There is the Cool Horse... and then there's this, the four-legged equivalent of The Alleged Car, a broken-down nag destined for the knacker's yard or the glue factory — or it would be, if it hadn't somehow wound up in the hero's possession.
Any member of the genus Equus can qualify.
If the animal's appearance turns out to be deceptive and it's unusually strong or fast, then it may be a stealth Cool Horse.
Could perhaps make more sense being retained than the inanimate related tropes, given that the steed is alive, so disposing of it would be unheroic and they're more conducive to becoming attached to.
May overlap with Moody Mount. See Horsing Around for healthy horses with attitude problems. Compare with The Alleged Car, The Alleged Computer, and The Alleged House for other items of dubious quality.
- It is believed that in Chaturanga, the original form of Chess, each King could move like the Horse (=Knight) exactly once.
- Seinfeld: Jerry Seinfeld had a bit about horseback riding: the "U-shaped" horses he usually gets have names like "Almost Dead" and "Glue Stick."
- Astérix: An extremely sharp-smiling horse dealer sells Asterix a carriage pulled by an awesome shiny black Cool Horse. Then it rains and the paint peels off, revealing it's a beaten down pale horse, shortly before the carriage's wheel falls off.
- Wit's horse in Kajko i Kokosz. He sure looks the part and is cowardly enough to climb trees when threatened. Since his master is a Warrior Poet with dreams of heroism and little common sense, a steed that actively avoids danger is an asset most of the time.
- A Mickey Mouse comic had him tricked into buying a horse intended for the glue factory named Tanglefoot, who is useless as Mickey tries to teach him how to race. Eventually, Mickey discovers that if Tanglefoot believes he's being chased by bees, he will run like the dickens.
- Tumbleweeds had the main character's horse Epic, who chews tobacco and is a textbook Alleged Steed. One trail boss, on being told that Epic was a "quarter horse", responded "You've got change coming".
- Shrek: Lampshaded with Donkey. Until he becomes a stallion in Shrek 2.
- The Disney animated short The Small One is about a boy and his beloved donkey whom he can no longer afford to keep. The donkey is too weak to work, and the only person interested in buying him is a tanner who plans to make him into leather. In the end, the boy gives the donkey to the biblical Mary and Joseph so the pregnant Mary can ride him to Jerusalem.
- All Dogs Go to Heaven: The Grand Chawhee, which only won the race because it was his birthday and the other horses wanted to do him a favor.
- In The Legend of Sleepy Hollow segment of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, Ichabod Crane borrows a skin-and-bones, broken down plow horse to ride to Von Tassel's Halloween ball, traveling at a plodding pace. When faced with the Headless Horseman on the way home however, he panics and takes off like a champion racehorse, outrunning the Horseman's black steed.
- Buster Keaton worked with a few:
- In Dead Man, the crazy Western industrialist (Robert Mitchum) not only hires three of the most "vicious killers of Men and Injuns in the West" to hunt down the murderer of his son, he wants them to return his "most prized posession"... a Pinto. Which he takes even more offense at.
Dickinson: Last night, my youngest son, Charlie was gunned down in cold blood right here in our own hotel. The gutless murderer... also shot to death Miss Thel Russel, the fiancee of my beloved son. Not only that, but he stole a very spirited and valuable horse, a beautiful young Pinto that belonged to my personal family stable.Conway Twill: Hell, only, a Pinto ain't rightly a horse to fret much about, if the truth be told —Dickinson: Shut up! My boy Charlie is dead! Oh, I ain't askin' this time. I'm tellin'. And if somebody don't like it, I'm prepared to do a little killin' of my own. (later) I want this out over the wires. Post a $5000 reward from here to hell and back. Bring everybody in. I want that bastard's head. And make sure you include a full description of my Pinto. I want that horse back.Twill: (cut to) ...goddamn Pinto is a stupid damn animal. Stupid as the day is long. Got his heart so set on one. Buy yourself a sorrel horse, and paint some white spots on him as far as I'm concerned. Course, ya can't put much stock in a man who spends the most part of a conversation... talking to a bear... talking to a goddamn bear.
- Moe, Larry, and Curly ended up with one of these plugs more than once.
- Chong's horse in Shanghai Noon devolves into this once it starts drinking.
- Kid Shelleen's horse in Cat Ballou is apparently just as drunk as he is.
- Tumbleweed: This is what Tumbleweed appears to be, and certainly what Jim assumes him to be: a broken down old cayuse who is part burro. However, Tumbleweed soon demonstrates hidden depths and Jim discovers that Buckley was not joking when he described Tumbleweed as his best horse.
- Played with in Dragon Bones: Ward sees a man with a horse that looks old and as if it would die the next day. However, he knows this breed of horse; they're able to survive on little food for up to two weeks, and this one is actually in good condition. An entire breed of horses that look as if they're this trope.
- Don Quixote: Rocinante, the noble steed of Don Quixote, has achieved Trope Namer status in the Spanish language.
- In The Three Musketeers, d'Artagnan is introduced riding a yellow horse (later named Buttercup) so old and funny-looking that it is mocked by Rochefort, thus establishing the enmity between the characters. The resemblance of d'Artganan and Buttercup to Don Quixote and Rocinante is Lampshaded by the author.
- The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod Crane's borrowed mount, Gunpowder, in Washington Irving's story.
"The animal he bestrode was a broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but its viciousness."
- The title horse in the Newbery-winning novel King of the Wind, Sham, is treated as an Alleged Steed for much of the book. After he's sent from the Caliph's stables (where he's prized as one of the finest horses) to the King of England as a gift, the English stablemaster considers him a long-necked, undersized, weedy runt and an insult to the stables, and sends him to the horse auction. Even his final owner considers him an Alleged Steed until the colt that he sired (on a mare he was never supposed to be allowed near) outraces all of the man's other, carefully-bred, racehorses, and realizes what he has in Sham. The epilogue explains that Sham is the horse known as the Godolphin Arabian, one of the three foundation sires of modern thoroughbred horses.
- Land of Oz series:
- The Saw-horse in The Marvelous Land of Oz, who has no joints in his legs and, at first at least, has no ears and can't follow directions, starts out as this. Later, he is revealed to be completely tireless and the fastest ride in Oz.
- Jim the Cab Horse is one of these before he came to Oz.
- The Brogue: In the short story by Saki, the eponymous gelding is known throughout the neighborhood for violently startling at little to no provocation, recklessly endangering its rider. At the beginning of the story, its owner has finally managed to sell it... to his daughter's wealthy fiancé.
- Monstrous Regiment has Lieutenant Blouse's horse Thalecephalus, a skinny, bad-tempered brown mare named after a legendary stallion. (Blouse is ridiculously shortsighted.)
- Going Postal has Moist von Lipwig's talent to make Alleged Steeds look much better than they actually are, "for about ten minutes, or until it rains."
- In Douglas Hill's Blade of the Poisoner and Master of Fiends, Scythe's horse Hob is a subversion, as he's a stealth Cool Horse.
- In The Lord of the Rings, Bill the pony is expected to be this. While he's not quite a Cool Horse, he's no Alleged Steed either—it takes an Eldritch Abomination to make him bolt.
- In Cerberon, Thedrik's old mule is half blind, unreliable, and cranky. He still chooses her over a good horse when given the chance.
- In Magic's Promise by Mercedes Lackey, there is a vile-tempered horse that's alleged to be a Shina'in stallion. All he's got is the colour.
- Talat from The Hero and the Crown becomes this after a severe injury. Aerin helps to restore him to Cool Horse status.
- The parson Yorick in The Life And Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, owned one, explicitly compared to Rocinante. Despite a love of fine horses, he keeps this one to avoid the expense of constantly replacing them when worn out from being loaned out to fetch a doctor over several miles of bad road.
- In Belisarius Series, lord Venandakatra presents the Axumites with his largest, unruliest war elephants. The Axumites, being used to African elephants, soundly dissect the allegation that these runts are real elephants.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, Jaime Lannister is given an ancient gelding with a blind eye to prevent him from outrunning his captors while being escorted back to King's Landing for a prisoner exchange.
"Give him a gold piece for the grey, if he'll include the saddle," he advised Brienne. "A silver for the plow horse. He ought to pay us for taking the white off his hands."
"Don't speak discourteously of your horse, ser."
- Played for Drama at Martín Fierro: When Martin Fierro was recruited to fight at the Frontier, he came in a Cool Horse so cool that the Commander stole it from him. Fierro and the other recruits are forced to use very old and slow horses, and they are fighting BadassNatives with cool horses.
- The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.: In "Crystal Hawks", Brisco is separated from Comet the Wonderhorse and has to buy a temporary replacement horse. Problem is, he's only got thirty dollars in his pocket. The resultant horse is so slow, stubborn, and dumb that Lord Bowler calls it a lemon when he sees it.
- An episode of Bottom revolves around A Simple Plan to raise £500 to place a bet at long odds on a three-legged blind horse called Sad Ken, after the bookie tricks them into thinking it's a dead cert. His performance is about as good as you'd expect, and the commentator informs us that they've had to shoot him (and his jockey).
- The nag the crew from Hustle attempt to pass off as a race horse in "Signing Up to Wealth".
- In the Sky1 adaptation of Going Postal, Moist begins his long career as a con artist by selling off his family's worthless old nag — after cleaning it up so that it actually looks capable of being ridden.
- "Feetelbaum" from Spike Jones' version of "The William Tell Overture", which was rendered on kitchen implements and used a horse race as a background. He wins the race, and also manages to win the Indy 500 in a later rendition of "Dance of the Hours".
- Russian Mythology and Tales: Russian hero of The Fool archetype is the youngest of three brothers who inherits The Horsie-Hunchie and was laughed at and dismissed for one more reason. It turns out not only Horsie can give a good advice, but having him compete with normal steeds in running jumps is like bringing a grasshopper to cockroach racing. Whether he and/or the hero will look better later or whether he gets wings varies in different versions.
- Celtic Mythology: The hero Conn-Eda recieves a 'shaggy pony' from an old druid to bring him to fairy-land. The horse not only successfully does so, once they reach the outskirts of the fairies' city, it tells him that the only way for him to get in safely is for him to kill the pony, skin it, and wear its skin over his head until he gets inside the city. He does so.
- Bet it has its own Aarne-Thompson index, but in any case, if your hero prize is a gift horse, always choose the horse that looks like this trope. It will turn out to belie its looks and be a Cool Horse.
- Dungeons & Dragons adventure T1 Village of Hommlet. If the PCs aren't careful when buying from the traders they can end up with a couple of "swaybacked, potbellied, spavined old plugs" pretending to be draft horses. The horses are 50% likely to stop every turn to rest, and if pushed by hard riding or carrying a heavy load they have a 50% chance of dying every 10 minutes.
- In Shōgi, when the Horse piece promotes, it moves like a Gold General (i.e. one square at a time in any direction except diagonally backward).
- In the original Chaturanga, each King had exactly one knight move available in a game—after that the horse was apparently exhausted.
- The horse Petruchio rides to his wedding in The Taming of the Shrew takes this trope Up to Eleven, apparently. Unfortunately, this being a stage show, we never actually get to see it.
Biondello: ... his horse hipped with an old mothy saddle and stirrups of no kindred, besides possessed with the glanders and like to mose in the chine, troubled with the lampass, infected with the fashions, full of wingdalls, sped with spavins, rayed with yellows, past cure of the fives, stark spoiled with the staggers, begnawn with the bots, swayed in the back and shoulder-shotten, near-legged before and with a half-checked bit and a headstall of sheeps leather, which, being restrained to keep him from stumbling, hath been often burst, and now repaired with knots ...
- In Mount & Blade: Warband, you generally start with the worst horse in the game, unless you take very specific choices during character creation (which requires your character be female), then you start with the fastest of the fragile speedsters worth bothering with (the only faster horse is stupidly expensive if it is ever generated at all).
- In Red Dead Redemption, the cheapest horses (as well as the easier ones to unlock in multiplayer) are diseased, weak, and tend to be very slow. You can also find donkeys in Mexico, which look healthier but move even slower.
- Dynasty Warriors 3 has the horse the random soldiers use from time to time. Anyone can use em, and they move faster than walking, but they're scared of EVERYTHING!!! Wanna move across the battlefield? Better hope there are no troops in the way whatsoever. Yes, even your own. Otherwise, you're better off walking.
- The Real Legend of Zelda: The web animation series casts Epona as a small, overweight donkey, much to Link's disappointment.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn is very excited by the prospect of riding a unicorn...until he sees it.
- Played with in Penny Arcade: Gabe plays Bella Sara and accidentally creates The Unhorse, which is this trope and then some.
- Gaia: Viviana's horse Casper. Vivi, who is not a bold or skilled rider, values him for his gentleness.
- Family Guy: The brain-damaged horse Peter gets.
- The Replacements: Prince Cinnamon Boots.
- In one Looney Tunes short, Porky Pig buys the racehorse Tea Biscuit (based on Real Life example Seabiscuit, see below), an out-of-shape nag subject to coughing fits, and more interested in the trombone on the marching band than in racing. It wins the race anyway, after it's spooked by a popped balloon and runs the track in record speed.
- On the Classic Disney Short "They're Off!", Goofy bets on Snapshot III, the even money candidate, while someone else bets on the 100 to 1 shot Old Moe. Snapshot easily takes the lead and even trips up the other racers... except Old Moe, who through sheer perseverance closes up the gap, leading to a photo finish. The winner is Old Moe, because Snapshot couldn't resist posing for the camera.
- Here Comes the Grump: Grump's klutzy dragon. Only when it's funny, though—when the Grump needs to catch up with Dawn and Terry to keep the plot moving, Dragon has no difficulty overtaking their Cool Airship.
- In one episode of Goof Troop, Pete wins a horse like this in a card game. He manages to turn it to his advantage by included shares of the horse's winnings with the used cars he sells, not worried about paying many times its winnings because it would never win anything. Unfortunately said horse is one of said stealth cool horses once its broken shoe is fixed, and Pete ends up with a Springtime for Hitler on his hands.
- Dogtanian, like d'Artagnan, has an elderly yellow horse, this one called Sandy. (Although Sandy is a far better horse than he looks.)
- When Sofia decides to tryout for her school's flying derby team, the only pegasus left is Minimus, who resembles a donkey with wings, and flat out tells her that he's no good. Despite his disadvantages, with practice he and Sofia are able to make the team.
- Gravedale High: In "Frankenjockey", a race horse named Hoover, who has never won a single race, escapes and befriends Frankentyke, who is annoyed at first, but warms up to him. However, when Max calls a hotline and reports Hoover's escape, Liverpool, Hoover's trainer's, true colors are shown, and the bet is that if Hoover wins the race, he's set free. Unfortunately, Hoover and Frankentyke lose by mugging in the photo finish, but Sid points out that the rival horse switched jockeys, which means Hoover wins in the end.
- Pink Panther: In "Pinto Pink", the horse is not only rather shabby, but also very gleeful. (Pink Panthers idea to pimp it by nailing roller skates under its hooves only increases the load of Amusing Injuries.)
- There is a story that Abraham Lincoln, when he was a lawyer, wagered that he could come out ahead in any horse trade. A judge took up the challenge. Here's how it played out, according to Lincoln's Own Stories:
A crowd gathered, anticipating some fun, and when the judge returned first the laugh was uproarious. He led, or rather dragged, at the end of a halter the meanest, boniest, rib-staring quadruped—blind in both eyes—that ever pressed turf. But presently Lincoln came along carrying over his shoulder a carpenter's sawhorse. Then the mirth of the crowd was furious. Lincoln solemnly set his horse down, and silently surveyed the judge's animal with a comical look of infinite disgust."Well, Judge," he finally said, "this is the first time I ever got the worst of it in a horse-trade."
- Seabiscuit, a famous thoroughbred champion during The Great Depression, did not perform to his full potential and was sometimes the butt of stable jokes for the first three years of his life. Then, with special training, he blossomed into a Cool Horse.
- Phar Lap, one of the greatest racehorses of the Great Depression in Australia, was roundly criticized during the early years of his life as a no good horse and waste of money before similarly blossoming into a Cool Horse. He went on to dominate Australian horse racing, winning one Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates and nineteen other weight for age races.