Meet the Hundreds of Horse Girls Who Lead Red Dead Online’s Nicest Party
Professional equestrian photographer Chelsea Farace loves horses, but she’s always loved video games. It’s an unlikely intersection of interests, at least that’s what we both expected. “I thought I was just a weird horse player,” she tells me. “I thought I was alone!” Now that she has a whole horde of other horse-loving gamers by her side, she’s never alone.
In early 2020, when the global response to Covid-19 imposed national lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, online gaming experienced a huge boom. Friends celebrated their birthdays inside Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Players introduced family members to browser-based board games to keep in touch.
Horse lovers like Farace faced a different lockdown dilemma.
“Quarantine happened and a lot of people couldn’t see their horses,” says Farace. She was frequenting a Facebook group of horse-loving gamers at the time, and a post caught her attention. “Red Dead people were like ‘let’s take walks online! “”These riding groups were largely console-based, so Farace decided to put together a group of PC gamers herself. “These are my people,” she thought at the time. “I need to try !”
When I first discovered The Rift Trails, I was expecting a small but dedicated group of around 30 horse-loving players hosting regular in-game encounters. That’s also what Farace expected. originally. How many PC gamers could be hoofed horse lovers?
“I never thought it would get to this point,” she says. “I thought it would just be a cozy, comfy little Discord where we could hang out and enjoy the horse part of Red Dead, and it just blew up.”
Nearly two years later, The Rift Trails doesn’t just have enough members for the occasional horse encounter: its 1,690 horse lovers host well-attended trail rides in Red Dead Online every day of the week.
The starting trot
My first ride with the members of Rift Trails is the first time I’ve been part of such a large group in Red Dead Online. I’m one of 14 players across multiple groups, all riding in a mostly orderly line from the lighthouse at the north end of Annesburg to the west end of West Elizabeth. It’s a journey across roughly half of Red Dead Redemption 2’s map, taking up several in-game days and nights.
Our whole motorcade passes the real-time hour trading game tips, teasing bewildered NPCs as they try to navigate our crowd, and having a bit of a laugh over the Marble Sabino Criollo horse whose coat looks like a little too much for a piece of meat. It’s comfortable and laid back and no one is pointing out that I completely forgot how to maintain a steady pace on my horse. It had been years since I had smiled so much while playing a game with a group of strangers.
This first round was easy, meant to be an introduction to the community for new members. Other trail rides are Witcher themed, with riders all showing up in their best Geralt of Rivia outfits. There are spooky rides in a true crime story. Fallout-themed rides include the best Wasteland player cosplays and a listen to the Diamond City radio from Fallout 4.
Even after the hashtag #savereddeadonline trending on Twitter in January and I was writing about RDO’s lean year ahead, they were more active than ever. The Rift Trails hosted 396 rides in 2021. For gamers with a passion for horses, Red Dead Online is still a top-notch experience.
“I’ve played many different games, but RDO is the only one that makes you feel some kind of attachment to your horse/partner in crime,” says one of Rift’s moderators, who goes by the name of MU5K_0X. Part of that bond is down to the amount of customization: saddles and saddle horns, stirrup designs, and different horsemane styles. It’s also thanks to the immense amount of work the developers at Rockstar have put into making the horses in Red Dead Redemption 2 so incredibly realistic. For people who know and love horses, the details are lovely.
“The simplest things make us so happy! Farace says, listing the ways horses in Red Dead react to predators, brushing, and snow piling up on their backs in the mountains. “They react to gunfire and get pushed around,” adds Farace, and of course I’ve had my own experiences of hoof death in the face after accidentally waving a nearby mount. “People who aren’t horse enthusiasts might find this boring because horses have minds of their own, but it’s real! It’s so cool!”
Rift players have found all sorts of ways to reciprocate the love. Hiking is an important part of their routine, and photography is another outlet. Farace is a real-life horse photographer, but another one of her moderators, Sunny, is a prolific game photographer.
“Being a real-life rider myself, I always try to capture the horses in beautiful poses,” she says. “With RDR2 having some of the most beautiful horse models in video games, complete with beautiful motion captured animations and breathtaking wilderness, it’s a joy to take pictures in this game.” It was while uploading his photos to the Rockstar Social Club that Sunny met another member of The Rift and started going on rides.
When Rockstar opened a photo contest, Sunny combined her cartographic knowledge and photography experience with new friends in The Rift to take the photo that was one of six winners from over 10,000 submissions. Sunny says the photo was “a nod to story mode symbolism, as it uses the stag and the wolf to make Arthur Morgan’s path honorable or dishonourable.” The photo of two Rift members is now an in-game flag that any player can fly above their camp.
Farace was excited to tell me how great it would be to see Red Dead Online add a horse training or herding role – anything to take advantage of his wild horses – but the naturalist flag might just become the only official mark that The Rift can leave on RDO. It seems increasingly unlikely that a major update is in its future.
To truly express what they want from the game, The Rift have turned to running their own REDM server, a platform based on the same technology that powers the GTA Online and Red Dead Online roleplaying game servers. In their REDM server, Red Dead Online is the perfect sandbox for horse lovers. Maybe Rockstar will eventually add additional horse features for Red Dead Online players. But “possibly” is not right now. ” I do not want to wait ! said Farace.
Through a number of scripts, Rift’s REDM server allows members to claim a ranch, become horse trainers, create custom jump courses, and even…of cours-become a horse.
“It allows us to be a lot more creative than we could in Red Dead Online,” Farace says, which I find most evident in his TikToks that I can only conceptualize as horse thirst traps.
@chelsealizz ♬ original sound – Tik Toker
In addition to using REDM server tools to inhabit an entire herd of horses, Farace explains that players can share jump courses they’ve designed with each other as mods. They can play a herding mini-game with their pet dogs. They also have the option of traveling to Guarma, the part of Cuba where several single-player missions take place.
For the love of the mane
Farace and his moderators are dedicated to cultivating a welcoming community free from the heartbreak and harassment they sometimes face in-game. Outside of Red Dead, Farace says several server members have joined with an interest in horses, then took real-life riding lessons, returning to share with other Rift members what they practiced. Along with the hikes, the group raised money for charities such as the Trevor Project and the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
The positivity is evident in their Discord server’s “cheer corral” room where members say “becoming more active on this server has made me fall in love with the game all over again” and “Rift has been the most supportive and fun server I’ve ever had.” ‘have seen.” For other members, the server is an opportunity to be themselves, explains MU5K_0X. “The Rift is a place where I can just be the gooey center without all the bravado of real life – a place where the friendships I’ve made are with the real me that usually hides behind all the BS.”
Having come and gone from my fair share of online games, I know that a warm and active community can really make or break my love for the game. Regardless of the direction Red Dead Online takes as a whole, server members Rift Trails always strives to connect daily and their enthusiasm is contagious. If you also love horses, you are certainly not alone.