Horse Brutality! (aka a thread on horseback riding and animal companions)

Playing the Game

By RAW, the activity of riding a galloping horse consists of three actions each round -- a Handle Animal action with the concentrate tag, requiring a check, and two Command Animal actions, which you can then use to trigger the Gallop action on the horse (a two-action ability that moves your average horse 100'). You have to use all three actions on this in order for the horse to move its two actions (with exceptions for animal companions and etc, who get two actions per command rather than one for one).

If you fail a Handle Animal check at any point and you do not have the Ride feat, you are Bucked (a reaction).

However, in order to get a reaction, a horse has to have actions. Animal actions isn't really specified, but p284's statement for animal companions (specifically on the minion trait -- "so they gain 2 actions during your turn if you use the Command an Animal action to command them") implies that animals get their actions *from* the command an animal action.

Does this mean that animals don't have actions when not Commanded, or is this specifically referred to Actions used by the Player?

I know that's a bit pedantic, but really I'm trying to figure out if animals naturally only have two actions, or have 3 actions (one of which is always supposed to be used up by the Command action), or if they're really supposed to not have actions when not In Use.

The first two options can have an impact on how DM's handle Animal AI, which is necessary, because the rules for what a non-commanded animal does is very vague. "Defend itself" or "flee at first opportunity" doesn't really indicate whether a lion stays and fights the Town Guards it was ordered to attack earlier, fights until the guard it was ordered to attack is dead, fights only if attacked back, or immediately flees (which forces the character 'operating' the lion to move it back into position on the next round where he/she/it has actions). If its the last option (i.e. no actions), does the lion then remain in position when not "operated"?

On the same subject, as it requires three actions without the Ride Feat, does that mean that effectively, characters without the Ride feat cannot make attacks on horseback while using Gallop, and a character with Ride can only make a single attack?

And do commands given from Command occur as you provide them (i.e. a block of two actions that can be used on a two-action activity like Gallop), or individually (i.e. one after the other?).

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