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A well-conditioned horse can run at their top speed for somewhere between 2-3 miles nonstop before becoming completely exhausted.
However, with regular breaks, some endurance horses can run as far as 100 miles in 24 hours.
Why Can Horses Run So Far?
What is it about a horse that keeps them running so easily for such great distances?
The horse is built with a unique physiology that makes them light and fast. They are very efficient. Their legs have no muscles in the bottom half. They are moved by a series of tendons and ligaments and controlled by the larger muscles in the upper leg.
What Determines How Long a Horse Can Run?
There are lots of factors to consider when estimating a horse’s running ability. A horse must be in good physical condition to run great distances. Also, some breeds, such as Arabians, are better adapted to distance running than others.
Speed also plays a role in how far a horse can run. If a horse is loping along at a comfortable gallop, they can run for a longer period of time.
The number and length of walk/trot breaks a horse is given also influences how far a horse can travel at a time. If given frequent breaks, a horse could run up to 15 miles without too much effort.
According to experienced horse riders, a horse could run at a pretty fast pace for 24-72 hours nonstop before becoming completely exhausted and dying.
Which Horse Breeds are Best for Endurance?
Some horse breeds have adapted to be better able to run long distances than others. The reasons vary, but the best endurance horses are well-adjusted to temperature and climate extremes as well as being physically conditioned.
As mention in our fastest horse breeds guide, Arabians are the best-known endurance breed. Originating from the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian horse breed was bred to handle the extreme heat, dropping temperatures and vast distances of the middle east.
The Tevis Cup, a 100 mile 24 hour endurance race in the U.S., is typically won by an Arabian. In fact, the breed has dominated the title for the past 23 years in a row.
This breed has become a hearty horse thanks to natural selection, meaning only the strongest and fittest survive to pass on their genes. This makes Mustangs well adapted to hot, cold, and running from predators for as long as they need to. Through years of breeding naturally, Mustangs have become a great endurance horse.
Mustangs still roam free in the western United States. The Bureau of Land Management takes care of these feral horses and when the population becomes too high, the BLM gathers them up and offers them for adoption, often for as little as $25. You can find out more here: https://www.blm.gov/programs/wild-horse-and-burro/adoption-and-sales/events
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