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Horses are four-legged mammals, employed in Westeros for much the same purposes as in the real world - transportation, combat, and as a patrimonial resource and symbol of status.
In the Seven Kingdoms, a Knight is expected to have at least one horse and to keep it battle-ready at all times. Even in the North, where strictly speaking Knights are rare, horses are valued and employed in much the same way as in the rest of Westeros.
Beyond the Wall
Both the Night's Watch and the Free Folk (also known as the wildlings) regularly employ Garrons. Other breeds of horse aren't well suited to the climate, terrain and food scarcity of the lands Beyond the Wall.
Dothraki measure wealth largely by the possession of horses, and spend most of their lives riding them. The horse is in the heart of the lives of Dothrakis, who are sometimes called "horselords"; for Dothraki the Horse is both a deity, a mount, a power source for its meat and milk of mares, and an inspiration for all craft.
The nomadic lifestyle, as well as many cultural taboos are directly associated with the horse (fear of salt water that horses do not consume, contempt of cities, etc…) Persons unable to ride are looked down by dothraki culture, and riding capability is associated with social prestige.
At the death of a Dothraki, his horse is slaughtered and later sacrificed on the funeral pyre of his master. The Dothraki consume almost exclusively horse meat, which they prefer to beef and pork, and to it they attribute many properties, especially for pregnant women. They drink a low alcohol beverage derived from mare's milk. 
Types of Horse
A classification employed by the A Game of Thrones tabletop RPG divides horses in nine types: Coursers, Destriers, Garrons, Palfreys, Rounseys, Stots, Ponys, Mules, and Sand Steeds. Available evidence suggests that for the most part those types correspond exactly to their real-world counterparts, with the exception of Dornish Sand Steeds, which are an original creation.
Classification by breed and use
- Destrier - destriers are tall, strong, splendid animals and are often high spirited. Destriers give knights a majestic air at tournaments. They are normally the most valuable type of horse, being well bred and highly trained. Some even consider them too valuable to risk in war thus the courser is the preferred mount for fighting.
- Courser - lighter than destriers and less costly, coursers are still beautiful animals. Coursers are also strong and fast, fit for war and for hunting. Warhorses are usually coursers, although they may in rare occasions be destriers. The expected mount of knights and nobility when they find themselves in combat or jousting situations.
- Charger - a warhorse used by mounted armoured noble of Slaver's Bay.
- Palfrey - the distinguishing characteristic of a palfrey is its ambling capability that makes it a more comfortable mount for long riding journeys. A well-bred palfrey may be as expensive as a destrier. Even royalty and high nobility will often be seen riding palfreys, although they are not meant for combat or jousting. Sweetfoot, one of Dunk's horses, was a palfrey.
- Garron - North of the Wall, Garrons are the only reasonable choice of horse (although other, rarer horselike animals might perhaps exist). Both the Night's Watch and its enemies use them in considerable numbers, both for riding and carrying cargo. Among horses, garrons are notable for their capability to deal with irregular terrain and cold temperatures. Under extreme cold, they fare better than palfreys and far better than destriers, who have considerably higher eating demands and are not particularly capable of dealing with snow.
- Rounsey - a strong and capable steed of no particular breeding. Although rounseys are perfectly capable war horses, they are relegated to hedge knights, squires, and non-knightly men-at-arms. Rounsey are common riding horses and may also be used as pack animals.
- Sand Steed - common in Dorne, it is a smaller than normal warhorse and cannot bear the weight of the armor (barding) that a warhorse usually wears. They are able to run for a day and a half before tiring.
- Stot - An inferior or worthless horse. Dunk's horse Chestnut is a stot.  Podrick Payne rides a stot in A Feast for Crows, and so does Reek in A Dance with Dragons.
- Zorse - a fierce black-and-white striped horse hybrid from the eastern continent.
- Pony - a horse that is noticeably small even when fully grown. Useful as children's mount, for driving charts and for carrying cargo and even riding (for riders of compatible size, of course). Ponies are not inherently less athletic or less capable than ordinary horses.
- Mule - the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Usually infertile, although it is possible for female mules to breed. Valued for their endurance and versatility for non-combat tasks. Mules are excellent working animals and may even be ridden, although they are not meant for combat. Dunk and Egg have a mule named Maester that they use mainly as a pack animal.
- Dray - dray horses, also called plow horses, are strong horses meant for heavy tasks. They are not necessarily unfit for riding, although they will not be the best choice for combat situations.
By reproductive capability
- Gelding - a gelding is a castrated horse, of any breed or purpose. Castration is useful for making the horse less hormonal and supposedly easier to deal with.
- Mare - a mare is a female horse, of any breed or purpose. A young mare is known as filly.
- Stallion - a stallion is a non-castrated horse, of any breed or purpose. The presence of testosterone may make stallions more physically impressive than otherwise comparable mares or geldings, but it also makes their behavior more aggressive.
References and notes
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 31, Tyrion IV.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 46, Daenerys V.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 39, Arya VII, Lord Beric Dondarrion mentions that his group needs gold because too many of them ride "rounseys, drays and mules" against foes with "coursers and destriers".
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 17, Tyrion IV.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
- ↑ A Clash of Kings, Chapter 41, Tyrion IX.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 The Hedge Knight.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 41, The Turncloak.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 42, The King's Prize.
- ↑ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 62, The Sacrifice.
- ↑ A Game of Thrones, Chapter 30, Eddard VII.
- ↑ A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.