Oh, really, smart guy—you've got a horse outside? Let me tell you about that horse. One horsepower. Questionable handling. Beast.
(Full disclosure: Monica Harrison wanted me to review a horse so badly that she signed me up for a horse ride at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop, TX, and dragged along our German friend Thomas, too. That's how city folk do horses: at big, touristy resorts. It's like a Car2Go minus the leftover SXSW hipster stank.)
I know a number of people who like to think of their car as if it were a sentient being. Their cars have feelings. Get boo-boos. Some may even have to be coaxed into working properly like a reluctant child. There's emotional attachment there, and I can't fault that. Ask me about my purple bunny rabbit, for Pete's sake.
But what if you were atop a living, breathing thing? Is this still a viable means of transportation or are you just going to get saddle sores, give up and die before you ever reach your destination? Look, we're not all perched atop balls of steel like John Wayne. Some of you wimps even want things like cup holders and air conditioning in your vehicles. HA!
Let me get this out of the way: the"personality" you call that collection of squeaks, rattles and faults in your car isn't actually a personality. A horse that will throw you off or hoof you in the nads if you look at it the wrong way? That's a personality. You can't spook a car.
The horses, as tested, were very gentle horses assigned to us by experience level. My friend Monica used to ride quite regularly, so they put her on a horse that required a bit more attention to keep going straight. Thomas and I were assigned the most docile horses that are generally reserved for n00bs.
Mine was the equine equivalent of an older Corolla: probably not exciting to someone with a lot of seat time on a horse, but to someone trying out a horse for the first time, the horse was predictable when it needed to be. Like the first car you drive, regardless of how dull that vehicle is, riding the n00b horse was exciting enough by the sheer merit of being a new experience.
Now, let's not put the horse before the cart. Should you save your car for greater feats of hoon and start riding a horse?
This is a noble beast with tall, thin, muscular legs and long, flowing manes and tails. Little kids will point at it and say "horsie!" It's covered in soft hair and topped off with a saddle of your choosing.
Variations in coloration and the horse's constant responses to its surroundings never cease to make the horse about as visually interesting as a vehicle can get.
If you don't squee a bit at the sight of a horse, I doubt you're human at all.
There really isn't an interior, so let's pretend they're talking about the saddlery.
The saddlery is absolutely beautiful, and the craftsmanship puts most mass-production automobiles to shame. Delicate designs covered the edges of the saddle and were stamped into the other belts and reins themselves.
Everything that goes on a horse is very sturdy and very solid. Made to last.
It is, however, not a very comfortable seating position. My knees quickly tired of having a slight bend in them. There isn't a lot of room to adjust your seating position without the horse taking it as a cue to move around as well.
My feet also kept falling out of my stirrups, which probably meant that I should have worn boots with a bigger heel, but then that would mean that I would have to driv—err, ride in heels.
If you want any kind of protection from the sun, wear a hat or a riding helmet with a little visor on it. I should have brought my sombrero.
The reins also detracted from this score a bit. While the usual riding position with your hands atop the horn of the saddle is quite comfortable, the reins are a bit fiddly to deal with, and almost rough to the touch.
Acceleration on the horse is exactly adequate. It won't pin you back in your seat per se since there is no seat back, but it can flop you off the horse entirely if you're not paying attention.
You only have one horsepower to deal with, yet it is expertly put to the ground through a set of four hooves. There's very little drivetrain loss to speak of on a horse, so that one horsepower is really all that you need.
Can you pull out into oncoming automobile traffic? No. It's a horse. You shouldn't be playing out in traffic on a horse, period. That being said, you could put some fixies to shame in the bike lane.
Generally, horses do stop when you pull up on the reins. However, unless you are very skilled and know your horse very well, "whoa" is about as vague as the rusted-out drums on my old Type 3.
Unlike the Type 3, however, the horse didn't pull to one side when I pulled up on the reins. How were drum brakes ever considered "progress" again?
Sometimes you'll stop. Sometimes you'll take a little longer to stop. Sometimes you'll accidentally play bumper horsie with the other n00b in front of you and have a good chuckle about why your horse wants to stick its face up another horse's butt. Oops.
The good thing is that you're not going very fast to begin with, especially on a touristy horsie ride through the woods. When a horse stops abruptly, that usually means you're flying off of it.
There is no suspension, only four wobbly legs and some thin blanket padding under your saddle.
You won't just feel every bump. You'll feel every step the horse makes. Although it's a slow, gentle thud with each clop of the hoof, the force of each step on the ground gets transferred directly into your gluteus maximus.
I can believe that saddle sores are a thing. A real, genuine thing.
On one hand, it is very reassuring to feel everything that is going on beneath you. It is far more disconcerting to be in a vehicle so numb that you can't hardly orient yourself in your own environs.
On the other hand, my butt hurts. I can see why we moved on to cars that dampen bumps a little bit for us.
If you've ever described your car as having a mind of its own due to a worn out steering rack or a questionable suspension design, clearly you've never been atop an animal that actually does have a mind of its own.
Everything is delicious and wants the horse's time more than the task of following the rest of the pack. Absolutely everything.
You constantly have to adjust the reins on this horse to keep it from munching on trees. Yes, literally munching on trees, not flying backwards into them because you lifted mid-corner or something, but actually eating leaves and vines.
The more it eats, the more, ahem, exhaust it releases. Luckily, this didn't seem to slow down my horse all that much, but it did make me a tad nervous when the horse in front of mine left a nice line of fresh, brown droppings like nothing was even going on. Either way, it's best to force the horses to wait to eat actual feed instead of random shrubs in the woods.
Consequently, your actual driving line on a horse looks like you're trying to drive a lawnmower drunk. A simple, curving line through the woods becomes a wobbly journey of "don't eat that, hoss."
Could the horse turn on a dime if both you and the animal were well-trained and looking to do so? Sure. But for the average rider, be aware that your vehicle has a mind of its own. Literally.
There isn't one. Clearly, the horse gets to where you need it to go regardless, but not in the most predictable manner. There are no gears. There is no speedometer. Only horse.
Nudging the horse's body with your heel is about the closest thing you can get to dropping a gear, and even then, there's no guarantee of how much faster the horse will want to go.
There are no toys atop a horse. Are you crazy?! No, you can't have a 67 oz. Blorch Gulp, plug in your cell phone and listen to any sweet tunes. You're on a horse.
There are no crash structures to speak of if you're too busy putting on makeup with your knee while trying to learn how to speak Esperanto via audio tape. Trust me, the lack of toys is for the best.
On the other hand, it could be argued that the horse itself is such a novelty today that it is a "toy" in itself. Only it's a living, breathing creature that needs care and attention more so than a toy. Whatever, I'll give it 7/10 on principle for this one.
There is no stereo system. No engine, unless you count the horse's muscular system under load. Not even any sound dampening to separate the seating area from the outside world.
It's that last part that makes a horse worth it. There's absolutely nothing separating you from the peaceful sounds of nature except the occasional horse fart.
Horses can cost as much as a good, working Miata. A quick search for horses for sale in Texas lists prices from $3,500 to $20,000. You really have to love horses and specifically want a horse to get one.
From a practical standpoint, there's so much else that you could get in that price range. A gently used 986 Boxster. A TR6 LeMons car. A new Mirage.
However, cars aren't allowed on peaceful riding trails or in other like areas, such as soft, grassy areas and cattle fields. A horse can get through a lot of places where a car would get stuck. It can ford rivers better than your gaudy bro truck can, too.
So, it depends on your needs, I guess. For the average person, the value of a horse is probably a little questionable.
Power: 1 HP, constant
0-60 Time: N/A
Top Speed: 43.97 MPH (record)
Drivetrain: All-Hoof Drive
Curb Weight: 1,200ish Pounds
Seating: 1 person
MSRP: unknown; rides are $85 a person