7 Year Tea Party Winners: Susan Craft's winner of her trilogy novels - The Chamomile, Laurel, and Cassia is: Lucy Reynolds, The winner of a copy of The Backcountry Brides is: Tammy Cordery, the winner of a silver quill charm is: Kathy Maher, Choice of one of three books by Carrie Fancett Pagels in paperback: Joy Ellis, A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas winner is: Becky Smith, Janet Grunst's Selah-Award winning novel, A Heart Set Free, is: Sherry Moe.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Horses, Endurance and Distance

By Susan F. Craft
Author, A Writer’s Guide to Horses
        The Long Riders' Guild is the world's first international association of equestrian explorers, and is an invitation-only organization. It was formed in 1994 to represent men and women of all nations who have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. Members currently reside in 45 countries.
        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,
rode from Shanghai to Moscow in the
mid-nineteenth century.
Gait or Pace
        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.

    “Every mile traveled is a mile survived. Distance is measured in time, not miles.”        
 How far a horse can travel in a day depends on –
• 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.
• if there is a pack horse in the equation; how much the pack saddle weighs; if the riding and pack mule get along
        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.


  1. excellent resource! Will bookmark. I was a teen obsessed with horses, and I recall reading that a good thoroughbred can reach 40 MPH for short distances of about a mile, and quarter horses even faster for a quarter of a mile. Amazing animals.

    1. Thanks, Kathleen. I was around horses as a young person, was away from the until my children were pre-teens and we took riding lessons together. I've always loved them, though. The Longriders are a fascinating group of people. Doug Preston, a NY Times best selling author, was one of the people who worked with me on this project. He's a longrider and was very helpful. Between us and Jeremy James and CuChullaine O'Reilly, we came up with a vocabulary of horse terms, one for American West and one for British.

  2. I love them too. Not obsessed but Aunts had horses, one had horse shows.
    Linda Finn

    1. Hi, Linda. Horses are wonderful animals, aren't they? I like to ride them, but was terrified when it came to jumping. Just couldn't do it.

  3. Susan! I loved this! Fun post, very interesting too. I loved at the end where it said how far a horse could go depending on their speed. Wow. I'm gonna use that information for sure!

    1. Hi, Amber. The Longriders' Guild is a fantastic resource for writers. They care so much for horses and want to see them treated correctly in fiction. They're always open to questions. Very gracious people.

  4. This great reference material, thanks Susan. I recently read a book that lost me for a few pages because they had two riders make what was usually a four day journey by coach in about 24 hours, galloping hard straight through. Those poor horses must have dropped dead upon arrival.

  5. Lori, I notice things like that in novels all the time now that the Longriders have brought my attention to it.

  6. Super resource! Thanks for sharing. I'd love to get this book because the other option is 'the web' and it's hard to know what to trust.

    1. Debra, the Writer's Guide to Horses is availabe only on the Long Riders' Guild academic foundation at www.lrgaf.org. You can use the information in your work, but they do ask that you acknowledge them.

  7. I think Black Beauty affected my psyche too sharply because I feel sorry for hard-working horses or any beast of burden. Still, I know that working horses are bred for that reason. I guess if I ran the world, all animals would run free and play. But someday, hopefully, all animals will! Thanks for sharing. I now know where to go for reliable info!

    1. You need to check out the website of the Long Riders' Guild. Those people LOVE horses and have dedicated their lives to making sure horses are treated well.

  8. Enjoyed the post, Susan, & learning about the different gaits, & endurance levels of the horse. Thanks!


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