Considering D&D 3.5 edition rules a heavy or light horse can be trained for combat riding, my question is: Does the horses stats remain the same as per page 273 of the monster manual or do they change to that of a heavy or light war horse as per pages 273 and 274. Under the horse description it states a horse not trained for war uses a hoof as secondary attack and adds only half its strength bonus.

It stands to reason a horse trained using the handle animal skill for the purposes of the fighting or combat riding training packages is trained for war. Does this mean the horse either light or heavy should have its stats replaced either by a light or heavy war horse respectively? Or does it simply mean the changes entail that the horse's hoof attack should now be treated as primary attack and negate the half strength bonus penalty? Or does it mean no changes occur, which would seem somewhat contradictory because otherwise it's not clear how exactly a heavy or light warhorse is actually trained to be a warhorse.

If anyone can answer this question it would appreciated, I'd be interested to resolve this question with evidence that can be presented with reference to any official D&D 3.5 source if at all possible. Thanks in advance for any assistance rendered.


3 Answers 3


A trained-for-war animal's stat block remains mostly unchanged

A heavy horse, light horse, or pony (Monster Manual 273, 273, and 277, respectively) that's trained for the purpose combat riding isn't transformed into a heavy warhorse, light warhorse, or war pony (273–4, 274, and 277–8, respectively). Instead, a heavy horse, light horse, or pony that's trained for the purpose combat riding gains the tricks attack, come, defend, down, guard, and heel; a rider atop such a creature can use the Ride skill use fight with warhorse; and—in the only real change to such a creature's stat blocks—the creature can use its hooves as primary attacks.

The Player's Handbook mentions nothing in the description of the skill Handle Animal (74–5) about how training an animal for the combat riding purpose fundamentally changes anything about the creature except that the creature will now perform the tricks it knows for its handler more readily. Similarly, the description of the Ride skill says a rider can make a Ride skill check to fight with warhorse if the mount is "war-trained" (80). Finally, only the Monster Manual mentions—and, then, only in passing—that

A horse not trained for war does not normally use its hooves to attack. Its hoof attack is treated as a secondary attack and adds only half the horse’s Strength bonus to damage. (273)

(A similar note is provided for the pony (277).) This strongly implies that a trained-for-war heavy horse, light horse, or pony uses its hooves to attack normally as primary attacks just like the respective heavy warhorse, light warhorse, and war pony.

When an animal is trained for the purpose combat riding, it knows some tricks and a rider can fight atop it more readily. Plus, if it's a heavy horse, light horse, or pony, it can fight with its hooves normally. Otherwise, the animal is unchanged.

(In the above, I assume—based on my research—that trained for war and war-trained are synonyms for the special purpose combat riding. (Your own research might yield different results, and, if it does, I'd love to hear them. I find the mount rules utterly opaque without if I don't make that assumption.) Also, I urge reading all four the articles "All about Mounts"; while Rules of the Game columns can be sometimes inaccurate, these articles are also one of the handful of places in the game's corpus that discusses mounts at all, much less in detail. Sometimes these "All about Mounts" articles in particular shed light on otherwise impossible-to-deal-with issues like this and this.)

"How can a light horse become a light warhorse?"

Technically, using mundane methods, it can't. A light horse, for example, is a different creature from a light warhorse, with not just a different price (75 gp versus 150 gp according to PH 129) but different ability scores (Str 14 versus 16 and Con 15 versus 17) (and—if it makes a difference—a separate Monster Manual entry).

For example, spending 6 weeks and succeeding on a Handle Animal skill check (DC 20) to train a light horse for the purpose combat riding will not grant that light horse Str +2 and Con +2.

(Want an animal with different ability scores? Ask the DM, when shopping for an animal, if there's an animal available that uses instead the nonelite array or even the elite array… then expect to pay a lot more for that animal! Alternatively, convince the DM that an animal already in your possession has become more than a possession and should be considered a cohort (DMG 104–5) so that the animal can gain XP alongside its master and advance in Hit Dice or level. (N.b. a light horse, for example, has the entry Advancement: —, so it and others like it—except in rare cases—never advance.) Finally, the 4th-level Drd spell awaken [trans] (PH 202) opens the door wide to a host of possibilities.)

…And about that warbeast template

This DM urges against using as written the template warbeast (MM2 219). In addition to the template warbeast requiring the creature to which the template be applied be reared by a handler for 1 year then trained by a handler for 2 months more, instead just buying a warbeast creature is one of the game's best—and most broken—deals. Even going by the Dungeon Master's Guide's "general rule" that a PC can't spend more than half his starting wealth on one thing (42), one 2nd-level PC can still afford a warbeast animal or vermin that possesses up to 12 Hit Dice, like a warbeast elephant (MM 272–3) or a warbeast Huge monstrous scorpion (287–8) (both typically CR 8). Consider carefully what kind of campaign you want to run before introducing into the campaign the template warbeast: a campaign that makes such high-powered creatures available so inexpensively looks and plays a lot differently from one that doesn't.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Good to get a second opinion on this it appears it's one of those rules dilemmas with room for differing opinions. I see why arguing for 'A trained-for-war animal's stat block remains mostly unchanged' makes for good consideration in respect to balancing problems down the line. However as you rightly mentioned there is no direct statement that supports handle animal skill used to train for purpose of combat riding removes the penalty for a light or heavy horse's melee attack being treated as a secondary attack. It is solely a deduction of inference based in common sense. \$\endgroup\$
    – user40033
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 2:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do acknowledge the warbeast option is legitimately within Rules As Written, however I'm going to take a middle ground stance on this and rule that teaching a horse the attack trick is sufficient to negate the hoof attack treated as a secondary attack and instead may be treated as a primary attack. Therefore I have marked this question as answered in line with chain of reasoning used in your post. \$\endgroup\$
    – user40033
    Commented Oct 27, 2017 at 3:01

Use the official template

Training the horse should add the Warbeast template from Monster Manual II, p219.

The template description says, in the "Creating A Warbeast" section:

The Monster Manual describes a few "war creatures" that have qualities similar to those of a warbeast but differ from standard creatures of a given kind. These creatures are considered to already have a separate "war template" and cannot have the warbeast template added. For example, one cannot apply the warbeast template to a heavy warhorse.

So, while the heavy warhorse is not specifically a heavy horse with the warbeast template, you can approximate the heavy warhorse by adding the template to the heavy horse.

In the "Training a Warbeast" Section, it says:

A warbeast can be reared and trained just as the base creature can. If the base creature is a domestic animal, the creature need not be specially reared, but it must be trained for two months (Handle Animal DC 20) to develop its abilities.

A warbeast based on a wild animal must be reared for one year (Handle Animal DC 15 + HD of the warbeast), then trained for 2 months (Handle Animal DC 20 + HD of the warbeast).

In all, the template admirably fills the gap between horse and warhorse (though by the stats given for animals, the warbeast heavy horse gets 1 greater Str and Con point than the heavy warhorse).

  • \$\begingroup\$ That helps because it sets the precedent that the warbeast template may be acquired and added to the base creature (domesticated or otherwise) simply as a result of player character action, using the handle animal skill. Therefore by logical implication it would appear a light or heavy horse can be trained using the handle animal to become a light or heavy warhorse. \$\endgroup\$
    – user40033
    Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 3:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the template is meant to fill in the gaps. Since there are already stats for warhorses, there is no need to calculate templating, just change the stats block as @user40033 mentioned \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 10:51

Warbeast vs Trained Animal

It is important to note that training just combat riding does not equal a warbeast template. Combat riding is just a skill, or "Trick" for your horse. Becoming a warbeast requires a number of other elements to be added -- essentially, you are training your animal to be stronger, healthier, used to armor, unafraid of combat, etc.

Training for combat riding also takes drastically less time than for a full warbeast. Generally speaking, unless you can "meta" the warbeast training into your background (perfectly easy to do so long as you meet the DC requirements) it is generally not practical in most campaigns (unless you happen to have time-skip at some point along the way that gives you a free 2 months with the animal).

I would, generally, suggest just saving a bit and buying a warhorse (they are quite cheap in relation to what they do). Alternately, as your DM permits, you might be able to hire a trainer that could do the task for you.

Please note that if you are a Druid or other class with an Animal Companion I would advise that you should always attempt to add a warbeast template if at all possible, because it makes a noticeable difference and your class abilities will smooth the process. Since this was not specified, however, I'll leave it with that.


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