We’ve all grown up watching movies of cowboys racing their horses across open fields for miles without end, but how far can a horse really gallop without stopping? And how far can horses realistically travel in a day? The answer is nearly never the same and for a good reason. In this article, we will discuss the aspects relating to horse endurance and speed in depth.
How far can a horse travel in a day? Walking steadily, a horse can travel about 20 and 30 miles a day, with an average of 25 miles per day. You might think a galloping horse can travel more miles in a day, but a galloping horse needs to rest every 2.5 miles. A horse will cover more daily miles if kept at a walk or a trot than if ridden at a gallop.
How Far A Horse Travels In A Day Depends on Other Factors
How many miles a horse can travel in a day change, depending on many factors. Beed affects the endurance of the horse. Some breeds, like Arabian horses, can travel longer distances. Young adult horses will also cover greater distances. Horses with lighter riders and over smooth terrain can travel farther. Lastly, a horse that is consistently trained to cover longer distances can travel farther in a day than a horse that occasionally rides all day.
- Weight of rider
- Conditioning of horse
How far can horses travel in a day? Modern horses aren’t worked as much as horses in the past. While horses today can only average between 25-35 miles a day. But, even a hundred years ago, horses could easily travel 35 miles a day. Horses can be conditioned to ride as much as 50 miles a day. High-endurance horses can travel up to 100 miles a day.
In this article, we explore the effects of these factors and others and attempt to answer the question of just how far finally, and for how long, a horse can travel.
How Far Can You Ride a Horse?
How far you can travel on horseback on a horse depends on the speed of the house. Walking versus galloping will make a difference. While you may assume that galloping horses will travel longer, that is not the case because most horses can travel farther with a ride walking than they can galloping or trotting.
How far you can travel on horseback at a certain speed chart:
|PACE||AVERAGE SPEED REACHED||RECOMMENDED AVERAGE DISTANCE COVERED||RECOMMENDED AVERAGE TIME WITHOUT STOPPING|
|GALLOP||30mph||2.5 miles||5 minutes|
|CANTER||10-17mph||3-5 miles||12 – 25 minutes|
|TROT||8mph||10-12 miles||70 – 85 minutes|
|WALK||4-5mph||32 miles||8 hours|
These numbers are certainly not the maximum for all horses, but it is the recommended average. Pushing an untrained horse any further or faster than this could result in serious injury. It is possible for a horse to run itself to death.
How long can a horse run? Modern horses can usually run for about 5 minutes, or 2.5 miles before they need to rest. If galloped for the maximum recommended five minutes, a horse should be allowed to rest until it has caught its breath. During recovery, the objective should be between 12 and 16 breaths a minute. Once this rhythm is restored, the horse can be galloped once again.
This can be repeated for up to an hour of galloping time in total per day, meaning around 30 miles could be covered. However, the more frequently the horse is galloped, the longer it will take for it to recover and the slower it will move overall. The hour of galloping may need to be spaced over several hours to allow ample time for the horse to catch its breath in between.
Now that you have a general idea of how fast and how far a horse can travel in any given time, let’s take a look at the different elements involved in regulating these figures.
How Far Can a Horse Travel At a Time?
There are several factors that affect how far a horse can travel at a time. These include age, breed, terrain, diet, and pace. Let’s go more in-depth.
Horse Breeds That Have Higher Endurance
Around 6,000 years ago humans domesticated horses. It was soon discovered they could be used as tools for travel and work, and not long after that did the selective breeding of the ‘strongest’, ‘fastest’, and ‘most beautiful’ horses begin.
For example, Arabians bred and used by cavalrymen and explorers would naturally be better at long-distance traveling than, for instance, a draught horse. It is rational to assume a bigger, heavier horse might have more difficulty traveling long distances than its streamlined, ‘light-footed’ counterpart.
The three strongest horse breeds for endurance are:
Age Affects How Far A Horse Can Run
It’s common to hear horses living up to 30 years long. However, at 30 yrs old, no horse could travel more than a couple of miles a day.
A horse’s peak is usually reached between 3.5 – 7.5 years. Within this age period, a healthy horse will have the most stamina and the fastest recovery time in its lifetime. This doesn’t mean an 8-year-old horse cannot travel long distances. It simply means at 8 years or older, the horse will travel slower and need to rest more often.
Endurance Training Helps Horses to be Able to Travel Farther At A Time
A horse that’s been conditioned to travel long distances can cover much more ground than an untrained one. Later, we will cover exactly what sort of training and conditioning is used to improve the stamina and speed of any horse.
Weight of the Rider and the Load Impacts Horse Distance
The lighter a rider, the longer a horse can travel without rest. That’s the reason why racing jockeys are smaller riders. It is uncommon to find a heavier jockey. That would put their horse at a distinct disadvantage over horses with lighter riders.
Reducing a horse’s weight will improve the speed and overall distance it can reach. The lighter, the better. A slower horse who that needs to rest more often will cover less distance in any given time.
Terrain Makes a Difference in How Far a Horse Can Travel In A Day
The terrain makes a bigger difference in the distance a horse can cover than most people realize. If the horse is traveling on a stretch of flat, smooth terrain it will move much more easily and faster for longer than if it was moving across a rocky, mountainous region. Sandy ground slows a horse down even more and depletes its energy.
This is why humans take more time to cover the same distance when hiking up a mountain compared to walking across a field.
Diet is Important to Horse Riding Endurance
A malnourished, or underfed horse will become tired quickly.
A healthy diet of alfalfa (which is high in energy), pasture grass, hay, and lucerne mixed with high-fat hard feed benefits a horse’s stamina. It therefore increases the average distance it could travel at any one time.
High-protein feed, on the other hand, would result in your horse needing more water, to urinate more often, and sweat more, all things detrimental to traveling fast and far.
It is also critical that a horse has a sufficient supply of water every day, as well as when traveling, is essential as a dehydrated horse will drop its speed and stamina massively.
Running Pace Determines The Distance
An inexperienced rider might think that a galloping horse will go farther in a day than a horse traveling at a slower pace. But, a gallop actually reduces the total distance a horse can go over a period of time. That’s why most endurance riders will never push their horse faster than a canter for most of a race. A strong horse, with intermediate training can only gallop for around 2.5 miles at a time before needing rest.
Cavalry riders, explorers, and couriers of yesteryear discovered early on that the distance-traveling sweet spot alternated between trotting and walking. This ensures the horse moved forward at a steady pace, while not tiring out so quickly that it would need prolonged periods of standing still to recover. Following a trot-walk pattern, with water breaks in between, a nearly entirely untrained horse could be pushed to reach 35 miles a day.
Tack and Equipment Can Help or Hinder Distance Riding
The tack and equipment used on the horse while traveling can make a huge impact on the distance a horse is able to cover. A wrongly fitted saddle or a too small or large bridle can cause enough discomfort to reduce the distance traveled.
In the same way, the rider’s experience can affect the horse’s performance. In most cases, an inexperienced rider will not reach the same distance or speed as an experienced rider.
Shodding Effects Distance Ability
A shod horse has greater protection for its hooves. In a best-case scenario, this might not directly affect the speed or stamina of the horse. But, it will help prevent injuries or sensitivities that might slow down the horse. More serious injuries can completely stop a horse.
While there are benefits to leaving your horses barefoot, it is not recommended during training or intense exercise.
How Far and How Long Can a Horse Occasionally Ride in a Day?
Untrained, a horse can be pushed to cover a maximum of 50 miles a day, assuming the horse is in good health and age. But, this is not a regular distance and should only be attempted occasionally. This would require stamina on both the horse and the rider’s part. It would also require regular stops for qualitative rest and watering. This distance could take 10-12 hours to complete and would not be viable to attempt regularly.
Trained horses like those competing in the Tevis Cup can easily travel 100 miles in 24 hours. The winners of the Cup usually finish before or around the 12-hour mark. This is, however, only done with regular compulsory stops and vet checks.
Which Breed of Horse has the Greatest Stamina?
Some breeds are naturally better suited to traveling long distances. The top three breeds for horse stamina are Arabians, Akhal-Tekes, and Anglo-Arabians.
Arabians are a lighter breed with long powerful legs which allow them to take bigger strides. They originated in what is now the Middle East, where the Bedouins bred them for use in raids on other camps. They are the most common horse to be entered into endurance competitions, and the horse best suited for long-distance travel overall.
The Akhal-Teke, a horse originating in Turkmenistan, is especially well-known for its ability to weather the extremes. In 1935 a group of riders on Akhal-Tekes rode 2,500 miles from Ashgabat to Moscow in 84 days. This included 3 days crossing 235 miles of desert without water.
Finally, the Anglo-Arabian, a crossbreed between an Arabian and a Thoroughbred, is at the top of the list due to the characteristics inherited from the horses it was bred from. Slightly larger in size, the Anglo-Arabian combines Arabians’ endurance with Thoroughbreds’ speed and agility to create a unique horse perfectly suited for long-distance travel.
There are other breeds also known for higher stamina than average breeds. They are:
- American Mustang: Mustangs breed in the wild. Due to natural selection, only the strongest horses will reproduce, providing them with naturally high stamina levels.
- Morgan Horse: Bred for stamina. It is known to be able to work all day and still travel at night.
- Rocky Mountain Horse: With a unique 4-beat gait it conserves energy and allows for a smoother ride, both essential to endurance riding.
- Mule: The offspring of a female horse and male donkey, the mule may seem an unusual addition to the list. Due to its breeding, however, it has very impressive muscle endurance allowing it to travel greater distances without tiring.
- Quarter Horse: Their strong-willed temperament means they enjoy a challenge when ridden by an experienced rider. This temperament allows them to travel great distances with the right guidance.
- Hanoverian: Originally used as carriage horses, Hanoverians are muscular, long-limbed horses which make them well suited to traveling long distances.
- American Saddlebred: Initially bred for hunting and cross-country riding, the Saddlebred makes an excellent long-distance traveler.
- Tennessee Walker: As another breed with a 4-beat gait, the energy conservation and comfort while riding makes it an easy choice for riders looking to go the distance.
- Criollo: Native to the Pampas in Latin America, Criollos are tough horses that can be ridden for extensive time periods each day, making them a good choice for traveling far.
Fastest Horse Racing Breeds
If your goal is to cover a great distance in a shorter amount of time, then a fast horse is more important than an endurance horse. Fortunately, many of the endurance breeds are also known for being speedy. You may not be surprised to discover that you can find 80% of all endurance racing horses between these two lists.
Horse breeds known for speed include:
- American Mustang
How to Train Horses to Travel Greater Distances
Without the right training, not even the fastest breed with the highest stamina level can complete strenuous distances. A trained horse, not bred for its stamina, could easily outlast a perfectly bred endurance horse without training.
Training and conditioning make all the difference in performance.
When training a horse for distance, it is imperative to train gradually. On average, it can take up to a year of training to get your horse to the point where it can comfortably complete 60 or more miles at a time.
Let’s discuss the best methods to increase your horse’s stamina, and condition it for covering longer distances of travel. It is also important to note that all training times below are listed for shod horses. If your horse is barefoot, training time must be doubled. The best shoe type for horses traveling long distances is flat steel shoes.
Distance Training Phase I: Beginner Level
Duration; 6-8 weeks
This period is used to prepare your horse for continuously increasing exercise times and intensity and to condition its hooves and muscle to the work it will do.
- Between 4 and 5 days a week, walk your horse at an active pace. This should not be done on the same terrain every day. It is recommended that you train on as many different landscapes as possible. This can include fields, gravel, mountains, and even sand. Training times should be up to about 3 hours per day at the end of the 6 or 8 weeks.
- Once a week, the horse should be trotted in a lunge. This should not exceed half an hour without rest, and should never exceed 90 minutes overall. The horse must learn to maintain the correct form while trotting (head low, back rounded, and neck extended), and do so in a relaxed manner, so as to perfect its stride.
- Near the end of the beginner period, trotting should be added to the walking training. This should be done at the same pace as with the lunge, and for no more than 20 minutes per session.
- One day a week must be given for the horse to rest. At the beginning of the training period, recovery is essential, and this is impossible without allowing the horse a full day off.
Distance Training Phase II: Intermediate Level
Duration; 6 weeks
- Five days per week, follow this pattern; warm-up for 15-20 minutes at a quick walk, then proceed to use the trot-walk formation for increasing amounts of time. By the end of this level, the horse should be able to trot for 2 hours uninterrupted.
- Two days a week should be allowed for rest and recovery. Allow no more than light outrides, or very light lunging.
Distance Training Phase III: Advanced Level
Duration; 2-3 weeks
At this level, a comfortable canter should be achieved. Focus on the horse’s fitness levels while ensuring the rider and animal enjoy the exercise.
- 3-4 days per week of training should consist of a 15-minute warm-up, and then alternating between a canter, trot, and walk. By the last week of training, the horse should be able to maintain a canter-trot formation for a total of 90-100 minutes.
- Allow 3-4 rest days now that the training is more intense.
Following the above program will show obvious changes in your horse’s stamina and physique. It will also cover longer distances with much greater ease when kept in trot-walk formation with occasional cantering.
The program above covers the first 3 months of training. Once this intermediate level of stamina has been reached, the intensity of Phase III training sessions should be gradually increased. This training regimen should be interspersed with days in a lunging arena or riding school. The foundation built in the first three months of training will serve as the point for further developing your horse’s abilities.
To reduce the chances of injury or illness during training, it is important to take a holistic approach to the program and listen to your horse. If they start a training session on low energy, it is better to add an extra rest day instead of pushing them to complete the workout.
If a sensible, dedicated approach is taken, the difference in the way your horse performs may astound you.
Horse Travel FAQs
How far can a horse run without stopping? Horses can run 2.5 miles without stopping unless they have been conditioned to run farther. The average horse is stabled or kept on a pasture and doesn’t spend large portions of its time running or galloping and isn’t as in shape as horses were five decades ago when they were used for travel more often.
How far can a horse travel in 3 hours? A horse can walk 4 miles an hour and trot eight to twelve miles an hour. If a horse is conditioned and fit, it can usually cantor between 12-15 miles an hour and gallop 25-30 miles an hour. But, most pet horses are not conditioned enough to sustain a gallop or cantor non-stop for an hour and will need to rest after a few miles.
How Many Kilometers Can a Horse Run In A Day? A horse can run about 40 to 55 kilometers in a day, depending on how well conditioned it is. A well-conditioned horse can run up to 80 km a day with some horses able to run even farther. But, you should not attempt to run an average horse that far because it can cause injury and harm the horse.
My Favorite Equine Resources For Horses and Donkeys
This list contains affiliate products. Affiliate products do not cost more but helps to support BestFarmAnimals and our goal to provide farm animal owners with accurate and helpful information.
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Equinity Amino Acid Supplement for Horses makes a big difference for any horse that’s struggling with arthritis, hoof issues, or just generally. It’s great for older horses who can’t absorb all the nutrients in their food as well!
Manna Pro Weight Accelerator helps older horses gain weight and stay healthier! This was especially helpful when one of my older horses lost weight over the winter and helped her regain her weight over the summer!
Farnam Fly Control goes on the horse or donkey and will keep the flies off your sweet pet. It makes horses way more comfortable and will keep sores from getting infected as well.
Wound Kote protects sores and wounds. It acts as an antiseptic and helps wounds heal faster. It works on both my horses and goats.
Ever since ancient times, horses have been used as a means of transport and work by people of all classes, from peasants to kings. They can reach extraordinary levels of endurance with the correct training and riding.
From the days of the Pony Express, and the years of war where cavalrymen and steeds were used, until today where most endurance horses are prized mainly for their racing abilities, horses’ stamina and speed have been of utmost importance whether as a matter of pride, or the difference between life and death.
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