Horses run at a racetrack.

How Fast Can One Horse Actually Run?


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A unit of measurement we use, usually when talking about cars, is horsepower. But how much "power" does a horse really have? Here's how fast a horse can actually run.

For centuries, we've used horses actively for various purposes, such as transport in the early days and participating in equestrian sports and horse racing events today.

To answer the question of how fast one horse can actually run, we have to start by breaking down the four basic gaits of a horse. First, there is the four-beat walk, then the next speed up is the two-beat trot (or jog if you prefer), then it's the three-beat gait: the canter (a.k.a. lope), and lastly, the fastest gait, the four-beat gallop.

How Fast Can a Horse Run?

how fast can horses run

While horse gaits like trotting and cantering have a speed of about 8.1 to 12 mph and 12 to 17 mph, respectively, a full gallop is where the horse really excels when it comes to speed, with the average horse galloping (or running!) at 25 to 30 mph. So horses were a lot like riding a moped, if you could handle the stress of riding that fast. While certainly the horse takes on the majority of the physical stress, riding is a physical activity that demands a lot from the rider on top of the horse, and can be more difficult if the rider isn't conditioned for riding.

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The two fastest horses ever recorded are two racehorses in the United States. One is a thoroughbred named Secretariat who holds an unbreakable speed record when he ran one and a quarter-mile in just under two and a half minutes at the 1973 Kentucky Derby. The other high-speed record holder at the racetrack is Winning Brew, a horse holding the world record for the fastest speed ever reported when she ran at 43.97 mph at the 2008 Penn National Race Course.

While how fast a horse can run also depends on things like breed, age, and endurance, just to name a few, American Quarter Horses are considered the fastest horse breed for short distances (with the top speed for a Quarter Horse reaching up to 55 mph!) and Thoroughbred Horses for long distances. Just like dogs, horses are bred for certain tasks, and a horse bred for long distance running will fare better than a horse bred for sprinting. Arabian horses have a  running speed of up to 40 miles per hour, and they are known for their endurance, making them great horses for long distance riding.

Gender does not play a huge difference in how fast different horses can run. The difference between a filly and a colt is negligible. Surprisingly, though, horses with long legs don't necessarily run faster than horses with shorter legs. Those long legs can interfere with an efficient gait, making them a detriment to a horse looking for more speed.

How Long Can a Horse Run?

how fast can horses run

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Horses are known for running longer distances, and the internet is full of wild horses running free. A horse can run between two to two and a half miles at full gallop before they need to take a rest. However, if the speed of a horse is slowed down to a trot, a horse can go for 20-30 miles in a day. Keep in mind that a horse will need some breaks in between. It is important to know when you should take a rest, so your horse does not get injured.

Though the average speed of a horse is around 25 to 30 mph, there's one thing we know for sure: just like humans, no two horses are the same. So, be sure to get that training in for your galloping horse to make it the fastest it can be!

Are you the owner of a fast-galloping horse? Share them on the Wide Open Pets Facebook page!

READ MORE: 20 Most Popular Horse Breeds Around the World

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