Second Life: Finding Water Horse

I talked about how amazing Bento is when used for a Second Life avatar. I didn’t realize how far Bento could reach… it’s much more than just making more life-like avatar heads.

You guys might already know that I’m a huge lover of horses in any MMO or game… so please excuse me while I fangirl about horses in yet another post.

I was browsing (and cleaning up) pictures on my Second Life Pets Flickr… which somehow still exists after all these years… and I ran across some amazing pictures of people riding horses in Second Life. I was blown away — I’d never seen such a life-like breedable horse in SL! 

I followed a link in the picture description to a place called Toor Equestrians. I thought that might be a shop or something. Only, it turned out to be an equestrian center and training location… and there were other people there!

I was about to warp away, not meaning to intrude, but they were super welcoming, and my curiosity about the horse weighed out my apprehension. So, I spent some time talking to them — they were all very nice and answered my questions.

Turns out that this horse is not a breedable pet. It’s a Bento avatar attachment called the Water Horse Riding Horse (there are also full horse avatars there, so the “riding horse” part indicates it’s not the avatar).

And holy cow, does it look and move and sound amazing for something you’d find in Second Life!

I followed the Landmark one of the kind people gave me to a place called the Water Horse mall. There’s a whole bunch of shops there that sell skins, accessories, shapes, and everything you can think of for the Water Horse.

There’s also an area where you can demo the rideable horse, and trails to ride around on.

This is an attachment to your avatar, which means you don’t have to rez anything on the ground — it stays in folders in your inventory, and you wear it when you want to ride it!

A Quick History of Breedable/Rideable Horses in SL

In the past, breedable horses (which you have to pay to feed and upkeep unless you want them to get sick) have tried in various ways to make the breedable pet a rideable object as well. There are three brands that I remember, two of which are still pretty active in Second Life.

First, there was the juggernaut Amaretto Horses.

Honestly, these horses were more for show and breeding. I tried to ride mine a few times but it was quite wonky. They were very popular because they were the first breedable horse on the grid, and still remain a pretty strong seller.

Then, came Champion Horses.

These attempted to be more lifelike, and had a racing and training system built into the breedable. Looking back at the manual on their website, apparently you had to pay to be certified to race or train, however. I haven’t heard much about these horses lately, and I have no idea on the status of this brand.

Finally, probably the nicest looking breedable horse I knew of back when I had pets in SL was ABC Horses.

I really loved how a lot of these looked, especially with the different traits and breeds you could discover. They also have racing, training, show jumping, and various other horse sports. I think this breedable is still going pretty strong, even now.

However, again, each of these horses are objects that you have to place on the ground in SL. This means you have to have permission on the land to rez them to bring them out. You also have to keep them fed (which costs money and requires land and prims to place them), or they can get sick and go out of commission. There are perma-pet options that allow you to keep the horse object without having to feed them, but that differs based on the brand.

Also, given the laggy and unpredictable nature of Second Life, it’s not unusual to completely lose your pet when rezzing and riding. It also wasn’t the smoothest riding experience – the creators did the best they could with the technology on hand.

Back to the Water Horse

Compared to these breedables, there’s a huge difference not just in how lifelike the Bento horse is, but the whole experience of riding. There are four different gaits, there’s jumping, and there’s a HUD to change poses. There’s also a HUD to apply custom textures, which allows you to interface with user-created skins.

For example, here’s the Warmblood Water Horse I bought, new out of the box. It comes with several pre-set colors and markings. This is the standard white.

I’m a big fan of blue roan horses, so I picked up a new skin the next day. I applied it to my existing horse, and have a horse of a different color in my HUD options now. Same horse, just painted differently.

I can use the HUD to switch between any of the color textures I own at any time. This makes for an amazing amount of customization… and is the reason a whole mall with walls of things like this exist:

You can pick up a whole jousting system. There’s an archery system. There’s carts for the horses to pull, and a double rider system.

And you don’t have to be a wiz at Second Life or a huge horse lover to enjoy these horses. I took Syn and Amoon (neither who had been to SL in a while) to the demo section and we all rode around on the horses for a while one night. Seemed like they enjoyed it (when Syn wasn’t leaping off the edge of the sim into the ocean).

There’s a strong community of players built up around the Water Horse. I’m always seeing people there at the mall, and there are a lot of public trails out there to ride on. This has really rekindled my desire to explore and learn even more about what Bento is doing in Second Life — I’m sure there must be more.