If you are planning on using a horse as a mode of transport, you need to know how far you can go.
Horses can cover approximately 20 miles daily. However, there are horses that have covered over 100 miles in less than a day.
While horses can travel 20 to 30 miles daily or more, it’s not recommendable for their health in the long-term. This is evident with famous races in the past, like the 1892 race, where horses covered 350 miles in three days (approximately 117 miles daily). This race killed 13% of participating horses showing it’s not a good idea to subject horses to long travel.
To reduce risk, riders use techniques like employing different stages and changing horses. This can be seen with Pony Express riders in the 1860s. The riders who used horses to deliver mail and newspapers averaged 10 miles per hour but changed horses after every 25 miles. By doing this, the riders were able to cover 80-100 miles daily.
How Far Can A Horse Run Without Stopping?
Most horses can run for 2 miles without stopping. Some breeds like Arabian horses can run even faster i.e., 2.5 miles before getting tired. This translates to 25-30 mph. However, there are horses which have run faster than this. For instance, the fastest a horse has ever run nonstop on record over a short distance is 55 mph.
Factors Affecting How Far A Horse Can Travel In A Day
The distance a horse can travel in a day will vary depending on several factors discussed below;
1. The Pace You Set
A horse can travel further or a shorter distance depending on the pace you set. A typical walk, trot, canter, and gallop vary in speed i.e., 4 mph, 8-12 mph, 12-15 mph, and 25-30 mph, respectively. Typical horses can walk for eight hours with ease, which translates to 32 miles. Fit horses can cover more distance when trotting or cantering periodically.
Given that horses follow the rider’s cue, the pace you set for your horse will determine how far he/she is able to go in a day. When traveling a long distance, the speed is bound to vary. However, in most cases, horses can walk for 8 hours. If your horse trots, canters, or gallops occasionally during such a voyage, he/she can cover over 32 miles in a day.
A horse can fail to attain a certain pace or travel faster, depending on the terrain. Navigating up steep hills or down slopes is very challenging for a horse’s limbs. It also puts undue pressure on a horse’s cardiovascular system making the horse tire faster than when traveling on even ground. Rocks or hard ground also have the same effect. A rocky path will strain your horse’s joints and hooves, making it impossible to go fast. Sand and deep mud are equally stressful to a horse’s ligaments and tendons.
If you are traveling up/down steep slopes, rocky ground, sand or deep mud, your horse won’t be able to travel far. Such terrain also increases the risk of injury.
The weather also plays a critical role. Long rides are bound to dehydrate horses. Like humans, horses sweat. However, they tend to sweat more and lose lots of electrolytes through sweat increasing risks of suffering from heatstroke, among other serious conditions.
If you are riding your horse on a hot and humid day, you won’t be able to travel far. Your horse will require frequent stops and a lot of water and electrolytes throughout the journey. Horses perform optimally in cool weather. Extreme weather will compromise optimal performance.
4. Number Of Breaks
As mentioned above, horses can run nonstop for 2.5 miles. However, when covering long distances, you can’t canter your horse all the way without stopping. If the sun is out, you’ll need to stop frequently to drink water and replenish electrolytes. Your horse may also need to graze occasionally during a long trip.
If you break too often, you’ll obviously cover less distance. However, your horse will get an opportunity to drink water and graze. One of the main signs of an exhausted horse is lack of normal thirst and appetite. Stop immediately if your horse doesn’t want to drink water or eat after a long walk.
5. Horse Breed
Your horse’s breed will also determine how far he/she can travel in a day. Some horse breeds are more athletic than others. If your horse is tall and slim, his/her chances of traveling further in a day are higher than his less athletic counterparts. Horses that have an Arabian heritage tend to have an advantage.
Arabians are known for covering long distances in adverse conditions. Tall and slim Arabians will cover more distance faster than stockier and shorter horse breeds. However, there are stocky horse breeds (such as stocky quarter horses) that have endurance matching that of donkeys and mules.
6. Horse Fitness And Relationship With Your Horse
A fit horse can travel further naturally. If you have a fit horse that you have been riding often, he/she can cover eight hours of walking comfortably. Like humans, fitness is an important determinant of physical ability. A horse that exercises occasionally won’t have the stamina to endure hours of travel. If he does, he’ll be too tired/sore.
The level of training you put your horse through on a regular basis will determine how far he/she can travel in a day. You shouldn’t set on a voyage with a horse that isn’t in shape. It also matters how you relate with your horse. In fact, horse fitness is secondary during long voyages. You need to know how to control your horse; otherwise you won’t be able to travel long distances with ease. You should also tell when he/she gets tired to avoid overexerting him/her. Tired horses exhibit signs which take time to identify if you don’t have a relationship with the horse.
7. Horse Health
Your horse should be healthy if you expect him to cover long distances. A fit horse that just suffered an injury won’t be able to go anywhere. Horses are also prone to diseases like arthritis. An old horse with arthritis can’t be able to go far, let alone keep up with younger horses. The same applies to other problems like hoof ailments/injuries. Horses also need training to enhance their cardiovascular health. A tired or ailing horse can’t get far. The horse can also get injured easily or injure you.
8. Condition Of The Other Horses
Horses love to compete and will push themselves to the limit just to keep up with other horses in the group. Therefore, a horse can travel further in a group than alone. However, when riding in a group, the pace should be set by the least fit horse to avoid overexerting or injuring an older or ailing horse in the group.
A horse’s ability to cover long distances can also be affected by poorly fitted equipment. Besides hampering a rider’s comfort, poorly fitted saddles can injure a horse. The saddle and bridles must be in good working condition and fitted properly before going for long rides.
We have created an easy to read, step-by-step guide on how to fit a saddle onto a horse which can be read here.
10. Condition Of The Hooves
Lastly, your horse’s hooves need to be in good condition if you expect him/her to cover long distances over the shortest time periods. Your horse’s hooves should be examined and trimmed after a couple of months. If you plan to trail ride your horse, you should invest in horse boots as well to protect the hoof walls allowing him/her to cover as much ground with ease.
Horses can travel 20 to 30 miles a day. They can surpass this range based on many factors discussed above. It matters how you pace your horse, the weather, terrain, horse breed, number of breaks you take while riding, horse fitness, and overall health, among other factors.