Horses are born to run and the mere sight of horses running free is bound to lift anyone’s spirits. Yet these majestic creatures are still made out of flesh, blood, and bone, and their endurance abilities, although downright impressive, are by no means supernatural. Whether you are a horse owner and/or rider with your horse’s best interest at heart or you’re just curious about how long can a horse run exactly, read on to learn more about horses’ endurance abilities and the effects of prolonged physical exertion on their health.
Horse Vs Man
Horses’ amazing capacity to bolt when sensing predators is a key adaptation mechanism that has facilitated the survival of the species throughout the ages. According to specialists in equine veterinary medicine, a horse’s heart rate during a high-speed gallop has been associated with even a whopping eight-fold increase. Whoa, Nelly! To better understand how phenomenal horses’ fitness level really is, simply compare it to that of people – The heart rate of top athletes ( think marathon runners) increases only four-fold or less. Voila!
Natural Born Runners
Horses are born this way, partly thanks to the spring-like tendons of their limbs. According to the Roman poet Ovid’s famous quote, catching up and outpacing other horses nurtures their endurance abilities. Now the answer to how long can a horse run actually depends on multiple factors, including the pace the horse is running at ( e.g. galloping, cantering, trotting – and this is a crucial factor), whether the horse is carrying a rider (and the tack, obviously), rider skills, terrain, the horse’s physical condition, stamina, training, age, and, of course, breed.
Galloping Vs Trotting
With that being said, in a high-speed gallop, a healthy and fit horse can run up to 2.5 miles without stopping, before fatigue sets in. Possibly even 3 miles, considering that in Europe, back in the 18th century, many horse race tracks exceeded this distance. Eclipse was a famous racehorse in England that won 18 races, including a 4-mile one.
It’s worth noting that mammals use 2 different types of gallop – the rotary gallop ( epitomized by the cheetah) and the transverse gallop. The latter has become synonymous with the horse, and it’s initiated by a hindlimb contact with the ground ( as opposed to the forelimb contact in cheetahs) and it’s carried out in a way that resembles skipping stones on a river. This distinct directional transition in horses is a major source of momentum and energy loss.
With a proper break that would allow the horse to rest and lower his/her heart rate, galloping can safely continue. At a trot, on the other hand, a horse in good physical condition can travel up to 30-40 miles in one day, but again, some breaks are in order to prevent potential heart issues, Note that these may develop later in life, but sudden death due to heart failure or heart explosion ( when a horse runs too fast and too long) can occur when pushing the horse’s limits.
In general, a horse can trot for about 4 hours before needing a break ( walking is a sort of break). When carrying a rider on a plain terrain, a horse that is trotting can take 8-9 hours to travel 20 miles, breaks included.
Racehorses Vs Other Horses
The endurance abilities of a horse bred and trained for racing are obviously superior to other horses’. The speed of racehorses when galloping also differs from others – 55 mph vs 25-30 mph. Good stamina also differentiates one horse breed from another when it comes to sprinting. In general, lighter breeds have better stamina than heavier breeds.
Thoroughbreds are known for their superior endurance abilities and speed, which is why they are the number one choice in racing, followed by Quarter horses and Arabians ( the latter breed is the equine king of stamina). Other horse breeds with impressive endurance abilities include Mustangs, Andalusians, Morgans, Rocky Mountain, Tennessee Walker, and Hanoverian horses.
We hope that the above facts have satisfied your curiosity about how long can a horse run safely without stopping or, have helped you, if you’re a responsible rider/ own a horse, know his or her limits so as to prevent you from unwittingly causing your horse harm. If your horse exhibits signs of fatigue when galloping, cantering, or trotting, you should know that rest is needed to get his/her heart rate down to normal.