10 Red Dead Redemption 2 tips to help you get the best from your horses
© Rockstar Games
Finding the best horse and improving it is hugely important in Red Dead Redemption 2 – here's our guide.
You’ll spend a lot of time riding your horse in Red Dead Redemption 2, but understanding how to improve and maintain it can take time.
There are 19 different types of horses in Red Dead Redemption 2, all of which can either be acquired by stealing them from passers by and farmhands, taming them in the wild, or buying them from one of the stables found in the various towns.
You may find the right horse for you, but it’s not just about that; you must feed them, keep them clean, form a bond, and do everything you can to make sure that they never fail you. We’ve got some tips to help you find the best horse for you, as well as keeping them fit and healthy for every situation.
1. How to find the best horse
There are a lot of different horses in Red Dead Redemption 2, each with their own characteristics, spread across three stat lines: Speed, Acceleration, and Handling. The speed and acceleration of your horse has a maximum level of 10 – there are white markers on the stat lines that highlight a horse’s current level, and a grey marker that shows how much it can improve.
Handling is essentially what class the horse is; Standard is often the most common, featuring average Speed and Stamina Cores, Race means the horse is faster, but can get worn out quicker, Heavy is slow, steady, and trustworthy, and the Elite class gives you a high Stamina Core with medium Speed.
The Blackwater stables have the best horses for sale, but you’re not going to be able to buy them until later. You can go there to buy the Arabian Rose Grey Bay, probably the best horse in the game to purchase. It's an Elite Horse and costs $1,250. Its health and stamina are straight 7, whilst its acceleration and speed is 6. You have to reach Epilogue 1 to get the option to buy it though.
However, it’s easy to assume that finding or spending lots of money a better horse in the game is vital, but that's not entirely true as upgrading a horse you find early on can have just as much of a benefit as purchasing some of the better horses later. The horse you have early on might not be the best, but by bonding with it and upgrading it, you can turn it into the best steed for you.
So instead of searching for the best horses in the better stables, focus on improving the ones that you have. It’s quite possible you’ll stay with the second or third horse you own right until the end.
It’s all about finding what’s best for you. Longer journeys would be better suited to a Dutch Warmblood, as their stats are well balanced, or if you’re going from one point to another with little need for urgency or speed, stick with an American Standardbred. Either way, explore the stables, try out various classes, and find the ones that work the best for you. You can store up to four in a stable, so there’s no need to settle for just one, but make sure you bond with them for the best results.
2. Maintain the cores
The fundamental rule of looking after your horse is making sure the Health and Stamina Cores are as full as possible, otherwise your travel and performance will be hindered. Buy food from the stables, such as apples, beets, and celery to help improve the cores. They won’t fully restore, but when you’re embarking on long journeys, having these in your inventory will keep you going that little bit longer.
Perhaps the best way to stay healthy and fully refill your horse’s cores is by resting. Don’t push your horse too hard or they’ll struggle, often leaving them vulnerable to the cold weather or wild animal attacks. Also, if your horse’s cores are low and you find yourself in a gunfight, your horse won’t have the energy to get away if needed.
3. Keep clean and carry on
With all that travelling around, the muck and the grime starts to take its toll on your horse’s health, eventually leading to your Health Core depleting faster than normal. In one of the early missions you’ll be gifted a brush, and using this to clean your horse not only helps their health, but it helps to build your bond (more on that next) with them. Alternatively, trekking through rivers or open water will give them a much-needed bath. You can also purchase Horse Care Packages for a reasonable $5.00 and these will give your horse a well-earned groom.
4. Bond with your horse
Perhaps the most vital part of owning a horse is building up a bond with it, and this can be done in a multitude of ways. Spending time riding with your horse is one of the most effective ways to increase bonding; keeping your horse clean, and feeding and maintaining its cores along the way will also build that bond.
Occasionally, your horse will also get spooked by gunshots or an animal attack but pressing the left analogue stick will calm them down and show them that you care.
There are four levels of bonding, each with its own benefits. The better the bond, the better the Health and Stamina becomes. On top of that, your horse will become more reachable when whistling it to come to you, traverse more challenging terrain a lot easier, and the likelihood of someone stealing your horse reduces.
There are also new moves you’ll unlock which’ll help manoeuvrability. For starters, we have rearing (level 2 – right shoulder button and Square/X when stood still).
Then there's Skid Turn (level 3 – hold right trigger and Square/X whilst pushing the left analogue) and Skid Top (level 3 – same as Skid Turn without the left analogue).
You can also do a Piaffe (level 4 – hold Square/X), and drift (level 4 – moving left or right whilst performing a Piaffe).
5. Buy them the best equipment
It’ll cost quite a bit of money to give your horse the best equipment, but it’s important to remember that certain items have benefits. Stables have lots of equipment that you’ll find under Tacks. Getting a good saddle will improve the Drain Rates of your horse’s health and stamina, and buying a bigger saddlebag provides more room for your inventory.
Dishing out cash for a better stirrup improves the Core Drain Rate, which will benefit you greatly when spending a lot of time in the wilderness away from your camp or a local town. There are some aesthetic choices for you like buying new horns, blankets, and bedrolls. You can also spend a bit of money on giving your horse a killer mohawk or fancy braiding on your tail, and the colours of everything can be changed to give full customisation to your horse.
There are also plenty of provisions at Stables to keep your horse healthy and energised. The multitude of foods have different benefits to refill the Health and Stamina Cores, with the more natural of foods providing better results. Tonics are key to making sure the bars are refilled to the maximum; horse stimulants fully restore your horse’s stamina and slightly fortifies it for a while, and the medicines totally fill up your health and fortifies for a brief period too. There are potent versions of both which fortifies you for longer, so buy a few of these for longer lasting effects.
6. Plan Ahead
If you have a long journey ahead, make sure you have plenty of items in your inventory. Having lots of tonics and food for your horse is important because you never know what you may encounter. There are gangs that’ll attack without warning, and plenty of wild animals that’ll do the same if you’re not careful – you don’t want your horse getting attacked in the process.
Also, make sure you’re well rested before setting off so that your horse’s cores are full. Set off in the morning because the light is your ally in the dangerous American heartlands. There are lots of extreme weather conditions, such as the freezing heights of The Grizzlies, so always make sure you store three varieties of outfits. If you get too cold or too hot, your cores will deteriorate much faster, meaning that death is closer than you’d like.
7. How to get a wild horse
You don’t always have to spend money to acquire horses, but trying to break one in in the wild can be difficult, and it might not always be worth it. If you’re at a safe distance, use your binoculars to scan wild horses. That way you’ll know whether it’s worth attempting to capture it.
If you think it’s worth it, approach at a slow speed, preferably stealthily (press the left analogue stick down to initiate). Once close enough, press the left trigger to focus on the horse and try to calm it down with the Circle or B button. You can then pat it with the same button, and if you’ve managed to settle it down, you can try mounting. Often, it’ll be uncomfortable with you for the first few seconds but press the left analogue stick down to calm it once again. From here you can choose to make it your main, or ride to the closest stable to get a bit of money for it.
8. Use your horse for extra storage
Your horses offer you an extension for your inventory, and whenever you get off your horse to engage in combat or a hunting session, make sure you choose the right tools to use. Whilst your trusty steed looks after all your guns, it’ll also help to stow hunted animals on its rear. If you’re carrying a pelt from a legendary animal, or a deer that you intend to donate to your camp, approach the back of the horse and press Square/X. As long as you get back to your camp sharpish, the carcass won’t turn bad.
9. Don't sprint too much
Pressing X/A repeatedly will make your horse reach its fastest speed, but overuse it and your horse will become tired. Try to sprint as little as possible – instead, find a pace that manages your stamina better.
The plains in Red Dead Redemption 2 can be dangerous, and the paths can shoot off in different directions before you get a chance to notice. This can mean you’ll ride straight into a tree or off the edge of a very high mountain. At faster speeds, your horse is more likely to misstep and fall to its death, and you don’t want that to happen. Holding X/A at a slower speed will keep you focused on your path, and you’ll be less likely to fall into danger.
10. How to Fast Travel
One great tip to ensure that you never leave the path to your waypoint is by entering the cinematic camera mode – pressing and holding the Touchpad/Options button will not only activate it, but you’ll get a stunning view with no threat of falling off the beaten track.
When the traditional fast travel options aren’t easy to come by in Red Dead Redemption 2 (you can only fast travel one way from the map in your camp), this option means you can at least relax a bit whilst also taking in the glorious visuals on offer.