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Old 07-17-2008, 08:44 AM   #1
Icelander's Avatar
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Horses, encumbrance and travelling speed

Until we get a GURPS Bestiary: Horses or at least the long-awaited GURPS Cabaret Chicks on Ice, the rules for horses in BASIC leave certain things to be desired.

Now, S.E. Mortimer's excellent Horse Sense article in Pyramid appears to be a good source of tidbits and lore about the care, feeding and handling of horses.

According to it, a horse can carry a third of its bodyweight for extended periods. I assume that this refers to the limits of what GURPS would call Medium Encumbrance. This number seems right to me and I'll use it as a reference point for the various breeds. A third might perhaps be a trifle too optimistic, with the average being closer to 25-30%, however.

Now, a typical saddle horse can carry a Medium load of 265 lbs., which nicely fits a saddle, tack and pretty much any normal rider; along with any incidental gear he might pack. That's good, but then Campaigns tells us that this normal horse weights 1,200 lbs.
If S.E. Mortimer's rule of thumb has any validity, he's either massively underpowered for his weight or his weight is off. We go with the second option, guessing that a weight of 900 lbs. might be closer to average for a historical rouncy (which the saddle horse undoubtedly is). This also has the happy result of the horse being able to carry just under 30% of his own bodyweight for extended periods, which is historically correct.

The higher number of 1,200 lbs. might be average for a modern horse that stands 16-17 hands tall, but it's not for an average weight for a riding horse for most of history.

A cavalry horse has slightly more ST than a saddle horse, resulting in a Medium load of 290 lbs. That horse, however, is listed as weighting 1,400 lbs. Even near-modern warmbloods used as light cavalry horses at the turn of the century averaged only between 880-1100 lbs. 1400 lbs. is the weight of a heavy draught horse used to pull carts, not a hunter or cavalry horse. We'll call the cavalry horse an average of 1000 lbs., which makes his carrying capacity about 29% of his weight. Acceptable, I suppose.

The 1900 lbs. Heavy Warhorse is far too heavy for any useful military purpose. I note that ST 24 gives it a Medium load of 345 lbs., which would fit nicely with a historical destrier weighting 1200 lbs. and being able to carry nearly 29% of its own weight for extended periods.

Now, I note that none of the horse templates in Campaigns include Lifting ST. Surely, though, riding and draught horses tend to have greater carrying ability than explosive strength? Should one perhaps reduce ST by a level or two and add HP and Lifting ST to the desired level of ST? Or even more than a few levels? How much Striking ST does a destrier have? How about a palfrey?

I'm pondering it, but in the meantime, good (and expensive) horses often have Lifting ST 1-3 points higher than other horses of their type.

Horse travelling speed. If we assume that the BASIC rates are unacceptably high, what rates should we use? Does anyone know if one can use the rules Hiking Distance in High-Tech without changes for horses?

How about FP? Horses are clearly able to run for longer than humans, but the abbreviated stats don't display the difference. How much extra FP should one buy for them?

Are horses often Fit or Very Fit (long recovery times after exhaustion would seem to argue against it)? What modifier should one use for their stats if they are?

Any other thoughts about horses?
Za uspiekh nashevo beznadiozhnovo diela!

Last edited by Icelander; 07-17-2008 at 11:14 AM.
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horses, low-tech

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