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To be a warhorse the horse would go through training, so could you get a draft horse, spend money to train it, and have it become a warhorse?

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Sounds like a Plot Hook

Other answers have looked at the history, and pointed out that simple "re-training" isn't necessarily a realistic answer.

BUT

The DnD world is deliberately full of magic. It seems fairly likely that you aren't the first person to say: "I have a nag, but I need a warhorse!"

I could envision mages who specialize in this transformation, or items that can perform it.

Think about the level of risk / certainty you want, and take it to the DM.

Variations could include:

"I'd let an apprentice practice on my horse, and if it works, I get a free warhorse."

"We'll recover the item for the King, and just use it on our own mounts on the way home."

"I'll throw some money at the mage, and he'll transform my horse."

All are valid, and any could be fun under the right circumstances.

To be a little more concrete:

The difference between a warhorse and a draft horse is 350gp. Trivially, if you say "A wizard can transform your horse for 350gp." This is "balanced" and should not cause any problems at your table. It would be equivalent to selling the draft horse and buying a warhorse with 350 gp and the proceeds from the sale.

If you're intended solution is more complicated, the risk should be appropriate for 350gp.

In the case of an apprentice practicing the spell, you could select a risk of spell failure that fits the stakes. Having the spell accidentally transform the horse into a CR 10 enemy is probably not balanced - 350 gp is not a significant sum for a level 10 party - but a risk of getting fined by the local guild for enabling unsanctioned transformations, or the risk of costly material components being destroyed rather than returned, or even the risk of the horse just dying are probably appropriate risks.

Perhaps all those risks are present, such that on average the cost is around 350gp, but there's a chance it could be either free, or far more expensive.

And, as always, if the players find themselves in debt, they may have to pay the local guild with services rather than coin.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I downvoted because this is really just an idea generation answer. You haven't backed up with experience any of your ideas or the pros and cons of how they may play out at a table. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 3, 2020 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch - It's not really a mechanics question. Warhorses aren't that expensive. Plot doesn't have pros or cons. \$\endgroup\$
    – codeMonkey
    Nov 4, 2020 at 14:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't matter that it's not mechanics, we still want answers to be supported. Your lack of support is why I've downvoted and I really suggest you read my link about how to back up subjective answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 4, 2020 at 14:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ A warhorse is 350gp more expensive than a draft horse. For early levels, that's significant. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 4, 2020 at 19:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden - this is a good point. \$\endgroup\$
    – codeMonkey
    Nov 4, 2020 at 21:47
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Mechanics of the game don't include anything like this so it's homebrew/ DM discretion all the way.

Destriers are trained from birth to be ready for battle so the process would be lengthy in the real world.

Historically, warhorses weren't the massive beasts media portrays them as. They needed strength and agility to perform battlefield manoeuvres and to be a comfortable ride for the knight.

Draft horses are big, built to drag heavy loads and have good stamina but they lack speed and the ability to stop, turn and accelerate.

But that is all just real world issues and DnD isn't a life simulator so ask your DM. The rule of cool always wins.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Weren't percherons originally bred to be war horses? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2020 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think so. The definition of what constituted a warhorse seems to be hazy, with some sources saying certain breeds that would be considered draft horses were ridden in battle. It looks like it really came down to whether the breed could be trained, be fitted with a comfortable saddle (depth of the chest and other anatomical factors affected this) and be capable of performing adequately in terms of speed and agility. As long as those boxes were ticked (and others) the breed would been suitable as a warhorse regardless of actual breed. That's the result of quick research (I'm not an expert). \$\endgroup\$
    – Steve
    Nov 2, 2020 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sounds about right, and I think we are drifting a bit. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 2, 2020 at 22:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Warhorse is a weird term because there's a solid 400 years where 'warhorse' meant something very different from a medieval charger. A Hussar's 'warhorse' was a well trained riding horse, not a knight's destrier. And anyway breed isn't really a constant; a few hundred years is plenty of time to totally change a breed's personality if you start actively selecting against warhorse-like traits. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 3, 2020 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good answer and here's why: I can put the same motor into (e.g.) a race car and (e.g.) a pickup truck. What's the difference? the race car is geared for speed and the pickup truck is geared for torque. Simplistically, warhorses are "geared for speed" and draft horses are "geared for torque." Yes, you could train one to become the other, but with al things biological, the longer you wait to do that, the harder and less valuable it becomes to do it. \$\endgroup\$
    – JBH
    Nov 3, 2020 at 23:03
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Game-wise, that's up to the DM, but from a realism standpoint (not always a good one to use for a fantasy game), it's not going to work.

We know from various sources (such as Crusades-era horse transport ships, tapestries, and surviving pieces of tack and shoes) that warhorses in the 11th-12th century were around 15 to 16 hands, which is a moderately large horse, but not crazy-big -- certainly not the 20+ hands range that's sometimes claimed for destriers. (For reference, draft horses like clydesdales or shires are often 17 or 18 hands, and most racehorses are in the 15 to 17 range due to disproportionately long legs.)

So draft horses are the right size, but they typically don't have the temperament to learn to be chargers. Warhorses are a matter of breeding as much as training; the reason most of the charger breeds died out by the early modern period is because they were terribly aggressive and difficult to handle, so nobody wanted them around once they weren't absolutely required for combat purposes. After guns entered the picture and everyone switched to using light cavalry and dragoons (when they used horses at all), the desirable traits for military mounts shifted to calm nerves and speed rather than size and aggression, which puts them in line with pretty much any riding breed.

Sure, you could put a draft horse in a warhorse training program, but they just wouldn't be willing to run full-speed into an opposing force the way warhorse breeds would. Draft horses tend to be plodding and gentle, because that's what you breed for when you're trying to get a horse that will pull a wagon or plough all day and is safe around your family.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You appear to be correct in your historical information, but can you add some citation support? That would really improve this answer and provide direct evidence for others to see and read. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Nov 4, 2020 at 15:32
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From pure RAW, no (ask your DM)... but technically yes? But actually no.

So, there are no rules that permit you to transform a draft horse into a warhorse via training. It's left entirely undefined, which means that it's another case for DM adjudication. It's one I'd be wary of, though, given that the draft horse is only worth 50gp, and the warhorse is 350gp. If it were somehow doable to train the one into the other in anything approaching a reasonable amount of time, I'd want to at least answer the question of why there aren't large numbers of NPCs out there doing just that and making significant income from it. By that token, while you might be able to get it turned into a warhorse by paying a fee, that fee is likely to be at least 350gp.

Now technically, the answer to the title question is "yes". You can turn a draft horse into a warhorse. It just takes two castings of a 9th-level spell. First you True Polymorph the draft horse into an object of some variety (concentrating for the full hour to make it permanent), and then you True Polymorph the object back into a warhorse (again, with the full hour of concentration). You can't do it direct, because the warhorse is higher CR.

For the exact wording of the question in the body, however, the answer is still somewhere between "no" and "ask your DM". There are no rules in the book at all for training animals, let alone having hirelings do it for you. You can turn the draft horse into a warhorse, but the requirement that you hire someone to train them makes it impossible.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest pointing to the usual cost of casting a level 9 spell per the DMG or AL guidelines on that for a sense of scale. (If it costs X to cast that spell, times two, why not just spend the 350, and so on) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 4, 2020 at 23:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I hadn't seen anything definitive on the matter, but I'd sort of assumed that it would be pretty obvious that "cast True Polymorph twice" was absurd overkill as a way to acquire a warhorse - not least because you could cut that price in half trivially by picking a rock up off the ground and using it instead of the draft horse. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Nov 5, 2020 at 1:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I guess you are right about that absurd overkill bit \$\endgroup\$ Nov 5, 2020 at 3:25

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