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From Combat:

If you use two move actions in a round (sometimes called a “double move” action), you can move up to double your speed. If you spend the entire round running, you can move up to quadruple your speed (or triple if you are in heavy armor).

You can use ranged weapons while your mount is taking a double move, but at a –4 penalty on the attack roll. You can use ranged weapons while your mount is running (quadruple speed) at a –8 penalty. In either case, you make the attack roll when your mount has completed half its movement. You can make a full attack with a ranged weapon while your mount is moving. Likewise, you can take move actions normally.

The first quote seems to call a "double move action" two separate move actions, while the second seems to imply (and indeed, only works if) a "double move action" is a single action. This also applies to the Mounted Skirmisher feat.

Do I have to commit my mount to making either a only a single move action or two move actions on our turn before I can full-attack with a ranged weapon (or melee weapon with Mounted Skirmisher), or is there just a loophole allowing you to have your mount make one move action, make a full attack without penalty, and then have your mount make a second move action?

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As always, mounted combat is a complete mess.¹

In this case, though, it seems to me fairly clear² that, like many other “combination” actions, a double move exists in a state of superposition³ until you need to nail down exactly what’s going on. Compare full attacks, where you are free to decide you were taking an attack action or a full-attack action after seeing the results of your first attack. In the same way, you can decide whether your mount is taking a single move action or a double move action after the mount has completed its first move action—because until that point, it doesn’t matter if it’s a single move or a double-move (equivalently: you haven’t made an observation that determines its state one way or the other.) But at that point, you have to decide: whether it’s single or double affects whether you get a penalty on your attack(s), and whether you can continue moving. If you decide it is taking a double-move action, it can continue moving—and conveniently, that’s also the halfway point,⁴ so that same place is where you make your ranged attack⁵ from, if you elect to use that option.

Note that I’m making no determination as to whether the double-move is one action or two. This result stands either way.

Also not addressed in this answer: the Pathfinder FAQ that claims that the rider has to use the same actions as the mount every time the mount does anything. If that’s in force, mounted combat basically straight-up doesn’t work, so I recommend ignoring it with prejudice.

  1. I’m not even restricting this statement to Pathfinder, mounted combat is pretty much always a mess in just about all “crunchy” systems.

  2. Read: not actually clear at all, in fact we could definitely make arguments for other interpretations, but this feels most consistent and best able to cover all the rules without creating an awful mess to adjudicate.

  3. Simultaneously both states and neither, in the manner of Schrödinger’s cat.

  4. Technically, it’s where you have used up half of your potential movement; you could choose to move less than your total movement on either half of the movement and I feel it would still be a legal double-move, and the ranged attacks should still come from wherever you were when you chose to use another of your mount’s move actions to make this a double-move. Trying to use half of your actual movement is an exercise in misery since you would have to figure out the entire path, adjudicate anything that occurred while moving (attacks of opportunity, traps, etc.) that might affect how far you get to actually move, and then back-calculate the halfway point and retroactively make attacks—that’s a mess no one needs.

  5. As I’m reading it, either a standard-action attack or a full-round action full-attack, at your choice. The wording could definitely be clearer on that, though.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel this doesn't fully address the issue I was having. I was asking if it was necessary to "collapse the wave function", so to speak, before the rider has made a full attack, since a mount double moving imposes a penalty. Depending on the result of the full-attack, I might want the mount to move again, or I might want it to do some other standard action. If I can decide whether the mount is double moving or not after I make the full-attack, then the penalty to ranged attacks would also be in a superposition of existing and not existing. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 28, 2022 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @hamburgerpls Yes, that’s what I’m saying: you have to “collapse the wave function” as soon as it would make a difference. In this case, that would be after the first move action, before attacking or moving further. I’d probably personally rule that you could take the −4 penalty to keep the option open, and then not double-move if the attack with the penalty makes you want to do that for whatever reason, but the rules don’t really get into that kind of detail. I’ll edit to be clearer on that point. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 28, 2022 at 22:59

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