Red Dead Redemption 2: How to find the best horses

Horses are incredibly important in Red Dead Redemption 2. Not only does Arthur Morgan bond with his horses, but you can brush their manes and give them treats. They also serve a very practical purpose: They let you travel across RDR2′s large, open world. You’ll ride to mission objectives by horse, shoot enemies on horseback, and probably even run into some trees with your buddy. While we love all of our horse friends, some perform better than others in RDR2. Here’s how to get the best horses in the game.

For more on Red Dead Redemption 2, check out our review, beginner’s guide, fast travel guide, and cheat codes guide.

Unlocking stables

In order to buy horses, you’ll need to unlock stables. This is done after completing the Exit Pursued by a Bruised Ego mission in chapter two. Once you finish it, you’ll have a handful of horse-related options to choose from. These include the ability to customize your steed, buy additional horses, and purchase any provisions to keep your horse healthy. As you progress throughout RDR2, it’s a good idea to visit stables often to ensure your horse is well-kept.

At stables, you can also sell horses, which is a lucrative way to make money. Though many of them don’t have extraordinary sale prices, it’s easy enough to round them up and make a few extra bucks. So, if you’re strapped for cash, consider selling wild horses.

The four types of horses

There are 19 horse breeds in RDR2, but other than appearance, you should only be concerned with handling. Throughout your adventure, you’ll come across four different types of horses, graded by handling.

  • Standard handling: Typically these are average horses with average stats, but they do vary widely in both price and performance. In most cases, standard handling horses are solid all around.
  • Race handling: As the name suggests, these are the fastest horses you can find. They do tire rather quickly, though, and are more susceptible to damage. Don’t let the often cheap price tags fool you. Race horses sound cool, but we think they are the worst class in the game due to their extremely specialized stats.
  • Heavy handling: The types of horses that you’ll see pulling stagecoaches and caravans. Heavy horses are naturally bulkier, move slower, but can take more damage. They’re tanky but can be annoying when you want to move around the world quickly.
  • Elite handling: The best all-around horses in the game. They have robust stamina and health meters, making them both speedy and strong. Elite handling horses are rare and will cost you the most money.

Each horse has speed and acceleration ratings that can be upgraded to a certain point, as well as health and stamina that goes up as you bond. Handling is the key stat that you should pay attention to, though.

To be quite honest, it’s hard to recommend spending money on either race horses or heavy horses (unless you’re swimming in cash). Your horse is highly unlikely to be shot to death (it didn’t happen to us once during our 60 hours reviewing the game) and unless you have horse stimulants stocked at all times, using a race horse can be a burden. You start off with a standard horse, which is soon replaced by another standard horse that you can name. From there, we recommend sticking with your pal until you can get a quality upgrade, i.e. an elite steed.

That said, if you struggle with horse handling (you constantly run into stuff), you may want to try out a Heavy handling horse. You can try before you buy by simply stealing one from a stagecoach. And if you have made a habit out of being dastardly, you may want to look into race horses for quick getaways. For general all around use, we think jumping from standard to elite is the proper play.

Buy yourself an Elite handling horse

Your best bet for finding a great horse is to visit the nearest stable. You can find stables in nearly every town, represented on the map with a horseshoe icon. In our experience, the bigger the city, the better chance you have to find better horses. That means industrial cities like Saint Denis routinely have better horses than, say, Rhodes or Valentine. It’s important to note that while you’re going to find a few to handful of horses for purchase at a stable, the stock rotates after a couple of in-game days.

So, essentially, you have to keep checking back. Elite handling horses cost $1,000 or more on average, but before long that won’t seem like a ton of cash in RDR2. You just have to wait till the chapter three or four to make a splash purchase like this.

Primary horse

You can own many horses at any given time, but only one can be your primary horse. You can control which one is primary by putting your saddle on it. If your horse dies or if you find another one you’d rather use, simply place the saddle on the new horse for it to become your primary. It will show up on your map as a horse with a saddle on it.

You can tame wild horses

You’ll come across horses in the wild, usually in small groups, throughout your adventure. Instead of forking over 1,000 bucks or more, you could get lucky and find an elite handling horse. It’s rare but not impossible to happen upon an elite horse during your travels. To view a horse’s stats, grab your binoculars and zero in on it from afar. Press R1/RB to study the horse and then press it again to display its stats. You’ll be able to see the stats just as you would at the stable.

Be careful approaching wild horses, though. If you make too much noise or approach it too quickly, it’s likely to storm off. It’s wise to press Triangle/Y to track it, just in case you scare it away. Once you get on the wild horse, it will only take a few seconds for it to stop bucking. From there, you can either put your saddle on it or ride it to a stable to either sell or store.

You can also steal horses from fellow travelers, but you cannot put your saddle on them afterwards. Instead, you have to take it to a stable to make it your own.

Don’t switch horses too often

As we mentioned earlier, bonding between Arthur and his horse is a real thing that makes a tangible difference in gameplay. The only way you’re going to achieve that extra-special bond is by riding your horse, and the same horse, consistently. As the bond between you and your horse grows, your horse’s health and stamina increase. 

Thanks to the bonding process, it is possible to have an objectively better standard horse than a new elite horse which could make a huge difference down the road. So, you might just want to keep that in mind when you see a new horse that catches your eye. Even if you see a real beauty, buying a new horse when you’re deep into a game may not be in your best interest.

Manage Tack for better performance

If you’re looking to upgrade your horse (even if it’s already an elite horse), you can do so by fitting them with the right Tack. You can purchase six different types of Tack at the stables. Of those six types, three have worthwhile gameplay upgrades available. A quick note: you will need to actually bring your horse to the stables with you, otherwise this technique does not work. 

  • Saddles: You can purchase better saddles to increase your horse’s stamina core and increase the rate of stamina core regeneration. Saddles can also help slow health core drainage. Choose the “Improved” option when purchasing saddles for the best stat boosts.
  • Saddlebags: Increased storage for your character’s outfit, hat, and mask.
  • Stirrups: Stirrups help to improve your horse’s top speed and rate of acceleration. If your horse has grayed out marks in their stat meter, you can increase your speed by upgrading to better stirrups.

You can make purchases to enhance the appearance of your horse. Keep in mind that horns, blankets, and bedrolls are purely cosmetic, but it is fun to change the types and colors of items you use to outfit your horse. After all, your horse is worth it.

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