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For thousands of years, horses have been used for transportation. Horse-drawn carriages have allowed for travel that otherwise would have been very difficult or even impossible for people.
Though cars have taken over as the main source of transportation, horse-drawn wagons are still used in some parts of the world for transportation and work. In addition, horse-drawn carriages are popular today for leisure and competition.
How Fast Does a Horse-Drawn Carriage Go?
At a trot, a horse-drawn carriage will go around 8-10 MPH. At a walk, a horse-drawn carriage will go about 2-4 MPH. The speed of a carriage depends on the weather, terrain, horse, and other tractors.
Generally, horses do not canter or gallop with a carriage. Though in movies you will often see horses galloping with wagons, it is not common in real life. Cantering or galloping with a carriage or wagon can be dangerous and it is also a lot more work for a horse.
In some cases, however, rodeos will host chuckwagon races. In chuckwagon races, a hitch of two to four horses race on a track, normally for half a mile. However, the sport has faced controversy as it is dangerous and has led to the death of several horses over the years.
When at the canter, a horse-drawn carriage goes approximately 10-15 MPH. At the gallop, the speed will be around 18-25 MPH.
How Far Can a Horse-Drawn Wagon Travel in a Day?
On average, a horse-drawn carriage can travel between 10-30 miles a day. The distance will depend on factors such as terrain, weather, horse, and weight of the carriage.
In hot weather, a horse’s workload should be reduced in order to prevent overheating. When the humidity and temperature add up to 150-160, a horse should only do light work. This means they should generally only travel ten miles or less in a day. When the humidity and temperature add up to 160 or over, a horse should not work.
If a horse is traveling across hilly, uneven terrain, it will be more challenging for them to pull a wagon. Though on flat terrain they will be able to up to 30 miles or even more, they won’t be able to travel that far in a day over rough terrain.
Weight is another aspect that will affect how far a horse can travel in a day. Though horses are capable of pulling thousands of pounds over short distances, they won’t be able to pull that much weight across several miles. Horses will have no problem pulling a few hundred pounds to even a couple of thousand pounds, depending on their size. However, any more than that will be difficult over longer distances.
How Much Weight Can a Horse Pull?
A horse on average can pull 1.5 times its body weight over a long distance with a carriage. When traveling a shorter distance, they are capable of pulling three times their body weight.
On average, a 1,000-pound horse can pull 1,500 pounds across long distances. Across shorter distances, a 1,000-pound horse has the ability to pull up to 3,000 pounds.
Horses are also able to pull more together than they can apart. Two horses are capable of pulling up to three times the amount of weight they could by themselves. So, a draft horse that could pull 6,000 pounds by itself would be able to pull up 18,000 pounds with another horse across a short distance.
In pulling competitions, draft horses have been known to pull 10 to 15 times their body weight. Though they wouldn’t be able to keep this up over long distances, it is still very impressive.
In 1924, a pair of Shire horses set a world record by pulling a whopping 100,000 pounds. That same year, a single Shire defied the odds and pulled 58,000. Talk about some truly astounding horsepower!
More recently in 2012, a team of Belgian draft horses broke the record at the world-famous Calgary Stampede’s Heavy Horse Pull by pulling a deadweight of 13,400 pounds. Then, in 2014, another pair of Belgians at the National Western Stock Show wowed the audience by pulling a staggering 17,000 pounds.
What Breeds of Horses are Used for Carriage Driving?
Draft horses are popular choices for carriage driving. Their sturdy builds allow them to pull heavy loads. In addition, their calm dispositions make them reliable horses. Draft breeds such as Belgians, Percherons, Clydesdales and Shires are all great breeds for driving.
In addition, there are many other horse and pony breeds that excel at driving. These breeds include the Friesian, Morgan, Hackney, Dutch Harness Horse, Gypsy Vanner, Welsh, Haflinger, Cleveland Bay and Saddlebred. However, with the right training, just about any breed can excel in driving.
Types of Carriages, Wagons and Carts
There are many types of horse-drawn carriages, wagons and carts that can have two or four wheels. The most common ones are Barouche, Hackney Coach, Stagecoach, Meadowbrook, Pleasure Cart, Fine Harness Buggy, Landau, and Prairie Schooner.
A Barouche is a four-wheeled open carriage that is often pulled by one or two horses. It has a heavy, luxurious build that holds at least four people and often features a collapsible half-hood. The style is common among carriage ride companies today.
Hackney coaches are one of the first types of horse-drawn carriages that traditionally people would keep for hire. They are an enclosed four-wheeled carriage that includes seating for four to six people with a simple design. They often have a hitch of two or four horses.
Stagecoaches are most recognizable from old western movies and TV shows. Originally for public transportation, these large, heavy carriages have four wheels. They often consist of a two, four or six-horse hitch.
A Meadowbrook cart is a two-wheeled open carriage, that features large wheels. They include two seats, where one seat folds for rear entry and is pulled by one horse. Today, they are commonly used for carriage driving competitions and pleasure driving.
Pleasure carts are two-wheeled vehicles that are pulled by a single horse. They have a simple design and can seat two people. They are a popular choice for horse shows.
Fine Harness Buggy
A fine harness buggy is a four-wheeled vehicle that sits one person. They have a simple yet elegant design. They are used especially for horse shows.
A Landau is a four-wheeled carriage that has a collapsible, full-coverage roof. They are often luxurious in style and have long been a popular choice among royalty. They generally have seating for four to six people and have a two or four-horse hitch.
Prairie Schooners, also known simply as covered wagons, were pioneers’ main form of transportation while traveling across the American West. They have four wheels and a cotton canvas cover. Covered wagons are spacious, with room to hold several people and large amounts of supplies.
Kathleen Ann Wilson
Saturday 8th of January 2022
I'm a volunteer at the Heritage Station Museum in Pendleton, Oregon. The museum just acquired a horse-drawn carriage, and we have it in one of our exhibit galleries, and I came across your Horsey Hooves article. Title: How Fast & Far Can a Hose-Drawn Carriage Trave? by: Anna Stanek. I would like permission to use this article to add interest in my display with the Carriage, donated to the museum. I of course would give credit due to the author, and your online platform. Thank you for your attention to my request. Kathy Wilson e-mail [email protected]