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Red Dead Online’s horses have a dark, jealous energy

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Horses in Red Dead Online are out of control

Rockstar Games via Polygon

My posse and I have kept Red Dead Online in our stable of games we routinely play. The sweeping landscape, variety of game modes, and our connection to our characters ensures that we regularly log in and take to the roads. There’s just one problem that we’re encountering, and it’s about the horses. We don’t know if this is a bug, intentionally coded behavior, or an act of God punishing us for our hubris, but we’re in one dilly of a pickle — we’ve got a set of jealous, angry horsies on our hands.

Take my buddy Jake and his trusty steed Gladius. Gladius was Jake’s first horse that he worked to unlock, and the horse is an all-rounder. Races, free roam, combat? Gladius can handle it all. There’s just one thing that Gladius absolutely cannot tolerate, and that’s the sight of Jake on another horse. One day, Jake sauntered by on his new, expensive horse, Scimitar. He explained at length how much he had saved up for Scimitar, how many powerful stats Scimitar had, and what a talented boy this horse was.

Then, Gladius ran up out of nowhere and speared Scimitar, knocking Jake over, and then pranced angrily over Scimitar’s fallen form. It was an extremely potent power move, and I am afraid of that horse.

This isn’t a one-time incident, either. Gladius shows up constantly. Much like Nemesis from Resident Evil 3, we have learned to keep our ears perked up and alert. Except instead of a menacing “STARS,” we listen for the agitated clip clop of Gladius. He is always watching, always alert, and fucking furious that we have dared to put him in a stable. He has knocked Jake off cliffs, into wagons, and through rivers. He cannot be stopped, and he will not show mercy.

It’s not just Gladius, either. Horses across Red Dead Online are breaking the law. They’re taking over the frontier, and us cowboys are powerless to do anything but watch. When the latest major content patch hit, my friends and I jumped into the game to do some missions. One of these adventures took us to St. Denis, where we had to rob a bank. It was a thrilling, high stakes heist that eventually spilled out onto the streets.

We had to run from a swarm of police, and out of instinct, I whistled for my big, stupid, friendly horse Hayseed. Hayseed is my friend, and he has never done anything wrong in his entire life, and so I reflexively called for his aid. I understand that it’s wrong to bring such a sweet, innocent boy into the criminal lifestyle, but I was desperate. There were a lot of coppers, and money is extremely heavy to carry. The game alerted me that in this part of the mission, I couldn’t bring my horse.

“Fair enough!” I said, and I didn’t think anything further of it until I heard one of my friends shout over the mic. “HAYSEED, NOOOOOO!” he shouted. “WHAT? WHY?!”

Hayseed had heard my whistle. It was meant to be impossible; the game had literally added a stipulation that horses could not enter this mission. Yet he had responded to my call, defying the will of Rockstar and code alike, and he had gamboled gently into the graveyard we had chosen to hide in. As my friend ran from the police, Hayseed’s massive bulk maneuvered into his path. My friend could not run around Hayseed, and so he was gunned down in the graveyard.

Red Dead Online has had plenty of worrisome horse behavior before. In May, piles of dead and burned horses would appear in heaps around the game world. Before that, in February, horses — and animals — would disappear from the world altogether.

All of this together is alarming, and we should probably be concerned ... but to be frank, I find incidents like the ones involving Gladius and Hayseed to be hilarious. The world of Red Dead Online feels alive, and one of my favorite parts about the game is the weird narratives that have emerged about our characters and their horses as we play. We may be in deep trouble, but I don’t even care. Crush me beneath your hooves, Gladius. It’s probably for the best.