Author's note: I just spent hours researching equine physiology, biology and psychology on websites I never thought I'd ever visit. You better be grateful.
While there isn't much by way of official information on Red Dead Redemption 2 out in the wild, I believe it is safe to say that horses will be present, and we can all agree that horses will be quite important in RDR2, what with being the primary form of transportation and all. So, when we hop onto Red Dead Online to ride the rolling plains of wherever the game will be set, chances are we'll want to own our own horse.
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But the question arises, what will make my horse different from everyone else's, and more importantly, what will make it better than everyone else's? A horse isn't a car, it can't just be customized like in GTA Online. You can't strap a spoiler to the ass of a mare and hope it will run faster. You can't buy a bulletproof tire upgrade to prevent its feet from being shot out, and you sure as hell can't paint the poor thing chrome and buy dollar-sign rims to advertise the fact that you're a douche.
So what is it that we can do with horses? As a matter of fact, there's quite a lot that goes into the performance of a horse. So be a rest - Rockstar is guaranteed to have done their homework on the matter and you can rest assured that tricking out your four-legged companion to boost their performance at Red Dead Online's horse races will be possible (we think). If we'll truly get a set of customization options, it's likely the factors below will be what you can tweak to help your steed reach the height of equine excellence.
Horseshoes are more than just U-shaped bits of metal with which to play a game provided you possess a stick as well. A good horseshoe will not only protect the hooves of your steed but can provide traction too. Like cars, horses too can slip up in mud or on wet stone, but a well-made horseshoe can help in that regard.
Now, depending on whether a horse-to-horse melee system will be implemented, allowing you to kick your fellow man off their mount, applying horseshoes with a violent twist can increase the damage caused when the creature lands a lucky blow in the face of an opponent. Players will likely be able to buy various horseshoes - with chrome and gold variants undoubtedly among them - and equip them on their beast of burden.
While leather seats in a car look good, saddles on horses are an essential way of boosting performance. Naturally, not the saddle itself, but the fitting. Without a saddle the player will likely be tossed off the beast when it rears, however just any saddle won't do. A poorly fitted saddle will not only irritate the creature but due to the shape of a horse spine, it could lead to serious injury.
See, right behind the neck of a horse, their spine slightly arches upwards. If weight is placed on the horse, that section of the spine will arch even more, and the higher it goes, the more likely the horse will suffer from spasms and cramps. An ill fitted saddle can worsen the situation directing weight to weak areas.
While fuel isn't something you need to worry about in GTA 5, with the more limited range of customization options available for horses, Rockstar might need to tap everything conceivable. You can't just feed any edible junk to the poor creature and expect it to run at peak performance. Horse feed could be bought by way of a subscription, meaning a given amount would be periodically deducted from the player's purse. The higher quality the feed, the better the horse will perform.
A whole host of factors are crucial to the performance of a steed. The musculature, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the skeletal structure all factor in. The lungs must provide enough oxygen, the blood must be able to carry that oxygen where it is needed, the bones must be able to take the punishment and the nervous system must be up to snuff in order to keep it all coordinated.
Now, these aren't things you could exactly "customize" back in the day, nor is it something you can customize today in any humane way. However, these could comprise the stats of the various available horses that players could purchase for their ranch. Naturally, a cheap donkey won't have the same kind of prime muscles and bones as a premium mustang.
Mane & Tail
Like the paint job of a car, the color of the creature won't affect the performance, but it's a way of making it truly yours. Visual customization options could include the color of the mane itself, pattern, hide and shine, as well as various accessories. You won't be pimping a ride that's for sure, but you'll be able to leave a little personal touch on your trusty animal companion. Same goes for the tail.
Whatever the customization options for our horses in Red Dead Redemption 2 turn out to be, these are a few items for starters as to what we might expect. Of course we'll find out for sure with time, once Rockstar chooses to release a few crumbs of information. Or if that fails, when the game is finally released in autumn.