how fast can a horse run

How Fast Can a Horse Run in a Horse Racing Event?

For years, humans actively used horses’ fast pace for various purposes including transportation, racing, and other equestrian sports. These amazing animals are so powerful that the unit of measurement for the power of a car’s engine is named after it.

If you have seen a horse race, the thrill of watching their hooves kick and sand flying will make you wonder how much power is behind each stride.

The average speed of a horse depends on the breed of horse. In this article, we will break this down and answer other questions you may have about the pace of a horse.

Factors That Influence the Speed and Distance When a Horse Runs

Several factors can influence the speed at which a horse runs – even horses of the same breed. Some may be faster, and some may have a slower pace depending on how favorable the following factors are to them.

  1. Terrain
  2. Fitness and nutrition
  3. Tack
  4. Frame or conformation
  5. Natural gait


The type of terrain the trail has is critical in determining the distance and speed an average horse can run. A level terrain of 20 to 30 miles with clear paths can be easily managed by a horse and completed in a shorter time than 20 to 30 miles of rough, mountainous terrain.

Fitness and nutrition

As with human runners, the fitness level of a horse will determine how well it will perform athletically. If your horses are sprinting shorter distances, they must be conditioned for speed.

In comparison, horses that travel longer distances and run for longer periods of time would be conditioned for strength or endurance to reduce the chances of irreparable injuries.

A racehorse should always have proper food and access to a water source, so they remain refreshed and well-nourished to run.


An ill-fitting tack will not only make your horse uncomfortable but may also cause damages to their muscles, nerves, and tissues. An uncomfortable horse cannot run at a fast pace or long distance. It’s best to use equipment that has been broken in for long trail rides.

Frame or conformation

Most people will make the mistake of assuming that legginess is why most horses are fast because Thoroughbred racehorses (the fastest type of horse) are leggy.

They couldn’t be more wrong as the stride angle and the kind of muscle fibers that make up a horse plays a more significant role in speed than the length of the legs. This is because a horse needs to be able to stretch out and recoil its frame for astounding speeds quickly.

The longer the horse can stretch and the faster the recoil time, the faster the horse is. The average stride of a racehorse is about 20 feet. The stride rate is equally important to how fast a horse can run.

One of the horses with the fastest pace ever, Secretariat, had a stride angle of 110°, and the average stride rate is between 130 to 140 strides per minute.

Natural Gait

An efficient gait will make a horse burn less energy and run faster than horses with less efficient patterns. A smooth gait and efficient movement are also easier on the riders, especially long-distance riders.

Horses typically have four basic gaits. From the fastest gait to the slowest, they are the four-beat gait (gallop), three-beat gait (canter), two-beat gait (jog/slow trot), and the four-beat walk. The average speed of each gait is:

  • Walk – 4.3 miles per hour
  • Trot – 8.1 miles per hour
  • Canter – 10 to 17 miles per hour
  • Gallop – 25 to 30 miles per hour

Other factors that influence the normal speed of a horse include age, endurance, strength, agility, and horse breed.

How Fast Can a Horse Run?

Certain horse breeds like the Thoroughbred and American Quarter Horse breed are primarily bred for racing and have the fastest galloping speed on the racetrack. A Thoroughbred holds the horse racing record for the fastest speed, and the American Quarter Horse can hold its own in a quarter-mile distance race.

The Standardbred and other harness racing horses run with a 2-beat gait, while others like the Icelandic Horse and American Saddlebred have a four-beat lateral gait. The average speed of the fastest horses depends on their breed, here are average speeds by horse breed:

  • Standardbred – 30 to 35mph
  • Akhal-Teke – 30 to 35mph
  • Appaloosa – 30 to 41mph
  • Arabian – 34 to 40mph
  • Mustang – 35 to 40mph
  • Thoroughbred horses – 35 to 40mph
  • American Quarter Breed – 45 to 55mph

Last Words

The average peak speed of a horse depends on so many factors. If you are interested in breeding a racehorse, you should take all of the above-mentioned factors into consideration to ensure you are maximizing the capacity for speed in your horses.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.