This came up in my session tonight. My players all had the cash to buy war horses and outfit them, I ruled that they're readily available in Neverwinter which they were near for their last adventure.

However, there are two bits of text that I'm trying to piece together and figure out how they work. The first is the following from the mounted combat text:

It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options: Dash, Disengage and Dodge (PHB 198)

Does this mean that you cannot under any circumstances use your mount's attack (such as the Warhorse's Trampling Charge/Hooves attack)?

Reading the next section it really seems to come down to whether or not a Warhorse is considered an intelligent mount or not, answers should address this.


8 Answers 8


Yes, a mount can attack as it is being ridden

From Controlling a Mount (PH 198):

You can either control the mount or allow it to act independently. Intelligent creatures, such as dragons, act independently.

(Similar wording appears in the Player's Basic Rules on p77, under the Controlling a Mount section.)

These are 2 separate sentences. The first sentence applies to mounts. The second sentence applies to intelligent creatures. While an intelligent creature can be ridden, they are not classified as mounts, and any attempt to refer to a dragon as your mount may have unintended consequences (eg - being eaten).

If the player decides to control their mount then:

  1. It's initiative changes to match the rider
  2. It moves as the rider directs, and can only take the 3 actions you mentioned.

If the player decides to let the mount act independently then:

  1. It retains it's own initiative
  2. The mount moves and acts as it wishes, which may not be what the rider wants. They cannot choose which enemy the mount targets, which attack it uses, or prevent it from fleeing if it is badly wounded.

I would allow a player to switch between controlling a mount and letting it act independently in combat, but I would say they have to spend an action for each switch.

  • \$\begingroup\$ "I would say they have to spend an action for each switch.", why? If this is just a house rule you use in your table, you should say so. If it's somewhere in the rules, I'd like to know where. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 22, 2021 at 7:32

Ordinary mounts indeed cannot be commanded to use their attack, however, if you relinquish control over them, they might choose to anyway if provoked. It's all up to DM fiat.

There is a notable exception in the Paladin's mount. The Paladin's mount is both intelligent (6 INT, rather than 2 INT), and obeys your commands. Therefore, it will do what you tell it to, without needing to control it, and can use its trample attack to assist you in combat.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I mean, you can try and command an unintelligent mount to attack, but it just might not listen. I'm sure that was the point you were trying to make, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Mar 20, 2018 at 20:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ with regards to the paladins mount (i assume from 'find steed') being ordered to attack, is this written some where I can point to or an opinion based on that the spell explictly raises it's int to the point where it could be argued that a paladin could direct to attack rather than seeing if the DM decides ithe mount lashes out in defence/fear? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2023 at 14:17

When you are controlling your mount, it can not uses its attack options.

The main difference is whether you are controlling the mount, and an intelligent mount is a factor because it can never be under your total control.

In D&D, most intelligent mounts can communicate intelligently, such as unicorns and dragons. Horses are generally regarded as non-intelligent for game purpose, or at best semi-intelligent.

You can give a non-intelligent mount free rein, so that it can use whatever actions it has including attacks. You can point to an enemy and shout, but whether, who, or how the mount attacks is up to the mount, not controlled by you.

And, as a DM, unless they are buying a warhorse, and unless the enemy is not bigger than the (war)horse, as soon as PC gives up control I will have the horse flee.


If the horse is being controlled, the rules state that it can only use those three actions, but, as it says in the DM rule book, the rules serve you. So, I would look at it like this: If you paired someone who was trained to ride horses into battle with a horse that has been trained to be ridden into battle, it could probably control the horse and give it a command to rear up and smash someone with its hooves. I feel like this was probably a real tactic used in combat. So maybe if one of your players has the mounted combat feat and is riding a trained warhorse, let them use the trample ability while controlling the horse.


Let's take a look at the text:

The initiative of a controlled mount changes to match yours when you mount it. It moves as you direct it, and it has only three action options: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge. A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.

Okay, first off, "the initiative of the controlled mount changes to match yours." This makes sense, since it will "move as you direct it," which implies two things: first, that it will (normally) only move as you direct it and will not make decisions on its own, and, second, it uses its movement as movement, not an action. Some of the other answers here seemed to suggest that controlling the mount would take an action, but if that were the case, how does the Mounted Combatant feat make any sense? Specifically, how would you be getting Advantage on Melee attacks while riding your mount if you are using your action to direct the mount instead of attacking? Okay, moving on. The next thing it says is that your mount "has only three action options: Dash, Disengage, and Dodge." This specifically states that the MOUNT still gets an action for the round, an action that you direct it to take, per the previous sentence, and that uses the mount's action, not yours, however, you are not permitted to use the mount's action to attack. Finally, the last sentence states that your "mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it," which further supports the idea that as the rider, you direct the mount's movement and action each round independent from your own action. Your own action can then be used to attack.

Personally, I would rule that the three listed actions you can make your mount perform in combat are listed as freebies, that is, they are the only ones that can be preformed using the mount's action, and to make your mount do anything else, counts as a "risky maneuver". In the Using Skills section in the PHB (p.178) it states that "You also make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check to control your mount when you attempt a risky maneuver." Since in most cases, performing a Skill check uses your action for the round, I believe that it is reasonable to allow a character who is riding a trained mount to attempt to urge their mount to attack by using their action for the round to attempt a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. I would make the DC for the check be equal to the AC of the target being attacked and give Disadvantage if your mount is not combat trained. I feel like this ruling provides the best answer that allows the DM to say "yes" to the player without breaking the mechanics of the game. It adds utility to the Animal Handling skill, and rewards players for investing in the skill. It allows players with low Animal Handling skill to still attempt using a combat mount, just as a wizard can still try to attack with a great sword; it probably won't work out too well for them, but they can try.


D&D 5th ed has specifically de-powered a lot of went before. The best example of this is to look at what a Ranger Beast Master can do with his companion. He has to give up his action to allow the beast to attack. So he cannot attack in the same round as the beast, at least until later levels when he gets multiple attacks.

A mount in 5th ed is the same. It basically increases the movement speed of the rider but does not give extra attacks. If it is intelligent and could choose to attack anyway, then it can do what it likes and is basically a friend transporting the rider.

When mounted on a mount you have no effective move option, so the mount replaces your move but it uses an action to do so. Because it can move and take an action (that can be dash) it can double move for you, or it can use its move to transport you and then in combat dodge to get better defenses or disengage to allow it to move you out of combat without it provoking attacks of opportunity.

If your characters want to get their mounts to fight in combat I would make a new feat, probably that required mounted combat, that allowed them to direct a mount to attack for their action. Up to player level 5 they would need to use their action to do this, perhaps after 5th it would only take a bonus action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That sounds like a terrible waste of a feat. Consider how situational mounted combat tends to be in 5e, and consider that a character could add +2 to an Attribute or pick a good feat like Sharpshooter instead. I would allow a character to get their mount to attack with just the Mounted Combat feat. And it makes sense: the horse is your main weapon when you're riding down infantry. \$\endgroup\$
    – ಠ_ಠ
    Commented Aug 6, 2018 at 2:36


It is worded weirdly, but it does seem to leave open the possibility of the mount attacking.

We know the rider, when in control, can only tell the horse where and how to move ("It moves as you direct it"). But this does not necessarily take away all the mount's initiative, just its freedom of movement.

When you relinquish control to the mount, you no longer control where you go, but no one has ever implied that means you can no longer attack if you end up next to an enemy. So there is no reason the house cannot independently attack a creature it is next too, even if it moved under your control during that round (assuming it did not use up all of its actions). And this is something a warhorse is bred and trained to do.

Notably, there is this text:

A controlled mount can move and act even on the turn that you mount it.

Which could be taken to imply that even when you are on control, the mount still performs actions other than movement.

This interpretation has the benefit of making real world common sense. You really would not expect to have a whole lot of fine control over what and how a warhorse attacks, but you would expect it to bite and kick wildly in combat against enemy combatants.


Going by the RAW it would seem at this stage that you yourself can't use a mounts action to attack, whether it's intelligent or not. However you might be able to "suggest" to an Intelligent creature that it should attack.

As for whether a horse is intelligent, there doesn't really seem to be anything in the 5th ed rules, however, in the 2nd edition PHB it states under intelligence

This ability gives only a general indication of a character's mental acuity. A semi-intelligent character (Int 3 or 4) can speak (with difficulty) and is apt to react instinctively and impulsively.

Therefore you could interpret that anything with an Int score under 3 would be considered unintelligent (or at least that's how our DM ruled it in the one game of AD&D I have played).

Now, if a mounted creature is uncontrolled and/or is intelligent, it acts on it's own accord so yes it can attack but whether or not it does is determined by the DM, not the rider. In the case of a uncontrolled mounted Warhorse, unless it's trained to protect a specific person, it might just stand in place, only attacking or fleeing if it's cornered or takes some serious damage. A normal Riding Horse would probably flee 90% of the time and something like a Bear, I'd think, would probably retaliate if it's attacked rather than it's rider.


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