I don’t have as much time now, but I remember when I was younger I would love going on day-long trail rides with my horse. At the end of the day I would wonder: how far did we go? How far can you travel by horseback in a day?
Now when I try and ride all day, I get quite sore! But that usually goes away after a day.
Once I went to a gorgeous ranch in Colorado. We would spend all day every day just riding through the mountains. Sometimes we’d be riding along the edge of the cliff.
I remember being so nervous the whole time. But of course the horses knew exactly what they were doing. They confidently navigated the rocky edges with ease! Just remember: your horse usually knows the best paths to take. Have faith in your horse when riding trails.
But that brings me back to my question. 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 horse 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 a 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. 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 I tried to do that now, I would certainly be sore!
If the horse is fitter, it can occasionally trot or canter too – 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, riding without any form of interruption.
One reason that your horse could slow down or speed up 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 in 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.
Even riding horses that were very comfortable with the steep hills and rocky passages in Colorado, they had to slow down in order to safely navigate the terrain.
Similarly, when we went to Arizona we would also go for really long rides. It went quickly when we could canter and gallop across the flat plains but we would also take trips up into the hills that were quite steep at times, which would go much slower.
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 impact on your horse’s hooves and joints will be a tad 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 could also be a challenge for your horse.
The tendons and ligaments of the legs of the horse would have to withstand more stress and exert more force to keep you moving.
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.
Weather Conditions Affect How Far You Can Travel By Horseback in a Day
Always make sure that you take weather conditions into consideration when planning your ride. If you haven’t ridden in poor weather before, you might 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 or illness to your horse if they were to stumble, trip or get too cold/hot.
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 water and 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, they may not be that eager to move around. 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. This will in turn affect your potential travel time.
The Overall Fitness of your Horse
Regular training and exercise will keep your horse healthy and fit. But some other factors can affect your horse’s overall fitness that are out of your control.
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. You should also consider any previous or current injuries, and how they might affect your horse.
That said, you might be able to offset some fitness concerns by doing a few simple things:
- 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 them during your journey.
I should also say that especially if you are planning a multi-day ride, it’s a good idea to take your horse to the vet – particularly if you haven’t been in a while. To know how far you can ride, you have to know exactly how fit your horse is. Your vet should be able to provide some insight.
If you do visit a vet before your trip, I would recommend bringing the details along. Your vet can advise you whether you’ll be pushing your horse too hard.
Lastly, you must also make sure that you are physically fit and capable, as a rider, to go the distance.
You should 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 do a few shorter trails. These shorter rides will help you get ready for longer ones.
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.
Conclusion: How far can you travel by horseback in a day?
As you can see, determining the distance of how far your horse can travel in one single day is quite difficult.
There are a lot of factors that contribute in determining how far you can travel by horseback in a day. To ensure that you travel as far as possible, make sure you get out on some practice rides to get you and your horse in shape.
Oh, and try to avoid any injuries (if you can!).
I think trail riding is such a great thing to get into.
There are so many physical and mental health benefits. So get out there and enjoy it!