I don’t have as much time now, but I remember when I was younger I loved 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?
In this article, I’m going to answer all of your questions about how far a typical horse can travel in a day so you can plan your adventures accordingly!
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How Many Miles Can a Horse Travel in a Day?
The short answer to the question is: it depends! Here are the factors to consider:
- The horse’s pace
- The terrain and footing you’re riding on
- The weather conditions
- Your horse’s fitness and physical ability
- 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, so let’s dive deeper into each of these considerations.
P.S. If you’re planning a long trip and need to get a saddle bag, check out our recommendations here!
The Pace of the Horse’s Travel
Understanding at what pace your horse moves will help in determining the amount of distance you cover and the time it takes to travel a certain distance in one day.
Generally, horses walk at an average speed per mile. A 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 go up to four miles per hour when it walks and typically travels somewhere between eight and 12 miles per hour at a trot.
At a canter, a fit horse can speed up anywhere between 12 and 15 miles per hour. At a gallop, they can travel between 25 and 30 miles per hour on average. Of course, a gallop can’t be sustained for very long and it’s unlikely the terrain will allow for a long gallop either.
Let’s Do The Math: On Average, How Long Can You Ride a Horse in a Day?
Typically, a healthy horse will comfortably walk for about eight hours.
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 riding long distances) can sit in the saddle for eight hours straight without getting very uncomfortable. If I tried to do that these days, I’d be so sore!
If you’re riding a more fit trained horse, it can occasionally trot or canter too, which can reduce 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. But the second thing to consider when deciding how far an average horse will be able to travel is the terrain.
One reason that your horse could slow down or speed up depends on whether or not the riding conditions are favorable.
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, your horse will tend to slow down to ensure safe footing and your travel time will be slower than expected.
When I went riding in Colorado, even though we were riding trained horses that were very comfortable with the steep hills and rocky passages, the horses still had to slow down in order to safely navigate the terrain.
Similarly, when we went for long rides in Arizona, we could canter and gallop across the flat plains, but then when we took trips up to the steep hills, we would travel much slower.
Navigating your horse through grounds that have steep hills means there is more stress on the horse’s limbs and cardiovascular system in comparison to when it travels on even ground.
If the terrain on which you’re traveling is hard and bumpy with lots of rocks, the impact on your horse’s hooves and joints will likely be more pronounced. If this happens, your pace will automatically go down in order to save your horse from any injury.
Additionally, traveling in areas that have sand or deep mud could also be a challenge for your horse.
Your horses’s tendons and ligaments 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.
Always make sure you take weather conditions into consideration when planning your ride, too. If you haven’t ridden in poor weather before, you might not realize the extent to which weather can play 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 is likely to affect your travel time, maybe even by a lot. When horses sweat, they tend to lose a large amount of water and electrolytes. That means if a horse gets dehydrated or runs severely low on electrolytes when you are traveling, the horse can suffer from health consequences that could be severe in nature.
Conversely, if your horse is subjected to extremely cold and windy weather without proper protective gear, they may not be eager to move. Cold weather can cause stiffening of muscles. The frozen ground can be stressful on hooves and joints. It can also worsen any underlying or old injuries.
If you do choose to take your horse on long periods of riding in bad weather, you may need to take frequent stops from riding in order to prevent serious injuries. This will in turn affect your potential travel time.
The Overall Fitness of Your Horse
Things like your horse’s breed and age can also affect how far they’re able to travel. Regular training and exercise will keep your horse healthy and fit. But some other factors can affect your horse’s overall fitness are out of your control.
It goes without saying that older horses may have a higher chance of having health issues such as arthritis. Aging 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 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 on that and give you any recommendations or warnings.
Rider’s Fitness & Skill Level
Lastly, to go the distance, you must also make sure you are physically fit and capable as a rider. It’s not just the horse that needs to be skilled… If you’re not able to guide your horse over a puddle they find a little scary, you could be stuck in the same spot for a while!
You should train and exercise to build up your health and fitness. Make sure you are physically fit and well-rested. Having good focus and a clear mind will also help you get through your long journey ahead.
It is not wise for you to go straight to a whole day of horseback riding without trying a few easier trails first. Prior to your long adventure, try to do a few shorter trails. These shorter rides will help you get ready for longer ones.
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!
Posts on Fitness & Flexibility For Riders You Might Like
For more guides on how to train as a rider, check out these articles:
Posts on How to Improve Your Skill Level
- 10 Tips To Look Like A Pro On Your First Ride
- 10 Western Horseback Riding Tips for Beginners
- How to Move A Horse Forward Under Saddle
- How to Slow Down A Hot Horse
- The Secret Walk-to-Trot Riding Aid
- How to Sit the Trot
- How to Establish Neck Flexion
- How to Collect a Horse
- How to Ride Without Stirrups
- How to Stop a Bolting Horse
- How to Ask for the Canter
- How to Master Jumping While Minimizing Fall Risk
If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my FREE Beginner Rider’s EBook! You’ll learn how to keep a consistent pace (whether you’re riding a fast or slow horse), how to make smoothen transitions, how to finally get the flexion and bend you want, The Emergency Brake as well as bonus chapters on making cantering and jumping so much easier!
Conclusion: How Far Can a Typical Horse Travel 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 to consider when 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!
There are so many physical and mental health benefits to trail riding, and it can be a great way to get out into nature and see the world. So get out there and enjoy it!