Are You Wondering How Fast a Horse Can 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.
But this is not the standard speed for every single horse.
It’s the fastest speed that a horse can possibly run. You have to remember that just like people, horses are all different. While a human can run at a maximum speed of 45 kph, or 27.8 mph, this is an almost superhuman speed. An average person cannot run anywhere close to that speed.
And so it goes for horses. Some horses are naturally more athletic and healthier than others. 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.
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. 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).
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 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 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).
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).
Then there is galloping, which is equal to running. This is what a horse will do on the racetrack. It’s a four-beat gait in which the horse hammers forward as quickly as possible. As already discussed, a horse can gallop 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.