This is assuming you would not kill the horse for any reason. I am wondering if a horse would firstly, be better at remembering how to get home (like dogs and cats seem to be); secondly, finding water; and finally would it help scare away or at least detect predators? (I am ignoring the obvious increased travel speed and figure that might be offset by the need to provide for the horse.)

  • Horses need a lot of water!
    – bob1
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 4:03
  • @Bob1: right so we would balance its needs against its ability to, for example, help find water. I sure would rather be stranded anyplace with any animal companion rather than being alone, but I am wondering specifically about a horse.
    – releseabe
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 4:14
  • 3
    A horse is a big source of food. It will not be a companion afterwards though.
    – Willeke
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 5:51
  • By saying "desert or other wilderness" the question becomes too broad. In a desert the horse may collapse in a day or so because of the lack of water (horses need a LOT of water). The fact that horses may be better than people at smelling distant water won't help, because there simply may not be any sources of water. On the other hand in forested mountains or grass lands with water the horse can graze and feed itself, and carry you conserving your energy. Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 19:23

2 Answers 2


I sense a disconnect between the described scenario, and your question. But maybe that is because I'm not a horse person...

Since water is so much more critical, we can essentially ignore the food aspect here... You could survive some three days without drinking (less, depending on environmental conditions), but some three weeks without food.

Being truly lost in a desert / wilderness area without any food or water is a dangerous situation, that will become life-threatening if you can't manage becoming "un-lost" within those three days.

--> I would argue that the health and safety of the horse will quite quickly become less and less important as the danger to your own health and safety increases - up to a point where most people would probably sacrifice the horse to ensure their own survival.

  • If the horse knows the area better than you, it could potentially lead you to safety or to food/water sources. Will it though? That is hard to answer.
  • I have read stories about horses being able to find water sources, but honestly these could also be urban myths - at least I have not yet seen any solid evidence which describes this behaviour in domesticated horses.
  • The horse can of course allow you to travel faster while saving energy on your end. This will increase your chance to get to safety, especially if you press the horse forward and don't care for it's well being too much.
  • In a last ditch attempt, the horse could serve as an emergency source of food or fluids.

There's an obvious way it will help: You will expend less of your reserves while riding the horse than if you're on foot. Thus the maximum range you can travel before dying is increased.

So long as that travel is intelligent that will increase your odds of survival.

(And, no, eating the horse when it drops is not advisable. The critical survival resource here is water and if you're short on water you do not want to eat as that will use up water.)

  • You can drink its blood.
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 21, 2022 at 20:19
  • 2
    @ab2 While you could you shouldn't--there's enough stuff in blood that the net effect will be to dehydrate you, not hydrate you. Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 2:50
  • I'll remember that!
    – ab2
    Commented Mar 22, 2022 at 21:32

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