Rocinante, Don Quixote’s horse, is a mirror for his master. If Rocinante is characterized in a certain way, it is likely that Don Quixote shares these traits as well. Where Don Quixote is a failed middle-aged gentleman who gives himself a new name and reinvents himself to resemble a traditional knight, Rocinante is a tired old barn nag – an unimpressive workhorse, certainly no stallion – who Don Quixote christens Rocinante and who takes on the role of the gallant knight’s trusty steed. Of course, Don Quixote is not truly a knight, and Rocinante is not the magnificent, athletic animal generally associated with knights and soldiers. Indeed, early in the novel, Don Quixote attempts to charge a group of men who have insulted Dulcinea, but Rocinante stumbles and throws him to the ground, where Don Quixote is left vulnerable to a beating from the merchants. This event foreshadows the doomed nature of Don Quixote’s quest to return chivalry to the world – while he and Rocinante might try their best, neither are truly up to the task, and in fact often come across as absurd or pitiful when they attempt any knightly duties. However, like his master, Rocinante is persevering. While neither he nor Don Quixote are particularly efficient in their roles as knight and steed, the two remain faithful to each other throughout the novel. Their bumbling natures and loyal partnership incite both the reader’s frustration and love – Rocinante is as equally pathetic and endearing as his master.

Rocinante also serves to challenge the trustworthiness of Don Quixote’s chivalrous quest. For instance, when Don Quixote tells Sancho and the goatherds about the golden days when virgins could roam the world unharmed, protected by the sort of gallant men that Don is attempting to mimic, Rocinante follows up several chapters later by wandering into a field full of mares and trying to mate with them. Rocinante’s actions raise questions concerning the sincerity of Don Quixote’s values: Does Don Quixote actually pine for a world full of virgins that will remain chaste until marriage, or does he, like his horse and like all animals, crave access to sex that is unfettered by moral implications? If Rocinante is meant to mirror his master, then his sexual pursuits may expose the contradiction between Don Quixote’s aesthetic values and his actual wants. Don Quixote is attracted to the romantic aesthetic of knighthood and chivalry, but this aesthetic is an unrealistic fantasy. Like his horse, Don Quixote is ultimately a simple animal at heart, and the strict rules and principles of knighthood go against his human nature. Neither he nor Rocinante is destined to thrive in the chivalrous life they inadvisably attempt to lead.