game. For example:

  • A curious horse could look around in the environment, while a more apathetic horse keeps its head straight

  • A calm horse could show little reaction to loud noises or other potential threats nearby, while a more nervous horse might plant its feet or even turn and run at less provocation

  • Getting close to other horses could provoke some horses to react with hostility and others to let out a friendly whinny

Just how much effort such behaviour is to implement of course depends on the visual and mechanical complexity of the rest of the game. A game could even give the rider a chance to react to these behaviours - or risk the horse endangering itself and the rider because of them.