How far can you travel by horseback in a day? Well it depends on quite a few factors:
- the horse’s pace that you’re travelling at
- the terrain and footing you’re riding on
- the weather conditions
- your horse’s fitness and physical ability
- and, of course, your ability as a rider
Knowing how far can you travel by horseback in a day is essential if you plan on going on a fun trail adventure together. Before you pack up and get your riding gear ready, you may want to consider the important factors listed above to help prepare you for your upcoming journey.
Knowing the Pace of a Horse
Understanding at what pace your horse moves will help in determining the amount of distance you cover and time you take to travel in one single day.
Generally, horses have an average speed per mile at a certain pace. However, a certain number of factors come into play when you go on a day-long journey with your trusty steed.
How fast are horses? A horse can take up to four mph when it walks and between eight and 12 mph when it decides to trot. When a horse canters, it can speed up to anywhere between 12 and 15 mph, and when it chooses to gallop, it travels anywhere between 25 and 30 mph.
Typically, a healthy horse will comfortably walk for about eight hours, and by using the data above, that would mean that you could possibly cover about 32 miles. However, not many riders, especially those who aren’t used to horseback riding in longer distances, can stand to sit in the saddle for eight hours straight.
If the horse is fitter, it can occasionally trot or canter too – thus reducing the amount of time taken to cover certain mileage.
Existing Terrain and Footing
The estimated time and distance that we have given above is based on a healthy horse’s pace, considering riding without any form of interruption. With this, the assumed data above can still be reduced or increased.
One reason that your horse could slow down or speed up in its pace depends on whether or not the riding conditions are favorable and ideal. The terrain you travel on plays an important role in determining the distance you travel for a day. If your horse is not familiar or not comfortable with the terrain, there is a tendency for your travel to be slower than expected.
Navigating your horse through grounds that have steep hills would mean your horse would need to move up and down. This means that there is more stress on the horse’s limbs and its cardiovascular system in comparison to when it travels on plain and even ground.
If the terrain you travel on runs on hard, bumpy ground with tons of rocks, the concussion that would appear on your horse’s hooves and joints will be a tad bit more pronounced. If this happens, your pace will automatically go down in order to save your horse from any injury.
Additionally, traveling in areas which have sand or deep mud would also be a challenge to your horse. It would imply that the tendons and ligaments of the legs of the horse would have to withstand more stress.
In determining how far you can ride a horse in a day, you must always consider your riding path. The more stressful the terrain is, the slower your horse’s pace will be.
Always make sure that you take weather conditions into consideration when planning your ride. Amateur riders do not realize that weather plays a critical part when you are planning horseback rides, especially if you plan to ride the whole day. Extreme weather can bring discomfort and, in worse cases, severe injuries, to your horse.
Riding under the scorching heat of the sun will highly affect your travel time. When horses sweat, they tend to lose a large amount of their body water as well as electrolytes. That means that if a horse gets dehydrated or runs severely low on electrolytes when you are traveling, the horse can suffer from health consequences that will be severe in nature.
Conversely, if your horse is subjected to extremely cold and windy weather without proper protective gear, she may not move around as much as she used to. Cold weather can cause stiffening of muscles. The frozen ground is stressful to the hooves and joints. It can also worsen any underlying or old injuries.
If your horse is subjected to long periods of riding in bad weather, it may require you to take frequent stops from riding to prevent serious injuries. In turn, this would affect the travel time and distance tremendously.
The Overall Fitness of your Horse
Before you even plan your journey, especially if you are planning a day-long ride, it is important to take your horse to the vet for a check-up. You have to know exactly how fit your horse is. You would not want to risk your horse’s, and in effect your, health and wellness.
Regular training and exercise will keep your horse healthy and fit. Make sure your horse has strong cardiovascular fitness so she will be able to endure your long adventure.
It goes without saying that older horses may have a higher chance of having health issues such as arthritis. Ageing horses may not be able to keep up with the speed you expect. Previous and current injuries of your horse, if there are any, should also be considered. Provide full disclosure to your vet regarding your riding plans. Consult with your trusted vet on whether your horse is fit for the planned journey.
Ensure that you keep your pace reasonable so that your horse does not get tired quickly. Make frequent stops to prevent exhaustion. Provide necessary riding equipment (this also includes food and water) for your horse to protect her during your journey. As a rider and your horse’s owner, it becomes your responsibility to prevent the horse from having any injury as well as ensuring that the horse in no way overexerts itself.
Lastly, you must also make sure that you are physically fit and capable, as a rider, to proceed with your travel.
You should also train and exercise to build up your health and fitness. Make sure you are physically fit and well-rested. Having great focus and clear mind will also help you get through your long journey ahead.
Prior to your long adventure, try to frequently conduct shorter trails for you to enjoy. These shorter rides will help you get ready for your day-long ride. It is not wise for you to go straight to a whole day of horseback riding without trying a few, easier trails first. You might be surprised how quickly you get saddle sore after half a day of riding or so, especially if you’re doing a fair amount of trotting.
As you can see, determining the distance of how much the horse can travel in one single day is quite difficult. There are a lot of factors that contribute in determining how fast you can travel on horseback. To ensure that you travel as much distance as you want in one single day, you must keep your horse healthy and make sure that it will not have any injuries.
I also just want to cover some health benefits of horseback riding. These benefits are often overlooked as great reasons to get out on a horse for longer trips 🙂
Health Benefits of Horseback Riding
Horseback riding is actually good for your physical and mental health. We’ve made a list of some of the most notable ones below.
Horses, like any other animal, also have their own instincts that they rely on when they are walking or running.
That is the reason why, as a rider, you are always required to make the right decisions once the horse turns in a different direction or act differently.
Muscular Strength and Body Coordination
When you ride a horse, it makes all of your abdominal, pelvic and back core muscles work hard since you need to stay on and communicate with the horse using your body.
Interestingly, it also affects your coordination since you will use your hands, feet, and upper body to guide the horse.
Not many people associate riding a horse with mental health, but there are several psychological benefits too.
For starters, you force your mind to learn and adapt to another living creature, and it is also somewhat meditative, as your primary focus at the moment you ride the horse is only that and nothing else.
Likewise, the connection between you and the horse will bring you a sense of peace every time you ride.
When you ride a horse, that is not the only thing you end up doing.
You also end up working in a barn which means you end up taking care of the horse which ultimately strengthens your muscles and your cardiovascular capacity increases.
Happy riding 🙂