how fast can a horse run

How Fast Can a Horse Run

Last updated on July 11th, 2023 at 03:48 am

Are You Wondering How Fast Can a Horse Run?

If you were to go online and search, “How fast can a horse run?” you would end up with 55 miles per hour, or 88 kilometres per hour. These are quarter horses at VERY short bursts (short distance) running full speed and it is lightning fast, not your average horse.

But this is not the standard speed for every single horse. Most horse breeds are not bred for speed or speed alone. The fastest horse breed (American quarter horses), and even the thoroughbred racehorses (fastest race horse) are also bred for other competitions, pleasure and work.

Not all Horses are the Same

Some horses are naturally more athletic and healthier than others and have a higher top speed. This means that some horses are simply born to run fast. Other horses might lack motivation or even the ability to run very quickly. Plus, you have to take into consideration athletic training, age, fitness level, and conditioning.

There are tons of factors that come into play when trying to determine the maximum speed a horse can run, including breed and if it is just an average horse.

While there is no set standard, there is a relative average. Between all the different breeds and bloodlines of horses, it’s typically agreed that your average equine friend can gallop at around 48kmph, or 35mph, give or take. If the horse is old, it probably won’t even reach that. 

Which Horses Can Run Fastest? 

As you might have guessed already, certain breeds of horses are faster than others. When you are looking at how fast can a horse run, you need to look at the different types of horses. A horse’s speed depends greatly on its breeding, stride length, distance covered and different gaits.

This is because some horses have been bred for many years to boost their speed, their agility, their performance, and endurance. When dealing with breeds in North America, the fastest horses are going to be the American quarter horse and the thoroughbred horse. These are the two types of horses most commonly used in racing. 

But even still there’s a difference! For example, the quarter horse is better at racing shorter distances while thoroughbreds can maintain their speed for longer distances, making them better when racing in circuits. When it comes to these two horses, an American quarter horse can typically gallop at up to around 80 kph (50mph), while thoroughbreds can maintain a gallop of about 64 kph (45mph). 

So what is the fastest horse?

In 1972, the thoroughbred racing legend, Secretariat, set an outstanding speed record that to this day has never officially been broken. Secretariat ran 1.5 miles in slightly under 2.5 minutes. That’s 2.4 kilometres! This is why Secretariat is the most famous horse in history.  What a race horse.

Lots of other horses on TV like in Heartland or Yellowstone or in other movies are shown running really fast. But lets discover what is real and what is TV.

What Are Horse Gaits?

When talking about how fast horses go, a lot of people don’t consider the horse’s gaits. This is a common mistake for uninitiated riders who don’t understand the differences. If you don’t know the basic horse gaits and their speeds, it’s going to make it extremely confusing when you start riding, especially since you might think your horse is running when it’s actually not. 

What is the horse’s gait?

It’s the same as a person’s gait.

You could also describe it as the way a horse walks. For example, the slowest gait for a horse is its walk. The next step up is a trot. The canter is after a trot but not quite at a gallop. Then finally, the gallop is the fastest gait of all, often referred to as simply running. It’s the difference between a person walking, jogging, and sprinting.

A walk is a four-beat gait. This means the horse is touching down one leg at a time to create four beats. The fastest a horse will walk is between 3 and 4 mph (5 and 6.5 kph). The top speed of a walk is fairly slow.

The trot is a two-beat gait. This means that the horse is moving its front legs and back legs at the same time. It’s the equivalent of jogging, and in some disciplines is even referred to as such. The quickest a horse will trot is generally between 8 and 10 mph (13 and 16 kph).  Some horse’s have a very fast trot, with their top speed being high enough to race in the trot races, or cart races.

The canter is also known as a lope. It’s a three-beat gait in which the horse moves faster than when trotting but not fully galloping. A horse will generally canter at between 10 and 17 mph (16 and 27 kph). A canter top speed is more than a trot but less than a gallop and can be as fast as 30 miles per hour in some horses.

Then there is galloping, which is equal to running. This is what a horse will do on the racetrack during horse racing. It’s a four-beat gait in which the horse hammers forward as quickly as possible. As already discussed, a horse’s top speed during a gallop can be anywhere between 30 and 55 mph (48 and 88 kph). 

How Long Can a Horse Run?

How long a horse can run is just as complicated as how fast a horse can run. It of course has a lot to do with conditioning and fitness. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that the horse is extremely well-conditioned and is used to running. In this case, a horse can easily maintain a run or gallop for 1.5 miles (2.4km). It’s usually at around 2 miles (3.2km) or 2.5 miles (4km) that the horse will begin to feel extremely fatigued. Riding the horse any harder or farther can result in severe exhaustion and damage to the horse. This is not something you want to do!

If you’re dealing with a lighter horse like an Arabian or a thoroughbred, they can maintain a gallop for much longer than heavier horses like draft horses or quarter horses. Plus, any horse that has longer strides can go farther while using less effort. 

The truth is that horses are designed by nature to cover more distance slowly. The only reason a horse is supposed to run in nature is if it needs to get away from a predator, like some kind of large cat or a bear. A horse can easily move at a trot for quite some distance. With a few breaks, a horse can go 15 miles (24km) in a day while trotting without straining itself. 

Fastest Horse and Horse Speed FAQ

What are some Hores Racing Records?

The fasted speed recorded of a racehorse ever was Man-O-War, then Secretariat. The fastest miles per hour ever recorded over two furlongs is 44MPH (43.97) and was achieved by Winning Brew trained by Francis Vitale (United States).

Horse racing records we not kept well during the early days, but now we have really good records of horse races. Kincsem is a racehorse that is said to have never lost. Winning 54 out of 54 starts. Even Man-O-War lost one race.

The average speed of a horse during a race is 30 Mph or 48.2 Kph, with the world record being 70.8 KPH

How Fast is a Quarter horse?

How fast is a quarter horse? When asking how fast can a horse run you also want to look at the different breeds of horses.

The quarter horse is very fast, the top speed for the world’s fastest quarter horse is 55 MPh or 88 KPH. Quarter horses are known more for their short bursts of speed and power, not for their long-distance running. This is why Quarterhorses are primarily used in rodeo events that need speed and power.

What is the Average Speed of a Horse?

The average speed of a horse varies depending on its gait. Horses have four basic gaits, they are walking, trotting, catering (loping) or galloping. A galloping horse on average will be going 25-30 MPH. The average trot is about 8 MPH. The stride angle also plays a part in the equation of the speed of a horse.

The average speed of a horse (running speed) will also vary greatly by breed. Horse breeds are very different when it comes to horsepower, horse speed, the fastest horse, and full speed. For smaller quicker horses like the quarter horse, they have really fast bursts of speed which makes them great for things like barrel racing. These little guys are also quite stout and have good strength for cattle work.

Thoughoubreds are better suited for distance running at top speed, they are known as the racing horse breed. These guys can really get going. They have the highest speed recorded. They are the fastest horse breed, the racing horse.

Arabian horses are also fairly fast, but are known more for their endurance racing, and their distance movements.

Large cold blood horses like the Percheron, Friesians and Clydesdale are slower but have significantly more power to pull things like wagons. These horse breeds are bred more for work and show. These biggest horse breeds don’t run as fast.

At full speed these horses are not running 30MPH, like the average horse they are a little slower. Their running speed is more in the 20-25MPG range, although some Friesian sport horses can get up to the 30 MPH mark.

How Fast Can a Horse Run With a Rider?

If you are wondering how fast can a horse run, you would also want to know is that speed with a rider or without a rider? Some will say that a rider will slow a horse down 10-15MPH again depending on weight.

The Kentucky Derby requires that jockeys weigh a maximum of 126 pounds, which includes the jockey and the gear so the jockey needs to be 119 pounds so the gear completes the 126. Jockeys are really short.

Whats the fastest Horse with a Jockey?

Having said all that some research has shown that jockeys can make a horse run faster because of the encouragement. The running speeds needed for the races is quite high, and jockeys can really make riding horses run. Racehorse breeders know this and that is why they pick good jockeys.

What is Penn National Race Course?

Penn National Race Course is a course in Grantville, Pennsylvania close to Harrisburg. It also has a casino and is operated by Penn Entertainment. The fastest thoroughbred ever recorded at a racetrack was at this course in May of 2008 by the 2-year-old filly Winning Brew at a top speed of 43.97 MPH.

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