Gaming Confessions: I reload to save my horse

The other night I was on my way to perform an assassination when a dragon attacked (cool story, bro).  I whipped out my bow and began tracking that thing through the skies, and letting loose a volley whenever it came close enough to hit.  When it landed I fired arrow after arrow at it and occasionally got caught in its fireballs.  No big deal, because I just used the time when it was flying to use my healing spells.  Its health was down to nearly nothing when…

My horse attacked it.

Now, I appreciate the fact my horse wants to get involved, however, she doesn’t wear armor, and her only weapons are her hooves.  Throughout the course of my current Skyrim playthrough she’s run off cliffs, been set on fire, and eaten by wild sabre cats and dragons.  I find myself wishing I could engage tactics and set them to tell my horse to STAY PUT.  I can’t, so she dies.  And you know what?

I reload my last save and replay that part to result in my horse’s survival.

I did reload several times when the nearly dead dragon killed my horse.  I’d like to think there are practical reasons behind it: a new horse costs 1000 gold, and since I make most of my money from theivery and sneaking about, I’d rather not go drop 1000 gold on the nearest horse when my current one is only dead because of its own stupidity (or mine, when I run it off a cliff by accident).  But the real reason is that I’m a sap.

Yes, my horse is mere pixels, but darn it, those pixels have carried my Nord all over Skyrim in the search to max out skills and lead every covert outfit in the country!  What show of gratitude is there in just leaving it to rot at the bottom of a ravine?  What thanks is there in leaving its horsey corpse to decay next to the skeleton of the dragon it was too stupid to engage with its hooves, only to be pwn’d by fire breath?  Right, there is none.  So I will reload and save my horse, thanks.

I began to seriously think about this when, at one point I got into a pretty unfairly stacked fight with a dragon and some wolves and bandits.  I left my horse where I thought she would be safe, and began to traverse the area slicing up bandits who got too close while I was waiting for that dragon to come into sight so I could switch to arrows.  I heard a whinny and up on a grassy ridge, my horse was fighting off wolves and the dragon.  Naturally I raced to the horse’s aid, the dragon took off… and so did my stupid horse.  I wound up going miles out of the way to a watchtower, killing the dragon from up there, and when I went back I couldn’t find my horse.  I fast-traveled to Whiterun (and when you fast-travel, your horse goes with you).  My horse didn’t come with me, so I could only assume she was dead.

But there was no way I was going to replay that whole battle.  It was insane, and not worth my time.  I sighed and went to the stables to talk to the owner about a new horse.  Oddly enough, the horse for sale looked a lot like my dearly departed one.  And when I spoke with the owner, everything he said pretty much confirmed that it was the exact same horse.  So I gladly parted with my 1000 gold and figured having to re-buy the same horse was the horse’s version of sticking it to the man.  Only it was sticking it to me, with a reminder not to let it die again. 

Do I overthink these things?  Obviously.  I will be the first to admit that I do.  But why is is that I can go assassinate NPCs and wipe out legions of Markarth city guards and only feel slight qualms… but when my horse dies I have to reload and make sure it survives?  To be fair, with the guards I’m pretty nonconfrontational and try to sneak around them until they attack me.  So it’s self-defense.  At least, that’s what my Nord tells himself to sleep better at night.  And though I looked at the contradictory idea of the Chosen One being a jerk in an early post, it really is just a game; I personally wouldn’t go off killing city guards if my IRL city had guards, just because they ticked me off.

I think it comes down to the idea that there is a bond between people and pets.  And yes, that I am a sap.  Horses are personable animals and highly intelligent.  Yet they bear our weight and the weight of our gear; they pull plows, they jump over fences to look pretty; all done out of a bond of trust with the human asking those things of it.  They’re truly amazing animals, and I’ve loved them nearly as long as I’ve loved dinosaurs.  I remember being 7 or 8 and seeing The Neverending Story on TV and bawling insanely during the scene where Artax, Atreyu’s faithful horse, dies in the Swamps of Sadness.  The only thing that made it worthwhile was that Bastian wishes Artax back to life when he recreates Fantasia at the end of the movie.  It’s a good thing I was 17 years older when I read the actual novel and found out that once Artax was gone, he was gone for good.
I also have pets myself, and my pets are my companions.  Some might call me a crazy cat lady, but I only have two, thank you very much.  My cats are pets, but they’re also pleasant company.  They’re warm and fuzzy, they’re sweet, and they amuse me greatly.  They’re very social with one another, and with me.  While I know they’re animals and have a lifespan, I try not to think about it, because there is no reload once that happens.  So perhaps that’s why I feel the need to save my horse.  Not just to spare myself another 1000 gold, but because in the world of the game, she is faithful to my character to the point that she will put herself in danger to save him.  Rarely do we see that kind of loyalty in people, and we’re the same species.
Perhaps I am a sap, and feel free to point and laugh at this confession.  But when I load up Skyrim this weekend, and I know I will, there will likely come a time when my horse attacks a dragon or runs off a cliff.  Or gets attacked by a dragon while running off a cliff.  Regardless of what happens, you can be sure that I will reload to save my horse.