How fast can a horse run ?

Horses are incredible animals with whom for centuries man has cultivated an unbreakable bond. While “man’s best friend” is most commonly a dog, a noble steed is arguably just as strong a friendship.

Because of their propensity to cooperate effectively with humans, horses have been bred and developed throughout time. Between horse and horseman, an unmistakable team effort and relationship is built, with innumerable successes done and continuing to be made across the globe as a result of this collaboration and friendship.

Much of this success may be attributed to horses’ incredible endurance and ability to sustain pace over long distances.

To understand how far a horse can run, we must first understand the various gaits that horses have;

There are four unique gaits on a horse. Galloping, cantering, and trotting are the four running gaits, with galloping being the fastest and trotting being the slowest. Walking is the ultimate gait. There is a clear relationship between a horse’s speed and distance. Because of the considerable energy used, the quicker a horse runs, the less distance it can cover. A horse can go long miles at a stroll and with a few water stops.


Disclamer It is never a good idea to ride your horse too quickly or too far. Much will be determined by a horse’s level of fitness and training. Horses who travel long distances have undergone rigorous training in order to do so. Before trying a rapid, long distance ride, one should always check that the horse has had enough training and fitness.

So How Fast Can A Horse Actually Run?

Riding a horse at full gallop is one of the most thrilling sensations one can have, and it has fascinated people for generations.

At a gallop, a horse can run at an average speed of 55km per hour. The fastest recorded gallop is 89km per hour.  Running at such speeds requires a lot of energy and as such a horse can only maintain these speeds for a short period of time and will vary greatly based on the fitness levels of the horse.

Such runs are generally only considered once a day or with significant resting periods between runs in order to give the horse a chance to gather it’s strength and energy.

how fast can a horse run

How Far Can A Horse Run? 

The distance a horse can run is solely determined by its pace and hence the amount of energy used.

In full flight (in a gallop) a horse can cover up to just over 3km before it begin’s feeling fatigued. However if gaits are varied with canters and trotting, a well-conditioned horse can cover 30 to 50km in a day (while giving the horse multiple breaks in between to regain strength).

However, this is totally reliant on the horse itself and varies widely depending on fitness level, training, animal endurance, and even breed, with some breeds having greater stamina than others.

While some horses may exceed these distances, it is not recommended since it can lead to long-term health concerns.

horse grazing by river side

How Far Can A Horse Travel In One Day?

As you saddle up your horse and ready to go on your next equestrian trip, keep one golden rule in mind: as previously said, the speed established for the ride directly determines the distance that may be traveled.

Of course, there are other elements that will also come into play such as the terrain and footing, with some uneven footing, rocky terrain and other such landscapes adding strain to your horses’ limbs and hooves. The weather also plays a large factor in the distance as well as endurance of the horse with hot and humid weather causing your horse to lose electrolytes and water through their sweat. This in essence amounts to more breaks and even having to stop the ride should your horse become too fatigued.

Many people choose a slower, steady pace to optimize the distance covered by their horse in a day over a quicker paced ride, which reduces not only distance but also time owing to the necessary stops required for the horses’ wellbeing. A strolling horse may easily reach 50km in a day with 8 hours of unbroken walking under ideal weather.

How Far Can A Horse Go Without Stopping?

Whether you are voluntarily or involuntarily (we’ve all had those “after-spook” unplanned gallops) going at full speed with your horse, on average you will still have that 3km window until your horse’s endurance will begin to fatigue and you will slow down.

A horse in good condition may trot or canter for seven hours before their endurance runs out. However, this is not recommended and should not be done on a regular basis.

horses swimming while on horse back

How Fast Can A Horse Go At Top Speed?

Horses are highly strong creatures that can attain incredible speeds. Their speed is determined by a variety of factors, with their breed and fitness levels playing a significant role in their ability.

The fastest gallop ever recorded was 88,5 kilometers per hour. Racehorses, on the other hand, go at speeds ranging from 60 to 74 kilometers per hour. American quarter horses are the fastest breed, followed by Andalusians and Orlov Trotters in third place.

Many people believe that thoroughbreds are the fastest and most agile horses, but although they are in the top ten fastest horses, they cannot claim the ultimate title. They do, however, own the record for the fastest 400m sprint, which was won by a two-year-old Thoroughbred called Winning Brew at the Penn National Race Course in 2008 with a speed of 70.76km/h.

horse bathing in river

How Fast And How Far Can A Horse Travel With A Rider On Its Back?

As mentioned in the previous section, racehorses can reach an average speed of 60 to 74km/h, however with a rider on their back this speed drops significantly to an average of 32 to 48,5km per hour. At top speed with a rider on it’s back a horse can carry a rider for roughly 3km.

However, in a race setting the horse is then paced allowing it to reach a further distance of approximately 8km at a fast speed. The annual “Man vs Horse” marathon in which horses and humans compete in a 35,4km (22 mile) race to determine who is the fastest creature, recorded the fastest time of one hour and twenty minutes, a title proudly held by William Jones on Solitaire.

aqua exercising horse in river water

How Does The Terrain Affect How Far And How Fast A Horse Can Be Ridden?

The geography of a ride significantly influences the distance and speed covered during an out ride, with long sections of level and smooth surfaces being simpler to manage than uneven and obstacle-ridden routes.

In a track setting if a track is not adequately maintained this can add a level of strenuous exertion on the limbs of the horse. Wet spots and uneven footing can result in the hooves sinking into the surface slightly, ultimately leading to added exertion in the horse’s stride. This can greatly minimize the maximum speed of the horse.

Navigating tough terrain (predominantly on trail rides) such as uneven footing has the same effect. Uneven, rocky, muddy, or sandy terrain usually results in the horse slowing down to avoid injuries as such conditions can negatively impact hooves as well as the horse’s joints. This added exertion in tackling these added obstacles will also effect the horse’s abilities over flat terrain with much energy having been exerted in navigating the difficult terrain before.

Our Final Thoughts

Taking all of the above into consideration it is imperatively important to take into consideration that each and every horse is different even within the same breed. The fitness of the horse, the type of training it has endured, the pace of the ride, the terrain, and even the tack used play a great role in determining a horse’s abilities in both speed and distance.

The idea that these strong beasts may form an unbreakable link with their rider goes hand in hand with the idea that they are sentient beings with the capacity to think for themselves. Of course, we’re not riding machines, but 500kg creatures with their own minds. They have the capacity to be tremendously eager, incredibly reliable, and, as any equestrian would attest, unquestionably obstinate at times! It is said that a horse that likes running will always outperform expectations when it comes to speed!

The golden rule when taking on any form of training is to always remember to take your horse’s health into consideration as well as their individual abilities.

Happy trails everyone!

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Sharon Moore

Managing Director at Moore Racehorse Trust

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