Let’s face it, no game is ever going to truly replace the feeling of rushing through the wilderness on the back of your favourite horse, nor is there a game that can truly recreate the buzz of race day.
However, when the option to head outside isn’t available or you just fancy having a bit of carefree fun from the comfort of your own home, computer games can be the way to go.
Below is a varied range of games, with everything from open world games you can explore on horseback, to larger than life fantasy settings, with steeds capable of so much more than just bolting along flats and leaping fences. You won’t find anything quite like this during the standard racing calendar.
Some of the games on this list are a far cry from any organised race track, with riders doing more shooting and spell casting than any serious racing, so for people who want an experience that’s as close to real life as possible, Phar Lap is a good option.
The game is of course named after perhaps the greatest racehorse ever to come from Australia, and the game allows you to go as far as breeding your own stable of horses before then challenging your friends to races, which goes some way to providing that race day buzz we mentioned earlier in the piece.
Red Dead Redemption 2
This game is the polar opposition of Phar Lap, with your game character using his trusty steed to gallop across a recreation of the American wild west, battling bad guys and prospecting when and where he can.
The result is a truly liberating experience, with the way the horse moves and reacts to instruction seeming to be well researched. Once you step off your horse there are even a multitude of additional games hidden within the main game itself, some of whose rules it’s good to familiarise yourself with, so the next time you hop on your horse you do so with some loot in your pocket.
The idea for this game first stemmed from a rather cheesy German film called Westwind (translated from the German, Ostwind) in which a girl befriends a horse and nurtures it despite trying circumstances.
It was the sort of film aimed at well-to-do guys with a paddock and a few horses of their own but has since become something of a cult movie within the equine community.
The riding in the game is particularly true to life, even if some of the scenarios Ari and her horse find themselves in are not, but all in all it is quite a nice blend of the two games above, even if it is designed with a slightly younger audience in mind.
Ghost of Tsushima
Out recently on the PS4, this samurai-inspired open-world game is similar to Red Dead Redemption in many ways, with the protagonist’s horse being a means of transport between different areas of the vast world created by the game’s developers.
The point of difference here is the way you can gallop through certain landscapes, such as charging through flowing fields of tall grasses, splashing across mountain streams or disturbing drifts of fallen leaves with your horse’s hooves. All these beautiful touches make for a truly immersive riding experience, even if you are being chased by a troop of blood thirsty Mongols at the same time.
With many horse fanatics eager to see more horse action in the games they play, some private individuals have even begun creating horse themed MODs, which are add ons for pre-existing games. One impressive MOD has been put together for the Sims 4, allowing you to have your characters ride and interact with horses that don’t usually exist in the original game.