Howrse: an unexpected obsession

Howrse?  Yes, Howrse.  No, it’s not spelled wrong.  It’s an online horse game that I have come to be quite obsessed about.

Here’s how it happened . . . I actually followed a link from this very page — it was an ad that Google put on our blog.  I thought the name was odd, so I decided to see what it was all about.

Basically, you sign up, and you get a “horse” (this is a virtual horse, to eliminate any confusion).  There are a lot of things you can choose to do with your horse: train it, breed it (and get more horses as a result), stand it for stud (if it’s male), enter it in competitions, win awards, etc.  If you get tired of your horse, you can also sell it.  If the whimsy strikes, you can also sign up to run your own boarding facility, where you take care of other peoples virtual horses, as well.  But that only addresses the fun side of horse ownership.  This game addresses the difficult and tedious sides, as well.  You have to care for your horse, and pay for the keep of  your horse.  Overall, it’s really quite realistic, considering it’s a game played online with virtual horses that age 2 months every night.

Really, though, it’s not just the game, but the business model that I find intriguing.  You sign up for free.  Your first horse is free, and it comes with a little bit of virtual horse money to continue with the upkeep.  You can continue to play, forever, for free.  You will advance through the rankings, your horse will learn and grow.  By taking fairly simple written tests, you can qualify for different virtual jobs on Howrse, where you can earn a varying amount of money to help support said virtual horses.  With your virtual income, you can buy more horses, breed the ones you have and support them all.  You can get more virtual money by selling horses, offering horses for stud, entering (and winning) competitions, or just selling the virtual droppings that your virtual horse produces.  There are, however, little extras in the game.  If you’re a very patient person, you can earn these extras, or “find” them in the game as you go along.  Really, nothing in the game is excluded from you if you play for free — you just have to be willing to wait for it.

If you are willing to pay for it, however, you can get access to many of these extras early.  For $15, you can purchase 10 “passes” which allow you to change the color of your horses coat, train them faster, give them better tack or even revive them from death.  What’s really great, though, is that there really are some things on Howrse that money can’t buy you  — some of the aspects of the game truly can only be unlocked by continuing to come back day after day.  From a psychological perspective, it’s a really masterful execution of the intermittent reward method of training — for the players, not the horses.  There are just enough little tidbits that you can get from coming back regularly, that it keeps you hooked.  But they don’t give away the farm — there are certain perks that can only be earned by steadily playing the game over time.  It’s really well done.

I could pretend that I’m interested in it on a purely philosophical level, but that’s not true.  I find it very addictive.  I want to log on and see how my horses are doing.  I am beginning to understand the strategy involved.  I’m learning to train my horses more and more, and to be patient with things like competitions and breeding to help the outcome.  I really am invested in the success of my “horses” on a very emotional level (of course, this is from a person that couldn’t play Tomb Raider because I got freaked out every time poor Lara Croft died).

I think it’s a great game.  My sister is giving me a hard time because I have actual horses (the namesakes of my virtual horses).  She thinks I’m working out some deep-seated guilt complex by giving such thorough care to my pretend horses while I farm out the care of my real horses to someone else.  There could be an aspect of that, but I don’t really think that’s it.  It’s a great game.  It was obviously written by someone actually in the horse world (in real life).  It takes a lot of the same attributes to succeed on Howrse as with real horses: patience, perseverance and a little luck.  They’ve got me hooked with their Pavlovian method of reward.  And these horses can come on vacation with me — wherever I am in the world, if I can get to a computer, I can visit with my virtual Cricket.  That’s pretty cool.

(Howrse username = sunderi)

16 Responses to “Howrse: an unexpected obsession”

  1. shata says:

    i really love howrse, im addicted too! go to the cenetaurs and look under horses and type in caravelle. that is my stallion. you will find out who i am on the game if you do that.

  2. wahooey says:

    I also am addicted all for the same great reasons. It has given me a chance to ressurect my long passed on favorite childhood horse and care for him again in a cyber sort of way.

    If that’s weird, I really don’t care – I’m loving this game!

  3. Redmoon says:

    I am as equally addicted to howrse as you are. In fact I became informed of it by Playing Equideo, the french verison. My name on howrse is Redmoon. But my Equideo account is JaimeMesChevaux.

  4. Gonnawinsomeday says:

    I am also addicted to howrse. I started my account in september, and I have been playing almost 24/7 ever since. My username is gonnawinsomeday, if you feel like seeing my horses.

  5. Cougar826 says:

    my dad is so confuzed about why i’m so addicted to it and this explains it perfectly!! i buy passes often wit my allowance, but my family think’s its extremely odd that i’m paying to upgrade a virtual horse

    but i love that game 2! i’m “Cougar826″ on the game if anyone wanna message me!

  6. ponygall98 says:

    i luuuurrrrvvvveeee howrse ive became realy hooked on the idia of a horse on the conputor its soooooooo grd im sssoooooo adicded!!!!

    i go on evry day after school 4 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    every 1 who reads this and has not got a account ….


    you do not know what ur missing out on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. ponygall98 says:

    by the way im ponygall98

    i wos born on 19 98

  8. elizabeth says:

    i love horse so much i can talk to my friends on there lol

  9. Julie says:

    I too love Howrse, I am a 46 year old handicap person who has oodles of time to try & keep occupied, I take my Howrse horses VERY seriously!
    They are my babies to fuss over and they give me a smile every morning when I check on them
    ;-) )

  10. kittypower says:

    I love howrse! I thought that it was going to be like other websites that you sign up for, play for one day, and never play again. My mom gets so annoyed, because I’m always on. I just love my horses like they’re real. By the way, I’m kittypower96 on howrse.

  11. RosieRider says:

    i love howrse its was starting to get anoying when i couldnt get a uni but now i have 2! yaaay. i think it can get a bit boring for some people at the start because you can get on the sales but once you have been registered a while then its an awsome game. i also think it is good because it doesnt pressure you to spend any real money too much. i have never bought passes but seem to be doing alright with my game.

  12. ToxicTwister says:

    Howrse isnt addictive to me but think how much effort was put into that game and how many people have joined just a year! wow!! im SMITHA off howrse

  13. nuttything says:

    i absolutely love howrse and funnily enough i also have 3 of my own horse but i enjoy playing on howrse but enjoy riding my real horses my friend got me hooked on it and have been going crazy when my computer crashes hope everyone else out there is enjoying it as much as i am thanks

    my user name is nuttything

  14. wendyz says:

    Ok, so I’m not the only adult playing? Thank God!! My husband thinks I’m nuts and finally I have something to show him other adults are in it to. Hahaha… he gets very jealous of the time me and my daughter play in the ac while our REAL horse is outside in the heat waiting for us!


  15. tack for horses…

    How do you come up with so much material to blog with?…

  16. horselova says:

    I go on howrse too!
    my username is dalek sec on the game and i breed quarter horses.