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How Long Would It Take for a Horse to Travel 20 Miles?

Last updated: August 3, 2022

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

We need to know how long it would take a horse to travel 20 miles. Some of our friends organized a charity trail ride, and our grandchildren want to join us. But I’m concerned that a 20-mile horse ride may take longer than they can handle.

It would take about five hours for a horse to travel 20 miles at an average walking pace of around four miles an hour. However, exceptionally fit and trained endurance horses can travel twenty miles in about one and half hours.

Horses travel at different speeds, not only between breeds but also between individual horses of the same breed. To determine how fast a horse can travel 20 miles, I used the average horse pace in three gaits, walk, canter, and gallop.

Pace determines how long it takes a horse to travel 20 miles.

When we take long trail rides, it’s at a leisurely pace, and we take numerous water breaks and ride side by side, talking most of the time. The outing is about community, family, and having fun.

picture of men riding horses on a 20 mile trail ride,

But before this trip, I wanted to know how long we could expect to spend in the saddle to cover 20 miles because of the kids. I began my journey to discover how long it would take by using the average pace most riding horses walk, four miles an hour.

But horses travel in different gaits and paces. It’s critical to determine which rate of speed they will be traveling during the ride to figure out how long it takes a horse to travel a specific distance.

What are the different speeds of horse travel?

A horse’s motion used to travel is its “gait,” and the gait of a horse is in primarily determines its speed. There are two primary categories of gaits natural and artificial. For our purpose, we are concerned with natural gaits.

What are the natural gaits of a horse?

When watching horses, they seem to naturally progress through a pattern of footfalls while increasing their speed. We always look at horses as individuals, but some traits are seen across all equine breeds. Gait progression is a prime example of one standard quality.

Horses have five natural gaits, walk, trot, canter/lope, gallop/run, and back. Most breeds perform all these gaits naturally; however, some may perform better than others, and some can’t perform each gait.

Almost all hot and warmblood horse breeds perform every natural gait without any training. This includes breeds used for sporting, ranch work, and English and Western riding styles.

What’s the difference between a canter and a gallop?

While watching horse events, you may hear people use the term cantor to describe a horse traveling in a three-beat gait. What looks like the same movement, other people may call the gait a gallop. But is there a difference between gallop and canter?

Canter is a three-beat gait just a bit above a trot. A horse is in a canter when one pair of its feet strike the ground at the same time while the other two feet land separately.

Horses in a canter are either be in a left or right lead, which means that the feet fall in a pattern with either the left or right front foot hitting the ground last.

You will notice a right lead because the horses’ left hind, right hind, and left front feet hit the ground at just about the same time, and the right front strikes the ground last. The reverse occurs if the horse is in a left lead.

Why is knowing leads important? It is useful because horses typically turn easier to their lead side, so horses turning left should be cantering in a left lead.

Some people also call this action a lope or slow gallop. A gallop is typically faster and often occurs when horses are running. Although it’s considered a fast canter, it’s not.

A gallop has a different footfall pattern than a canter, and all feet leave the ground. When horses are galloping, each foot hits the ground separately, right hind, left hind, right front, and then left front when in a left lead. In a right lead, the last foot to hit the ground is the right foot.

How fast can a horse travel 20 miles in a canter?

When horses pick up the pace from a trot, they move into a canter; this is their medium speed—most horses in canter travel between 10 and 17 miles per hour.

If a horse can maintain a canter for 20 miles, it will complete the distance in two hours. However, the average horse can only cover about five miles in a canter before it has to stop.

Horses that can canter for 20 miles are exceptional athletes with a lot of endurance training.

Picture of a couple riding horses on the beach.

How fast can a horse travel 20 miles in a gallop?

Horses walk at different speeds; if you’ve ever been on a trail ride, it’s quite evident. Some horses always lag, and others are pushing the pace, but each is walking.

Galloping is a horse’s fastest gait, and the average horse can gallop between 25 to 30 miles an hour, but most can’t sustain the pace for long distances. Gallop and running are often used similarly to describe horses’ fastest speed.

Technically a horse can gallop 20 miles in one hour or less, but that’s not reality. The average horse can only maintain a galloping pace for a little over two miles; after that, it needs a break.

Picture of our two year old running

Endurance horses push into a gallop for intervals and take walking breaks to catch their breathe and regain energy before they take off again. These horses are specially bred and trained for long-distance travel.

If you take your horse out for a twenty-mile ride, be conscious of your horse. Most riders get pretty uncomfortable sitting in a saddle for hours, so how do you think a horse feels? They’re the ones doing all the work, so you need to take care of them during long-distance travel.

How fast does a horse walk

One of my friends rides a quarter horse mare that walks faster than any quarter horse I ever laid eyes on. He has to reign her for us to keep up. His fast-walking mare made me wonder how fast a horse could walk one mile.

The average pace a horse walks is four miles an hour; however, some gaited breeds like the Tennessee Walking horse can get up to twelve miles an hour in a walking gait and keep it up for a long distance.

Gaited breeds not only travel faster than most non-gaited horses when walking, but they are also much smoother. If you intend to ride for twenty miles on horseback, consider riding a gaited horse.

How long does it take a horse to walk 1 mile?

The length of time it takes a horse to walk a mile depends on the horse, but the average horse can walk a mile in about fifteen minutes. Of course, some horses, like the aforementioned Tennessee Walking Horse, can complete the distance much faster.

Do horses walk faster than humans?

On average, horses walk faster than humans. A typical person walks a little over three miles an hour, whereas the average horse walks four miles an hour. There is not a huge difference.

You likely notice your horse walks at your pace when you lead it; this is common because horses naturally saunter.

Picture of a horse running

Will a horse run itself to death?

It’s not uncommon for a horse to keel over and die in horse movies because it ran itself to death. I’ve never known a horse to do this, so I decided to find out if horses running themselves to death happens or is it a television myth?

Horses can indeed run themselves to death by creating elevated pressure in their respiratory and circulatory systems, which leads to organ failure and death. Horses running harder and further than they should isn’t rare, but dying from it is not very common.

Horses have limits on how fast and far they can safely run before their bodies begin to break down. Deaths related to overexertion include dehydration, heart attack, respiratory failure, and exhaustion.

How long does it take a horse to run a mile?

Did you know that horses can run at an average speed of 30 mph? That means that if they keep up that pace, they can cover 1 mi in just two minutes. However, they can’t keep this pace for much further than a mile.

And, of course, not all horses are created equal, and some may be able to run faster or slower than that. But 30 mph is a pretty good average speed for these magnificent creatures.

Below is an interesting YouTube video that discusses how far and fast horses could travel in Medieval times.


How far can a horse travel in a day?

Some horses can travel up to 100 miles in a day, but they have to be fit and trained for long-distance riding. A good trail horse can travel 50 miles in a day. To get more information about long-distance horseback riding and some amazing achievements, you should read this article: How Far Can a Horse Travel in a Day? Plus Fastest 100 Miles.

How can you tell if your horse is dehydrated?

When horses are dehydrated, they typically become lethargic, have red mucous membranes, lose their appetite, have a high heart rate, and their urine is darker than usual.
To learn more about equine dehydration, check out this article: Is My Horse Dehydrated? 10 Clear Signs of Equine Dehydration.