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Thread: Horse Questions, part I

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  1. #1
    'Twas but a dream of thee El Jefe MacAllister's Avatar
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    Horse Questions, part I

    I got a pm asking an excellent question--and bringing up an issue that has made me roll my eyes more than once, when reading a story with horses. I thought I'd repost my response here, with a pared-down version of the original question:
    1. a) What's a reasonable maximum daily distance that you could expect a horse and rider to travel in a day, assuming that the same horse is ridden for a week or two straight and you don't want to ride the horse into the ground? ... b) Would riding double decrease that distance significantly?... c) Would bringing a remount increase that distance?
    That's actually a pretty complicated question, with a ton of variables that can make a difference. Terrain, size and breeding of horse, what kind of gear, stirrups or no....etc.

    Figure for long distance stuff, in moderate terrain, a fast horse, pushing hard, will cover @ 15 miles an hour. An average horse will cover 8-10 miles an hour. The further you go, the more complicated it gets trying to hold your horse together, though. note: A short sprint is an entirely different pace!

    A more leisurely pace would be completely understandable, for standard travel.--say cut the above times in half, and cover ground walking and trotting. In that case, if you do slow down, you have an easier time keeping your horse alive and sound (not limping) It would be entirely reasonable to ride 35-40 miles in a 8 to 10 hour day, with a break or two. Not for the faint of heart, though. It's gonna hurt, unless your riders are accustomed to all those hours in the saddle.

    One rider, with gear, on a fit horse can cover 25-35 miles in about 4-5 hours at a fairly steady trot with some cantering and some walking, to break up the pace--figuring in at least one hour-long rest period...you can do that daily, without much trouble, indefinitely. Again, taking as given that the horse is fit, not a horse who has stood in the pasture unworked for months.

    Your hypothetical rider will spend most of his time "posting" a trot--I can give you the history and a description of the technique, if you'd like. It's pretty much the most efficient gate for distance traveling. The Pony Express riders went much faster, but the horses did not have to go out on consecutive days.

    Add a remount, and the rider can cover double the ground, without much trouble. If only travelling for 6-7 consecutive days, you could do that on two horses, resting when completely exhausted, and reasonably cover 80-100 miles a day, on roads and good trails. 50-60 miles a day, cross country, or steep terrain.

    Add steep terrain, deer tracks to follow or no trails at all...you'll be lucky to make it 5-10 miles.

    Add a 100 lb person riding double, you can probably get away with 25-30 miles a day, for 5-7 days...but you'll have a tired horse, trying to go lame, and getting cranky about being saddled. Also probably getting quite sore over the loins.

    A horse bred to trot will go more efficiently and even faster, a standardbred or arab, say 25 miles in 2-1/2 to 3 hours-- 50 miles in 6-7 hours (that's riding time only, you'll have to figure in at least a brief rest for the horse every 2-3 hours, with a big drink (ideally) and something to eat, even if it's just a few mouthfuls of grass.

    On a rangy, athletic, fit horse, bred to trot, it would be entirely reasonable to cover 40-50 miles a day (counting time to rest) for a week or so, in 7-8 hours, before needing to have some time off.

    The horses bred for endurance can cover around 100 miles in about 12-16 hours (again, just on average) but cannot do so day after day--would need several days to rest afterwards, or you're risking metabolic failure or lameness. (carrying around 190-200 lbs)

    A heavier horse (draft or draft mix, like you'd expect of a horse who carried a knight in armor, for instance, will take longer, and need more frequent rest stops. Also, a heavier horse won't stand up well to longer distances than around 40 miles.
    Last edited by MacAllister; 04-25-2005 at 12:54 AM.

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