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Old 03-03-2014, 08:46 AM   #1
Icelander
 
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Default Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

In GURPS terms, what are useful benchmarks for skills and task difficulty modifiers for driving a herd of horses?

How many horses can a single wrangler manage on his own?

At what rate do penalties to his Animal Handling skill accumulate for exceeding that?

Are ten wranglers with a remuda of a hundred horses suffering any penalties to their Animal Handling skill?

How many of the people driving a herd need to be experienced wranglers, with Riding and Animal Handling for equines at 14+ and how many can be of lesser skill?

What is the lowest level of skill for a useful member of a horse drive? Are ordinary cavalrymen, with Riding 12 or so but not explicit Animal Handling skill, of any practical use in helping to drive the herd?

Over terrain much like the Great Plains of the US (or better, in that they can follow a river for much of the way), how rapidly can a vast herd of horses be driven without greatly harming them?

The PCs in my fantasy game have, along with roughly 1200 horsemen, wranglers, bandits and raiders, stolen some ten thousand horses, which formed the annual tribute of a great horse-breeding region to their suzerain empire. The horses were being fattened up along a nice stream and had been prepared for several months for a long drive to the west.

Now the PCs are driving them east instead and have to get them over some 200 miles of good grass prairie, green riverbanks and roads and then about 150 miles of desert (down a road with several oases, though)*. How fast can they practically drive the horses over that distance?

How much do they need to split up the herd so the horses can graze?

How many of the 1200 men they have with them are absolutely needed to manage the horses and how many can take three horses each and act as outriding cavalry or draw off pursuers?

*To be extra, super specific, the first 50 miles are not all that terrible, being more outskirts of desert and in the spring-time, which it is, actually having a fair bit of grass and several streams. Then there are some 50 miles of actual desert, but one with three very large and prosperous oases towns on the road through it and the raiders have allies that have laid in stock of oats and other equine delicacies in these towns. Only the last 50 miles, from the last oasis to the destination, is entirely devoid of water and feed.
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Old 03-03-2014, 09:58 AM   #2
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Default Specifics related to the herd the PCs are stealing

The ten thousand horses being stolen are around 75% cavalry remounts and 25% fine warhorses or palfreys, of fairly light breeds. The specific breeds have a lot in common with Arabian, Turkoman and Nesean horses, but there are some similarities to the New South Wales 'walers' sent to India as well.

There are three main types, two kinds of purebreds and one catch-all category of less pure bloodlines. The purebreds are Semphari and Raurin horses, which are both highly sought after in the region. The less-pure have some blood from these types, but are also mixed with steppe horses and all kinds of imports from east and west both.

Semphari horses weigh between 700-900 lbs., stand around 13-14 hands tall and are usually very fast, agile and intelligent. Their gait is comfortable and they are quite pretty. They resemble Arabian horses and make good palfreys or jennets.

Raurin horses are pretty much super-horses and have elements of Nesean chargers and the speed of the best Arabians as well as legendary endurance and ability to survive in harsh environments like the Turkoman horses or the more modern walers. They are usually between 900-1200 lbs. and between 15-16 hands.

The mixed-blood horses actually fall into several different sub-types, but most of the ones being given in tribute this year are ones that make good cavalry remounts for un- or lightly armoured outriders, mounted archers or skirmisher cavalry and thus fall into a size range of around 13-15 hands and 800-1100 lbs.

Around a quarter of the horses are fully trained cavalry mounts, another quarter have been used as riding horses and have some limited cavalry training, yet another quarter are recently broken for riding and the last quarter have only around 2-3 months of riding training, some of which was obtained during their drive to where they were being fattened and some of which was obtained during their time there.

Many of the horses are young, but there are no foaling mares there, as these were kept seperately and the PCs didn't steal them. None of the horses are old, crippled or weak, as this is not a random collection, but horses that have already been approved for military service. The bar for service is quite high, as the empire is deliberately trying to strengthen their own calvary relative to the levies of their vassals by taking as many of their good horses as they can get away with. None of the nobles give away their best horses, perhaps, but they've been unable to palm off any inferior ones either.

So, assuming that no horse has to bear a burden or rider for more than two or three hours a day, how fast can the PCs drive them away from their pastures and into friendly lands?

Would an 80 mile run the first day exhaust any of the horses, considering that that considerable efforts have been made to ensure that they were fat and in excellent fettle for a planned journey (in the other direction, true, but not relevant to the horses)?

Is taking 1000 of the best endurance horses and striking out over 200 miles of desert (much of it without oases) practical at all? Probably not, as the horses would have difficulty carrying their own water and the camels that the raiders arrived on need rest after crossing that self-same desert earlier.

What about taking the hardiest horses over a mix of desert, dry prairie and grasslands, cutting the distance they need to go from 350 miles down to 300 miles?
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Old 03-03-2014, 10:38 AM   #3
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

I hope someone else can provide better information for the rest of your questions, but regarding this point:

Quote:
Would an 80 mile run the first day exhaust any of the horses, considering that that considerable efforts have been made to ensure that they were fat and in excellent fettle for a planned journey (in the other direction, true, but not relevant to the horses)?
According to Barbarian Empires of the Steppe by Professor Kenneth Harl, during the Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe, Mongol forces could make roughly 40 miles per day if they were really hoofing it. That is, over a cleared steppe zone, with plenty of fodder and ten to twenty horses per rider, a force of two Tumen (twenty-thousand men all told), could make forty miles.

Considering that your party has a large quantity of really good cavalry mounts (and the Raurin Horses are specified as being good at surviving harsh environments), not to mention is almost twenty times smaller. that might bump up the effective speed of the herd, since the Mongol forces just described probably had a core of heavy cavalry horses for the armored lancers, which would have slowed them down. Your super-horses, on the other hand, will not.

On a semi-related note, non-steppe cavalry armies (that is, with fewer remounts), such as Alexander the Great's personal strike force in the eastern campaigns, are described as making 20-25 miles a day in Northern Iran, and may have gotten as high as 40 miles when they had a dry riverbed and made a night march. That said, only 60 of the cavalry (out of several thousand) actually made it to the end of the march in that time, the rest having fallen behind.

Regarding their current plan: it might be best to take the non-desert sections slow, then pick up the pace once they are on the road to the oasis towns, then forced-march over the last stretch of desert. What's awaiting them on the other side? Is there any danger of them crossing the desert, only to find a new danger, or will they be among friends?

Also, you mentioned camels. I assume the camels will not be accompanying the party on their 50-mile dash?

EDIT: Got the Mongol distances wrong. It was forty, not fifty miles per day.

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Old 03-03-2014, 11:24 AM   #4
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

Quote:
Would an 80 mile run the first day exhaust any of the horses, considering that that considerable efforts have been made to ensure that they were fat and in excellent fettle for a planned journey (in the other direction, true, but not relevant to the horses)?
In the Tevis Cup, a 100 mile cross country horse race over 24 hours, roughly half the horses and riders don't make the finish line in time. This isn't always due to horse exhaustion, but it often is.
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Old 03-03-2014, 11:31 AM   #5
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

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Originally Posted by Dargaron View Post
Considering that your party has a large quantity of really good cavalry mounts (and the Raurin Horses are specified as being good at surviving harsh environments), not to mention is almost twenty times smaller. that might bump up the effective speed of the herd, since the Mongol forces just described probably had a core of heavy cavalry horses for the armored lancers, which would have slowed them down. Your super-horses, on the other hand, will not.
Even the cavalry remounts are much superior to Mongol steppe ponies. The setting actually includes such mounts, but they are viewed as far inferior to the local stock and this is actually reflected in game stats. The average Rauthen horse (the name of the most common 'breed' of less-than-pure horses) has better speed and endurance than the average steppe pony.

There is a 'breed' of Clearflow hunters, up in the north of the region which borders the steppe, which is a mix of Raurin and steppe horses, and they are famous for their endurance and ability to survive on little fodder. The Mongol-equivalents of the setting desire them greatly and will exchange at least three ponies for each specimen.

The PCs, however, will be limited to the speed of the least remarkable horses in their collection. That will be horses which are more-or-less as fast and hardy as 19th century light cavalry horses which we have sources about in the real world. Better than many real ancient and medieval horses, certainly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dargaron View Post
On a semi-related note, non-steppe cavalry armies (that is, with fewer remounts), such as Alexander the Great's personal strike force in the eastern campaigns, are described as making 20-25 miles a day in Northern Iran, and may have gotten as high as 40 miles when they had a dry riverbed and made a night march. That said, only 60 of the cavalry (out of several thousand) actually made it to the end of the march in that time, the rest having fallen behind.
I have a fairly good idea about how much you can push mounted horses. What I have little idea about is how much it tires horses that aren't carrying men to walk, trot or run for 40-80 miles in a day.

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Originally Posted by Dargaron View Post
Regarding their current plan: it might be best to take the non-desert sections slow, then pick up the pace once they are on the road to the oasis towns, then forced-march over the last stretch of desert.
Best for the horses, undoubtedly. Unfortunately, not best for the raiders, who will face attacks from the Bey's cavalry which will be eager to reclaim the horses.

Gathering more than the 300-400 men garrisoning the next town may take time, but there is certainly not time to linger. And it would be best if the raiders could be far away by the time even that smaller force arrives, as having to manage the horses will make it impossible for the full force of the raiders to face the soldiers in a cavalry battle.

80 miles away from where the horses were being fattened is another town, one with a garrison that the raiders plan to bribe to join them (and have some confidence that they'll succeed in this). All the same, within 2-5 days, depending on a lot of political factors, there will probably be nearly a thousand good cavalry assembled on their heels.

By that time, they'll want to be in lands where the cavalry of the Bey has to spend valuable time securing local permission for crossing lands in large armed groups. Ideally, the PCs would want to reach the hinterlands of Zindalankh, beyond which city good grasslands start to give way to the outskirts of desert (i.e. around 200 miles away from where they steal the horses), within three days.

I suspect that this is too hard on the horses, though, and that's why an alternate plan is to race the 80 miles to Somraggah, subvert the garrison there and spread the horses around in the excellent grazing around that town.

While as many men are needed to manage the horses for a day to recover from their dash stay with them, the rest take good Raurin horses, probably still in good fettle even after such a ride, and prepare for a cavalry battle. The subverted garrison will form up as infantry and the cavalry, once the riders feel that their horses are rested enough to fight, will flank the Bey's men and scatter them around the countryside.

Some 400 hobgoblin mercenary infantry that were acquired along with the horses claim to be able to run 80 miles to Somraggah and fight a battle at the end of it.* If true, that would be a major help, especially as 200 of them are archers. Even if they are dead on their feet when they arrive, as long as they can form up, they'll be enough to make light cavalry that only equals their numbers extremely wary of entering bow range.

Very possibly, the Bey's men wouldn't attack until another kurin had reached them, putting their numbers up to around 800-1,000, and allowing the horses and hobgoblins to rest for at least a day in Somraggah. A single, sharp battle would serve to scatter most of the Bey's men immediately available and after that, there would not be effective pursuit that could catch them before they reached Zindalankh on the evening of the fifth day since they started.**

*Hobgoblins are born soldiers and their culture puts an extreme value on endurance and tolerance for pain. Anyone who cannot continue to soldier despite extreme conditions or wounds is simply expected to die with dishonour. And these hobgoblins claim to be used to soldiering with horse soldieres, while not being considered 'worth' mounting. They run everywhere they go.
**Yes, I'm assuming 80 miles the first day, a day of rest and then three days of 40 miles per day. I'd love to be able to cut that last down to two days, if that's not totally crazy, but I think the horses would be too fatigued to face the desert after more forced drives.


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Originally Posted by Dargaron View Post
What's awaiting them on the other side? Is there any danger of them crossing the desert, only to find a new danger, or will they be among friends?
They'll enter a ruined city, with all kinds of dangers, but being mounted won't help against any of them. Immediately upon arrival in the ruined Imarscari city of Broaspu, the horses and the raiders who stole them are meant to be met by wizards of the Enclave, who will open an ancient dimensional gate that will take them away from the ruined city and the desert and into a friendly land. There it will be raining, plenty of vegetation and at least several days of rest and recovery will be possible.

That's not to say that the PCs want to leave the horses somewhere to recover for a long time. There will be plenty of work for cavalry in the near future and they'll be wanting to use at least 3,000 of the horses for military operations on the other side of the gate as soon as possible.

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Originally Posted by Dargaron View Post
Also, you mentioned camels. I assume the camels will not be accompanying the party on their 50-mile dash?
Racing camels are actually pretty fast and can cover large distances. But no, the plan is for the camels and some caretakers to fall back on a nice shady spring and verdant oasis at the outskirt of the desert which the raiders came out of and rest there while pursuers presumably race after the herd of stolen horses.

After recovering from their five-day ordeal in getting there, the camels and those who prefered the desert to a race over roads and grasslands with cavalry in pursuit, will travel back over the desert to their home. Well, they might stop to take advantage of the confusion and all the cavalry soldiers having ridden after the other raiders to relieve the locals of some few extra camels, sheep, goats, coins and other valuables. Maybe a few women, assuming that the chief left in charge isn't as strict about that sort of thing as the new sheikh, what with his 'stolen women must be married if they are to be enjoyed' rule.

Actually, some of the raiders may even prefer to go on a little vacation there before going home. Assuming that the soldiers remain away for some time, it might be pleasant to linger. Anyone helping the enemy, i.e. the empire the tribute was to be paid to, can be considered a traitor and collaborator, after all.
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Old 03-03-2014, 11:35 AM   #6
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

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Originally Posted by Dalillama View Post
In the Tevis Cup, a 100 mile cross country horse race over 24 hours, roughly half the horses and riders don't make the finish line in time. This isn't always due to horse exhaustion, but it often is.
Indeed.

What I'm trying to figure out is how much of a difference it makes if the horses mostly aren't carrying a rider or, indeed, anything. Only the best horses need to carry a rider at all and even then, the riders can afford to switch between three good horses and as many remounts as they like.

All the horses would need to run 80 miles, in the end, but they'd only carry someone for 10-30 of those miles.
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Old 03-03-2014, 02:49 PM   #7
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
What I'm trying to figure out is how much of a difference it makes if the horses mostly aren't carrying a rider or, indeed, anything.
There is unlikely to be any exact answer. Wild mustangs travel 10-20 miles a day, and I'm doubtful that anyone has tracked them moving much farther as you'd probably need to drive them very hard to do it -- though you probably could. I've read of some riders making 75+ miles a day, with spare horses that travel with them. However, remember that a herd is going to include pregnant mares, colts, older horses, some lame, and others just sick. These won't keep up. Driving fast is going to hurt some of the marginal stock, and in the end you'll spread out the whole herd and it will leave you with a large percentage of losses. Something like half making the run might be entirely reasonable. Going slow and keeping the herd together and well fed and watered will reduce this.

You could give the herd or group of stock a HT roll, with basic -10% loss, with margin of error extending this or reducing it. Modify the roll based on water, grass, and terrain. (Known "long drive" trails ought to at least be at no modifier, with the better ones giving a slight bonus, and the worst a slight penalty.) Let the head wrangler make an Animal Handling roll to act as an assistance roll to the herd HT roll.
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Old 03-03-2014, 06:16 PM   #8
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

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There is unlikely to be any exact answer. Wild mustangs travel 10-20 miles a day, and I'm doubtful that anyone has tracked them moving much farther as you'd probably need to drive them very hard to do it -- though you probably could. I've read of some riders making 75+ miles a day, with spare horses that travel with them.
I've read the same, but I don't know if that's a feat that leaves the horses dangerously fatigued the next day or if you could repeat it for three or four days in a row.

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However, remember that a herd is going to include pregnant mares, colts, older horses, some lame, and others just sick. These won't keep up. Driving fast is going to hurt some of the marginal stock, and in the end you'll spread out the whole herd and it will leave you with a large percentage of losses. Something like half making the run might be entirely reasonable. Going slow and keeping the herd together and well fed and watered will reduce this.
In the example I've got in my campaign, as noted above, the 10,000 horses in question are cavalry remounts that have recently passed through inspection and all the ones that were not ready for a very long drive kept seperately.

Pregnant mares, old horses and colts aren't there and if there are sick horses, they'll be ones that the inspectors missed in the last few days.

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You could give the herd or group of stock a HT roll, with basic -10% loss, with margin of error extending this or reducing it. Modify the roll based on water, grass, and terrain. (Known "long drive" trails ought to at least be at no modifier, with the better ones giving a slight bonus, and the worst a slight penalty.) Let the head wrangler make an Animal Handling roll to act as an assistance roll to the herd HT roll.
It seems that Animal Handling wouldn't be the only relevant skill. Especially with such a huge number of cavalry remounts, it seems that Administration, Area Knowlege (or Geography) for the route, Leadership, Navigation and Survival, to name the first that come to mind, ought to matter as well.

We've got one PC in overall command, with Administration at 21, Animal Handling at 22, Leadership 21 or 22 and most of the other skills I mentioned at 17 or so.

One other PC has them all at 17+ and Animal Handling at 19, not to mention Leadership at 25.

Then there's one PC with Navigation (Air and Land) 19-21 or so, Cartography 16, Observation 17+, Intelligence Analysis 14 or so and the ability to fly for eight hours a day to scout ahead and pick out routes.

A bunch of NPC atamens and sheiks, as well as their most experienced leaders of horse thieving bands, will have a lot of the above mentioned skills at 12-15 and some will have Survival (Desert) and Riding at 18+ and Animal Handling (Equines) at 15+.

I'd say about 500 of their men can be relied upon for Riding and Animal Handling 14+ (of these, at least 200 will be experts with skill 16+), with around 400-500 more of them having Riding 14+ and Animal Handling 12+. The other 150-250 of their raiders have Riding at 12+, but not necessarily Animal Handling (Equine) at much above default.
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Old 03-03-2014, 07:59 PM   #9
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

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I've read the same, but I don't know if that's a feat that leaves the horses dangerously fatigued the next day or if you could repeat it for three or four days in a row.
They could do it 3-4 days, sure, but you will lose a % of the weaker horses. Some will get a stone bruises on the hoof, or come up lame for any number of reasons. Roll HT and lose X number any time you beyond their normal range, and increase that likelihood with extended movement. The limiting factor is how many you want to lose. The top % will stay with you for incredible distances.

Quote:
In the example I've got in my campaign, as noted above, the 10,000 horses in question are cavalry remounts that have recently passed through inspection and all the ones that were not ready for a very long drive kept separately.
That's a huge herd, and would need equally large amounts of grass and water. Those coming after it will be in big trouble, just from the grass the animals will consume.

Quote:
If there are sick horses, they'll be ones that the inspectors missed in the last few days.
There will always be sick horses, as horses are notoriously likely to get sick at the most inconvenient moment!

Quote:
It seems that Animal Handling wouldn't be the only relevant skill.
It depends on what you are testing. Are you testing the management of a remuda, or the management of an overland journey for a caravan? Those aren't the same thing. Whatever happens, the Animal Handling will be the determining factor for making it to the end with the horses in good shape.
If you are worrying about them knowing the route, keeping force cohesion, or forgetting important details, of course that's not anything to do with Animal Handling per se. I'd roll the other skills as complimentary rolls on the final Animal Handling skill roll, if you were worried about them.
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Old 03-03-2014, 08:26 PM   #10
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Default Re: Wrangling horses, driving herds, remudas

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I've read the same, but I don't know if that's a feat that leaves the horses dangerously fatigued the next day or if you could repeat it for three or four days in a row.
The short answer is yes and no, respectively. I can only find references to horses being ridden distances like this, never driven, so take that as you will, but one article notes that horses can lose abound 10% of their bodyweight over the course of the race (mostly fluids), and there are detailed aftercare directions that will occupy at least another several hours of someone's time, and that's just for horses that haven't started displaying obvious problems after the race, which many will. Secondhand knowledge from people I've known who've ridden less strenuous competitions indicates that you want a day or two of light duty after even a much smaller run.
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