Horses are an essential part of your day-to-day life in Red Dead Redemption 2, acting not only as your primary means of getting around, but also as a kind of extension of yourself, with your mount carrying its own statistics, conditions and tack that need to be maintained and optimised as you go.
What you might be wondering though is how to get the best horse in Red Dead Redemption 2, and so we explain that, as well as lots of other handy horsy things like how to calm and break a horse, increase horse bonding level, find new horses and anything else you'll need to know about Red Dead Redemption 2's equestrian systems and mechanics.
On this page:
For more help, our Red Dead Redemption 2 walkthrough explains the requirements for fully completing the game's many story missions.
How to get the best horse in Red Dead Redemption 2 and what is the best horse?
There are a couple of candidates for the best horse in Red Dead Redemption 2, depending on what exactly you're after.
That's because horses' stats are spread across several categories - Health, Stamina, Speed, and Acceleration, all pretty self-explanatory - and none of them have perfect stats across the board. There's also the quality of the horse's handling to bear in mind too, which ranges in responsiveness, from low to high, between Heavy, Standard, Race, or Elite.
The best horses in Red Dead Redemption 2
The horses that we've found to have the highest stats across the board then - coupled with the best handling - are the two Arabian breed horses that are only available from specific stables, in Saint Denis or one of the Epilogue locations, after reaching Chapter 4 or Epilogue 1 respectively. There are also certain Missouri Fox Trotter or Turkoman breeds that are pretty great alternatives too, but again they're not available until at least Chapter 4, and all of these will cost you a pretty penny to buy when you finally unlock them.
So, with none of these horses available in the wild or for free, and none of them are available until Chapter 4 onwards, what's the best horse you can catch yourself, from any point in the game after the world opens up in Chapter 2?
The best horse you can get at the start of Red Dead Redemption 2
The best free horse in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the Arabian horse with a white coloured coat. It's ever so slightly lower in health and stamina than the two Arabians mentioned above, but it's still a superb option, and is available at just one location in the game: in the wild, up in the north-western part of the map.
Gamer Network's Arekkz discribes just how exactly you can get it in the video above, but for posterity here's what you need to do:
How to get the best free, early game horse in Red Dead Redemption 2
- Head to the western bank of Lake Isabella, which is in the north-western part of the map, just to the left of the 'A' in the big 'AMBARINO' written on the map itself (remember to wrap up warm!).
- Search for the horse - it may take some time, but if things are really dragging on, go and sleep somewhere and come back, which might help with refreshing and respawning it.
- Once you've found the horse, approach very slowly - slow walking pace - whilst holding L2 / LT to focus on it.
- Calm the horse as you approach - more detail on how to do this in the section below.
- Keep edging closer until the Triangle / Y button prompt to 'Mount Horse' appears in the bottom right - follow the prompt to hop on, and be prepared for a struggle.
- Once you've mounted it, you need to 'break' the horse - again, more on this below.
- Once the horse stops bucking you'll get a message in the top left saying you've broken in the horse, meaning its temporarily one of your own.
- Once it's broken, you need to take your saddle off your current horse and put it on the new White Arabian - when it's saddled, it's yours permanently.
- Head back to a town with stables, and remember to bring your old horse back with you if you want to keep it - either by lassoing it, getting close enought to focus on it with L2 and commanding it to follow with the button prompt, or whistling for it while nearby, again getting it to follow you. Pop it in a stable to keep it.
How to get new horses in Red Dead Redemption 2: how to calm, break, and saddle your main horse
There are several ways you can get new horses in Red Dead Redemption 2: buying them, stealing them, or catching and breaking a wild one.
Buying and stealing are fairly self-explanatory. You can buy horses at stables (introduced to you as part of the Exit Pursued By a Bruised Ego mission early in Chapter 2) which are in all of the game's major towns and easily found on your map.
You can steal horses that aren't tied up, as long as they don't already belong to one of Dutch's gang members, or 'find' them from previous owners - usually from a random encounter with a stranger.
How to calm, break, and saddle your main horse
The third way is to catch a wild horse, which involves several stages.
First you need to approach it calmly. Walk at the slowest pace possible towards the horse, and hold L2 as you go, which focuses you on it.
Whilst doing this, you need to calm it to stop it spooking and running away. To do so, keep one eye on the white bar in the bottom right of the screen. This will sit at full, and then suddenly start to drop periodically. As soon as it starts to drop you need to press Square / X as prompted, to calm it and keep it from running.
Once you get right up to the horse, you'll be in range for the Triangle / Y button prompt to Mount the horse, hopping up onto its back. This then starts another minigame of sorts, where you need to 'break' it.
To break a wild horse, you need to first push the Left Analog stick down (as in pull it towards you, not press/click it in for L3), as soon as you hop on.
Then, you need to quickly push it in the opposite direction to whatever direction the horse is trying to go. So if the horse turns left, you need to turn right. If it tries to go forwards you need to pull the stick back, and so on. After a short while, you'll get a notification in the top left saying you've broken the horse, making it your own.
To make it your main horse however, you then need to saddle it. Simply hold a saddle in your hand from your inventory and then approach the chosen horse, and hold Up on the D-pad to put it on. Note that you can only ever have one saddle, as well, which means one main horse, even if you can technically own more.
Your old one, that you took the saddle off, should automatically spawn at a nearby stable after a little while, but if you're worried about losing it you can bring it back to a stable manually by whistling for it, lassoing it and leading it, or getting close and pressing L2 to focus on it and then commanding it to Follow with the button prompt. Pop it in a stable for safekeeping.
Horse bonding levels in Red Dead Redemption 2
Horse bonding is the other side of managing your ponies in Red Dead Redemption 2, signifying the relationship you have with your mount and dictating how your horse behaves and performs when you're riding.
Red Dead Redemption 2 breaks this complex relationship between man and beast down into four tiers of Horse Bonding Level.
How to increase Horse Bonding Level
There are several key ways you can increase your Horse Bonding Level:
- Generally spending time with your horse - riding your horse, leading it, and swimming with it will increase your bonding level gradually over time, as long as it isn't tired out.
- When it's hungry, feeding your horse more nutritious food, such as oat cakes, apples, and hay, or certain wild plant and herbs, will increase your bonding significantly. Feeding it less nutritional 'treats' like sugar cubes, peppermints, common bulrush and English Mace will increase bonding by a medium amount.
- Keeping your horse well-groomed - your horse will get dirty over time. Grooming it keeps it clean and increases Bonding Level. To groom the horse, equip the horse brush from the horse item menu.
- Calming your horse when it's agitated, by approaching interacting with it, also increases Horse Bonding Level.
Horse Bonding Level rewards
As you increase in level, you'll gain the following benefits.
- Increased statistics like Health and Stamina.
- Increased maximum distance you can call your horse from.
- Your horse can cross more challenging ground and deeper water.
- Your horse becomes harder to steal.
There are also some additional manoeuvres you can pull off as you rise through the four Horse Bonding Levels.
|Horse Bonding Level||Manoeuvre||Controls (PS4 / Xbox One)|
|Level 2||Rear||While stationary, press R1 + tap Square / RB + tap X|
|Level 3||Skid Turn|
|While moving, hold R1 + X / RB + A and push Left Analogue.|
As above, but without the direction.
|Hold Square / X|
While doing a Piaffe, push Left Analogue left or right.
The PC version has seen several new additions, including a photo mode, Landmarks of Riches Treasure Map, The Elemental Trail Treasure Map and the End of the Earth mission. If you're looking for more help in general, our Red Dead Redemption 2 mission list walkthrough can help provide pointers with the story. If you're looking for things to find, there are Killer Clue Piece locations, High Stakes Treasure Map locations, Jack Hall Gang Treasure Map locations, Red Dead Redemption 2 Le Tresor Des Morts and the Poisonous Trail Treasure Map locations too. Our in-depth systems explainers includes hunting perfect pelts, hides and skins as well as all Legendary Animal locations and Legendary Fish locations, or all Gunslinger locations, too. Finally, here's a list of Red Dead Redemption 2 cheat codes .
What else you need to know about Red Dead Redemption 2 horses
Finally, there are a handful of other useful things to bear in mind as a horse-owning cowboy:
- You can store up to three horses in a single set of stables, but only the horse you've saddled will count as your main one that responds to your calls and bonds with you.
- You can over- and underfeed your horse, making it overweight or too thin, just like yourself - only feed it when its hungry to get the balance right.
- Your horse will tire faster and have a lower maximum health when you don't keep it clean and fed (as well as gaining those extra benefits to Stamina and Health when you increase your Bonding Level).
- If your horse dies, remember to take your saddle from its body.
- Your horse responds to your whistles - from vary distances, depending on your Bonding Level - but it won't come to you if it's in a stable or if you're inside a building or cave.
- You can increase your horse's stats like its Health and Stamina by equipping it with better Tack (Saddle and Stirrups) - you can buy or find new Tack in towns and around the world.
- When you fast travel, your main horse will travel with you.