Spoiler alert! As girlie as My Horse may sound, it’s a lot of fun for any one who loves caring for animals, or pretending to through simulation games. You can feed, groom, train any of several horses (or even a zebra) and compete to become world champion. Best Buy.
Readers probably know that Carol loves cats more than any thing else in the world. What they probably don’t know is that she loves horses second most. You might think that would leave me in third place, but, come on people, we’ve been married 26 years. I would be lucky to be in third place.
I’m happy being in the top five. Or ten.
Hell, most spouses would be lucky to rate in the top 20 after golf, shopping, online chatting with friends, the televangelist who keeps getting all the extra income, the family car, kids, grandkids, mother, investments and internet porn.
I mean, sure, Carol is in first place in my affections, but that’s only because Dr. Who isn’t on year-round. And because football hasn’t been the same since Montana retired. And because, unlike other guys my age, I think the only thing more boring than golf is watching golf on TV.
Recently we took on Gabe, a horse she took over for a dear friend. She had to transport him to Oak Hill and arrange for a barter exchange for part of his boarding. So now she visits him four days a week, a good deal of which is barn maintenance and other chores at the rescue ranch where he stays.
I thought she would love My Horse because it allows her to take care of virtual Gabe when she can’t visit the real Gabe at the ranch. But when she downloaded it she couldn’t understand why I would think she liked it.
Only later did we realize that she downloaded My Horse HD instead of My Horse. So don’t confuse My Horse with My Horse HD (which is a puzzle game). You will be sorely disappointed and probably never trust my judgement again.
Virtual simulation games have become surprisingly sophisticated, and one of the best is My Horse. My Horse provides players with several breeds to adopt and add to their stables. You could train a Pinto, or a quarter horse or even (if you play long enough or cough up extra cash) an Appaloosa or a Zebra.
As with most games, you start out with a generic horse and try to earn virtual cash and diamonds to upgrade your equipment, buy more horses and train for a world championship. Or you can buy diamonds with real cash, and get the cool swag right away. You can groom and feed your horse and email photographs to your friends. The horse looks remarkably realistic, although the rider doesn’t.
Of course, the rider is a girl. I find that kind of sexist. Even zombie games allow players to use girls for their avatars, so I don’t know why My Horse’s developers seem to think horse riding is only for girls.
Trust me, it isn’t. I don’t know about western riding circuits (and My Horse is definitely western style), but men compete professionally in dressage and they aren’t gay. Not all of them anyway. These guys get more action than football players. Female riders flock to them like hummingbirds to a feeder, probably because their husbands are home watching golf.
There’s this one guy, Janek. He’s not a dressage competitor, he’s more like a new age horse guru. He gives clinics all over the world, and when Carol and her friends talk about Janek on the phone, you’d think they were teenage girls fantasizing about the Beatles. They get all dreamy-eyed and their voices rise heatedly, and they plan months in advance to attend his sessions.
I say this as a word of advice to young boys looking to meet girls, but who are most likely going to get their asses pounded into the turf playing football.
You need to feed and groom your horse daily, and clean his paddock as well. In addition, you have to hire a farrier to keep his hooves trimmed and dentists to care for his teeth. You can earn money by hiring him out to photographers and TV producers.
The central activity in My Horse is training for competition. You have to train your horse to weave barrels, jump, and step through poles with increasing levels of complexity. After you finish each training course (which can take any where from one to four dozen training sessions), you qualify for a tournament at your level of competition. If you medal, you can start training for the next.
Nor can you do this all at once. Your horse can only train if he has enough energy and after two or three sessions it’s time to turn him out to pasture to rest.
Presentation is just as important as training, however. As you advance through the levels, you also qualify for increasingly expensive saddles, bridles and reins which, in turn, boost your presentation points. Many can be bought with the coins you earn doing tasks and chores, but others require, you guessed it, diamonds.
Players have to train and qualify for seventeen different events on the way to the world championship. My Horse keeps track of the highest medal you won in any event, but if you repeat events you get no additional credit.
Unlike other games requiring players to buy virtual currency, My Horse can be generous with the diamonds. Players earn a diamond with each level, and if they plan they can actually buy some decent equipment and decorative blankets and saddle pads.
At least a third of the score is determined by “presentation'” which depends on the cool gear you buy. The highest scoring gear requires diamonds, which require real cash.
Ironically the best equipment for presentation is the Western saddle set, which you can qualify for early in the game (although it does require diamonds). The items you can earn at higher levels actually decrease the number of presentation points you earn in competition, until you reach the sheriff’s set at level 50.
You need cash and diamonds to buy saddles and other riding equipment for competition. Some sets can add 500-600 points to your overall score.
I learned this the hard way because once you purchase an item, the game no longer displays the presentation points it earns. As a consequence, you have no way of knowing how your current equipment compares to equipment at higher levels.
My only real complaint is that you can earn cash and diamonds to purchase additional breeds, but you can’t have more than one horse in your pasture at any time. Nor can you name individual horses, you can only name your current horse. Since the horses all perform equally well in competition and the tasks, it makes adding to your stable an imaginary luxury.
It also bothers me slightly that the game only gives you credit for the first time you medal in any of the tournaments. If you win silver and then gold, it will add more medals to your count, but My Horse only records one win no matter how many times you finish a tournament. I have seven golds in the world championship, but the game only remembers the first.
These are hardly serious setbacks, and I suspect the medal count will be an easy fix. If you like horses, or just enjoy time management simulations, My Horse is a game you can play without losing interest for a couple of months (if not more).
Jenny Manytoes rates My Horse
Jenny Manytoes would make biscuits all over My Horse. She’s not a fan of horses, mind you, but she thinks the game itself is a Best Buy.