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How Fast Does a Horse Travel in Different Gaits?

Last updated: March 7, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

I recently led a trail ride on my gelding, and he walked so fast that some of the slower horses had to trot to keep up. When we stopped for a break, my grandson asked, “how fast does your horse walk?” Which began a long discussion about how fast horses travel in different gaits.

GaitAverage Speed
Walk4-6 MPH
Trot10-12 MPH
Canter10 to 18 mph
Gallup25 to 35 mph 

What is the fastest way for a horse to travel? How do they move differently when they are galloping or trotting? In this article, I look at how fast and far horses can travel in different gaits. We will also discuss some of the benefits of each gait. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Picture of a horse running

Horse gaits: Speed, Distances, and Type of Movement.

In order to understand how fast a horse can travel in each of its gaits, we first need to discuss the different horse gaits. There are four basic horse gaits: walk, trot, canter, and gallop. Let’s take a closer look at each one:

How fast does a horse walk?

A walk is the most basic gait that a horse can perform. It is slow and smooth, making it perfect for beginners or those who want a leisurely ride. Horses usually travel at speeds of up to four miles per hour when walking.

Horses typically “walk” leisurely at around three miles per hour (mph), though some horses can go faster or slower depending on their breed and body type.

What does it look like? You’ll see your horse’s head bobbing up and down as they move forward slowly with both pairs of legs moving alternately from the left side first, then the right side next; when you’re riding one of these animals during this type-of-movement phase yourself – it feels smooth but also slightly jerky.

Some horse breeds, such as the Paso Fino, Tennessee Walker, and Icelandic, are classified as gaited horses and can travel extremely fast in a walking gait.

Horse walking speed

BreedWalking Speed
Average horse4 MPH
Tennessee Walker6-12 MPH
Paso Fino6-12 MPH
Thoroughbred4-6 MPH
Quarterhorse4-6 MPH
Arabian4-6 MPH
Friesian horse4-6 MPH
Picture of a horse walking

When is a walking gait used?

The walk is usually used when traveling long distances. It’s slower than other gaits but still covers a lot of ground and requires little energy.

You often use this pace when trail riding or competing in endurance competitions. When trail riding in rough terrain, we often never advance past a walk all day.

Why do people use it?

This one’s simple: The walk allows riders to cover more distance than they otherwise could if traveling by foot or running because horses take longer strides than humans.

How far can a horse walk in a day?

A horse averaging a little over four miles an hour walking can cover about 50 miles in a day. However, this doesn’t account for eating and drinking breaks. However, some gaited horse breeds can travel very fast in a walking gait.

How fast does a horse trot?

A trot is the next gait up from a walk and is usually achieved when the horse is asked to go faster. It is more economical than a canter or gallop.

A horse trotting can cover more ground in less time and with less energy expended, so it’s often used to travel long distances quicker than a walk. Horses typically can travel about 10 miles per hour in a trot.

What does it look like?

The trot is a very efficient gait that you can use for long-distance traveling. This two-beat diagonal footfall looks something like this: the front left leg and right hind move forward in tandem, and the right front and rear left move together.

Some horses have a tendency to bounce or leap upwards off the ground when they’re trotting. This motion creates a bouncing effect that can be uncomfortable for riders who are not used to it.

How far a horse can travel in a day at different gaits

Walk50 miles4.2 mph
Trot and walk100 miles8.4 mph
Canter and walk100 miles8.4 mph
Gallop and walk100 miles8.4 mph

How far can a horse travel in a day trotting?

Theoretically, a horse can travel 100 miles in a day in the trot gait. However, the horse would need to include some walking and resting breaks.

While the idea of a horse covering 100 miles in one day is not as far-fetched, it requires that the horse be fit and trained for such distances. Not all horses have this ability, even in their best shape; they must be athletic horses with a lot of stamina.

How far can a horse trot without stopping?

There are a lot of factors to consider before answering this question. First, I’ll assume that it’s a cool day and the horse is traveling over flat ground; the horse is fit and is traveling at an easy leisurely jog.

Under these conditions, a horse could travel about 10 miles without stopping. After this, the horse would need rest, food, and hydration to stay sound and healthy.

Picture of horses in different gaits.

How fast does a horse canter?

The canter is a smooth, three-beat gait that is often used for long-distance riding. It is a very comfortable ride for the horse and the rider. It is also very efficient, allowing the horse to cover more ground with less effort.

In order to achieve a good canter, both the horse and the rider need to be comfortable and confident in this gait. A good canter will be smooth and rhythmic, without any bouncing or jarring.

If you are new to riding, work with your instructor to learn how to canter correctly. With practice, you will be able to enjoy this smooth and comfortable ride. In general, horses canter at about 14 miles per hour.

What does a canter look like?

In order to be a successful horseback rider, it’s essential to be able to identify the different gaits of a horse. Each gait has a specific purpose, and knowing which one your horse is using will help you better control them.

The canter is an elegant three-beat gait that pauses when all four hooves leave the ground. When a horse canters, the foreleg which strikes first will be considered “leading.”

In this case, the footfall pattern is left hind, right hind, and left front together and then the right front, followed by a split second when all four feet are off the ground.

How far can a horse travel in a day cantering?

With the right conditioning, an endurance horse can cover 100 miles in one day using a combination of walking, cantering, and galloping. Most horses travel about 12 miles per hour in a canter; however, they can’t keep this pace for 100 miles.

How far can a horse canter without stopping?

When you think of the most impressive things horses can do, it’s hard to beat their ability to ride for long distances without stopping. Endurance riders often canter their horses between 12 and 15 miles per hour for up to four miles before stopping.

YouTube video
Our two-year-olds second day galloping on the track.

How fast do horses gallop?

When most people think of a horse, the first image that comes to mind is probably one of a horse galloping. This is the fastest gait that a horse can do, and it’s definitely an impressive sight.

Horses that are good at galloping are often used for racing or other types of running competitions. Fast horses can typically hit top speeds of over 35 miles per hour when running.

What does a gallop look like?

The gallop is one of the most dynamic movements in a horse’s body. In this gait, horses reach their top speed, and all four feet are off the ground for an instant before hitting the ground again and propelling the animal forward.

It takes a lot of energy but also helps them cover short distances quickly to flee from predators when necessary- most horses need some time to recover after galloping hard, just like we do.

How far can a horse travel in a day galloping?

Horses can’t travel too far galloping because it takes some much energy to move their bodies fast. However, with extensive walking breaks, they may be able to travel 100 miles in a day. This would be with an experienced rider and a fit horse.

How far can a horse gallop without stopping?

Galloping is the fastest way for a horse to move, and it can cover a lot of ground without stopping. In fact, horses can gallop for up to two miles without stopping.

YouTube video

The best horse gait for traveling long distances.

There are three main gaits that horses use when traveling long distances: the walk, the trot, and the canter. Each of these gaits has its own benefits and drawbacks, so choosing the right one for your horse is important.

The Walk

The walk is the slowest gait, but it is also the most comfortable for horses. It allows them to travel at a steady pace for long periods of time without getting tired.

The downside of the walk is that it doesn’t cover as much ground as other gaits, so it can take longer to get where you’re going. If you have a horse who prefers to walk instead of trotting or cantering, then this is the gait I would use.

The Trot

The trot is a common gait for horses traveling long distances. It allows horses to cover a lot of ground quickly, but it can be jarring on their rider. If you plan to travel long distances on horseback, I would recommend using the trot sparingly, unless you use the posting trot.

During a posting trot, riders lift themselves in rhythm with the movement of their horse and smooth the jarring effect. The posting trot is the best gait for long-distance travel.

The Canter

The canter is the third gait, and it’s somewhere in between the walk and the trot in terms of speed. It’s less jarring than the trot, so it’s a good option for long-distance travel. The downside of the canter is that it can be tiring for horses, so I wouldn’t go too far without taking a break.

The Gallop

The gallop is the fastest gait, and it’s also the hardest on horses. I would only recommend using the gallop for short distances because it can be very stressful for horses.

So, what’s the best gait for traveling long distances? In my opinion, the posting trot is your best bet. It doesn’t wear your horse out as quickly as the cantor or gallop. Just make sure to take plenty of breaks so your horse doesn’t get too tired.

Trot v. Canter

There are two main types of horse gaits: the trot and the cantor. While they may look similar to the untrained eye, there are several key differences between these two gaits.

Trotting horses have a two-beat diagonal gait, which means that they alternate between lifting their left front leg and right rear leg at the same time and right front and left rear together.

Canter is another term for an extended trot, where both hind legs are lifted together with only one foreleg touching down on each stride. This creates a three-beat pattern instead of two. Canter is typically faster than a trot.


What is the smoothest gait?

The ambling gait is the smoothest horse gait. It is a type of horse travel performed by gaited horses and is faster than walking. The horse breed with the smoothest gait is the Paso Fino.