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Suppose that I have a fantasy kingdom, built on a magical land, and the thing is that horses are so cheap and plentiful in that land, even the poorest peasant would have at least a horse to their name. The horses also do not require any special care or housing, they can sleep on the ground and be as healthy or healthier than one cared for in a stable of a less magical place.

What would the required special magical effects that would be upon the land, to support this many horses. In real life, horses are not cheap as they would need housing, grazing feeding and the like? I would like it if horses could be very common, and plenty of them too, all of them just running about. The land must also need to support a sizable human population.

So to clarify the points of the question, what sort of land is needed to support many horses, supposing the land is a magic fantasy land.

Notes to note about the setting:

  • Late Medieval tech levels
  • Low powered magic is very common and cheap, high powered magic is very rare and expensive.
  • Feudalism politics
  • This kingdom is under an Empire which encompasses all civilized life
  • Many people of various races and various sizes exist in the setting, all of them full members of society, and very well in cohabitation with one another.

ADDITIONAL NOTES 1:

  • A sizable population would be about 1 million people, it is an entire kingdom.
  • Low powered magic would be getting teapots to float about and serve tea to people, up to about lifting house cats. High powered magic would be creating portals from solid walls to train platforms, and hiding entire buildings between buildings, to put in a Harry Potter-y sense

Some links to other questions also on this topic, but would be too broad to fit in one question:

Horses for Absolutely Everybody, peasant lifestyle.

Horses for Absolutely Everybody, warfare.

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    $\begingroup$ Would you mind defining sizeable population, high powered magic, low powered magic by using some examples for each. It might help getting a feeling for your constants :) $\endgroup$ – dot_Sp0T Feb 13 '15 at 13:48
  • $\begingroup$ @dot_Sp0T I will get on it in a few minutes, thanks for pointing them out though $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir Feb 13 '15 at 13:51
  • $\begingroup$ IF only we had some way of specifying magical settings more precisely... $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 13 '15 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ That sounds like a great question, maybe we could put that up somewhere here, or in meta. Unfortunately, there is no real scale, so magic is either DnD Vancian or Tolkien a wizard did it. Unless that was sarcasm, @SerbanTanasa, and it flew right past my head. $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir Feb 13 '15 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @grimmsdottir meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/1755/… $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Feb 13 '15 at 14:44
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Horses are creatures of steppe and plain, they don't really need any housing and they don't need good quality grazing- if anything rough grass is far better for their digestion. Most of what they want is to be able to live sociably with other horses and not to get eaten by predators. You don't really need a lot of protection for them, just plenty of room to roam and humans with a decent understanding of horses, which would be likely to develop in this type of culture.

The effect this has on a society may be quite interesting as they are liable to become very horse-oriented in their outlook and lifestyle. This is not without historical precedent - indeed there have been many cultures that took this approach, most of them originally nomadic peoples and many of them having, in their times, proved devastatingly militarily successful. The reason for the nomadic lifestyle is partly that it reflects how horses live naturally which is a consequence of the need for food- horses may need a bulk of rough grass, but they will also graze land down over time and naturally move on, so most horse-herding people simply move with them. Often this means a migration to the higher pastures in summer as the grass grows sweeter there and back into the lower lands in the autumn. If you were working with a more sedentary culture you would need to produce a lot of hay in summer to keep horses fed in winter. You might also run into problems with the ground getting very churned up around settlements/areas where horses resided most of the year and problems with parasite burden on the horses.

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Please keep in mind when you want plentiful horses everywhere that horses produce from 15-35 pounds of manure a day, and having horses so common even beggars could ride would be an ecological disaster, as we found out ourselves in the late 1800s (in large US cities). You might want to consider your magical methods of having horses around include doing something about their tremendous ability to recycle grass into manure.

Also see this link for more information.

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  • $\begingroup$ It is a valid point. However, with proper composting management, it's easy to turn the manure into an asset. Too bad that wasn't thought of in the Medieval times though. $\endgroup$ – J. Musser Feb 22 '15 at 3:56
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Horses cost a lot in a densely populated area because farmers need to cultivate the land to feed themselves and they might have some animals too. They can have livestock but meat is a small part of their diet compared to the average American today. They simply don't have enough space and growing grass would be considered a waste of space if they can grow more productive crops like wheat, rice, soy. and so on.

On a low population area like the central steppes of Asia, horse can become very cheap. There is a lot of space and it is often too dry to practice agriculture unless it's close to a river (there it's possible to farm with the help of irrigation). Nomads from the steppes all have a mount because they are always on the move. They might also have multiple mounts because Mongols had up to 5 mounts each when they were in campaign.

The only way for a large Empire like China (just an example) to have a lot of horses is either to keep control over the vast steppes around the Empire or they need to sacrifice high productive land to grow grass. They could probably give something else to feed the horses but I don't know their exact diet. Still, you are feeding horses instead of feeding people.

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  • $\begingroup$ So, what if there was a special plant native to the area? The plant would resemble grass from the surface, but have potatos as a root, and it would also grow really fast, like bamboo. The plant is also really low maintenance, like a weed. This one plant can then feed both the horses, as well as the people. $\endgroup$ – grimmsdottir Feb 13 '15 at 23:34
  • $\begingroup$ Even on the steppe, horses were not cheap. They were pretty much your net worth, since they were so valuable in keeping yourself and your family alive. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Feb 14 '15 at 0:05
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The main costs of a horse in real worlds is the food cost, and breaking and training the wild horse to obey the owner, and the cost of land for the horse to run around on and exercise.

Having horses underfoot wouldn't allow anyone to "own" or "use" one at need unless these are provided "free" somehow or are magically unneeded.

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