Author, A Writer’s Guide to Horses
Because they constantly receive all manner of questions from writers about how to depict horses in their works, the Guild asked me to collaborate with them to compile A Writer’s Guide to Horses.
One question that authors ask quite a lot is, “How far can a horse travel in a day?”
Here’s an excerpt from the Guide that addresses that question.
Endurance of Horses
Endurance depends on a wide variety of issues – condition of the animals prior to their departure; the season; that day’s weather; geographic challenges they face that day; proper fit of the riding and pack saddles; how often and accurately the animals are fed, and how talented the riders are.
Based on a loose “ideal” situation, a Long Rider can hope to average between 15 and 25 miles a day.
You don’t ride a horse cross country like you drive a car. That means the Long Rider usually rides for five days and then takes two days off to rest himself and his horses.
Scottish Long Rider, Catherine de Bourboulon,
Walk – 3 to 5 mph (four beat movement or gait)
Trot – 8 to 10 mph (two beat movement)
Canter – 15 mph (three beat movement)
Gallop – 25 to 30 mph (A two-beat stride during which all four legs are off the ground simultaneously. This is a four-beat movement)
A team of six horses pulling a light carriage will go faster and farther than a single horse pulling a very heavy wagon.
• size of the horse
• age of the horse
• how much the rider weighs
• how talented the rider is
• how much gear, including saddle, bridle, saddle bags, etc., is the riding horse carrying in addition to the rider
• weather and what time of year the trip is being taken • geographic conditions – flat roads winding across pastures in Maryland; snake infested switchback trails in the Rocky Mountains; swamps, canebrakes, sand hills of South Carolina, the Steppes of Central Asia, the Himalayas, the marshes of France’s Camargue
• Writers should be aware of how the weather affects equestrian travel. Horses (like people!) find it very hard and tiring to struggle through mud or deep snow, which sometimes pull their shoes off. If there is a very sharp, cold wind, all horses will try to turn their backs to it, which can be maddening for the rider if they are trying to travel into the wind! • time period/era – i.e. late 19th century with accommodations for horse and rider found along all major roads in the eastern part of America; or early 21st century when you can’t find a horse shoer or a barn if your life depends on it; mid-1700s in back country US with little chance of equestrian services being offered at outposts or settlements.
Swiss Long Rider, Otto Schwarz, rode
48,000 kilometres on five continents in
the late twentieth century.
Quote from a 1917 British cavalry manual regarding the average pace for travelers: “Distances covered in one hour, walk 4 miles, trot 8 miles, canter 9 miles, slow gallop 12, gallop 15 miles. The rate of marching should average about five miles an hour, including short halts. The rate of march will vary according to the nature of the country, the gradient of the roads and the climate.”
These excerpts from the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation’s A Writer’s Guide to Horses regarding the sex, age, physical attributes, behavior, and feeding of horses. It is copyrighted material that is provided here with the permission and courtesy of the Long Riders’ Guild. Visit the website at www.lrgaf.org for more information about horses.