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||Starting Location: Varies
|Starting NPC: Varies
|Possible Reward(s): Your own personal transport!
Horses are an enjoyable and essential element of Oblivion. Their most important feature is that they enable you to fast-travel between known points at much greater speed than you can on foot. So, for instance, if you emerge from a site with a load of loot in mid-afternoon, your horse will get you to the shop of your choice before closing time, whereas if you went on foot you would almost certainly have to wait overnight.
You can buy a horse at any of the stables outside the main cities. Unusually in Oblivion IV, the stable owners don't make a fuss if you break into their quarters after dark and wake them up. (But you may get arrested by a guard when you emerge - although if you have enough seniority he will "take care of the fine" for you).
Each stable specializes in a different breed of horses, with varied characteristics, qualities and prices. In alphabetical order, these are as follows:
(Horse Whisperer Stable; proprietor: Clesa). She breeds white horses, which are the toughest and one of the quickest in Cyrodiil. Cost: 4,000 gold.
(Bay Roan Stables; proprietor: Isabeau Bienne). Her horses are bays (brown with black mane). They are said to be faster than a skewbald (paint horse) but hardier than a chestnut. Cost: 1,000 gold.
(Wildeye Stables; proprietor: Petrine). Her horses are skewbalds (brown and white patches -sometimes known in the USA - as they are in Oblivion - as "Paint Horses"). They are the slowest and, despite Petrine's claims, the most vulnerable to attack. Cost: 500 gold.
(Black Water Stables; proprietor: Tovas Silvani). He breeds Black Horses, which are the fastest of all, and, consequently, the most desirable and expensive. Cost: 5,000 gold. Buy one as soon as you can afford it.
(North Country Stables; proprietor: Bongond). His breed is chestnuts (light brown with light brown manes). They are the second fastest horses in the land, but not very tough. Cost: 2,500 gold.
(Five Riders Stable; proprietor: Cat-Face). He also sells skewbalds (paint horses). Cost 500 gold.
(Grateful Pass Stables; proprietor: Ugak gra-Mogahk). He is another breeder of bays. Cost: 1,000 gold.
You can also get your leg over (yea, I know what you're thinking!) a free horse in a couple of quests. In the process of rescuing Martin from the Siege of Kvatch, Prior Maborel at Weyland Priory, will offer you the use of his skewbald. After he is killed by the Daedric invaders you can also make use of the Priory's chestnut horse. You will find them in the stables through the arch to the right of the front door, left of the chapel. In Knights of the Nine you are given the use of either a chestnut or bay horse from their stables at the Priory of Nine. You can also ride the unicorn in Harcane Grove, should you decide (rightly) not to kill it for its horn.
Incidentally, never steal anybody else's horse if you don't want to end up in prison, which you inevitably will. Horse thievery is regarded as a serious crime in Cyrodiil.
Once you have acquired your horse, you have to learn to ride it. This is not easy, even on the roads. Adjust the controls as you find suits you best. But you are probably best off just using your horse to fast-travel between known sites. All horses are, however, vulnerable to attack. You cannot fight while in the saddle, so you have to dismount when you meet a hostile entity and get between it and your horse to defend it. Your horse will try to help you by kicking the enemy, but all of them are pretty vulnerable (even after being given horse armor in Knights of the Nine). Even a couple of mud crabs can kill the weaker horses, if you don't intervene in time. And they have virtually no chance against ogres and the like.
It follows, therefore, that you need to be careful where you leave your horse when embarking on a quest. The safest option is to park it at the nearest inn, and proceed from there on foot. If you decide to leave it somewhere else, have a good check around before leaving, to make sure there are no potential enemies lurking nearby - otherwise you may come back to find your faithful companion with its hooves in the air.
When you go back to a city, your horse will automatically be stabled, and you will see a message that this has been done, shortly after you enter the gate. You do not have to go to the stable to collect it. When you decide to leave by fast-travel, it will automatically come with you. If your destination is another city it will again be automatically stabled.
One negative factor is that your equine companions tend to get jealous if you use another horse, so you can never gather them in one place. They will just sulkily wander back to their original stables (or to Harcane Grove in the case of the unicorn), usually taking several days of gameplay. The positive bit is that they always arrive safely, and you are notified when they get there. After that you can go and get them back at any time. But they will just wander off again if they feel neglected.
In summary, if you are a horse-lover, you will really enjoy this aspect of the game. If you are not, you will still find a horse very useful and just go and buy another one when yours gets killed. Was the writer of this section a horse-lover or not? I don't think I need to answer that question.