How fast do racehorses run?

Anyone who has owned or even merely observed a horse in competition will know just how majestic they are. But have you ever wondered how quickly horses can run – especially racehorses?

For those who plan to buy a horse but not ride them competitively, the speed of the given horse won’t be much of a concern. However, when the aim is to enter a horse into competitions, their speed will suddenly become a major factor, albeit not the only one – after all, such things as the horse’s pedigree, strength and stamina will also be important.

Putting all that aside, though, just how much speed can be expected from a racehorse?

A horse’s speed is relative

As is the case with humans, not all horses can run at the same speed. Furthermore, there will always be some horses that are more effective over long distances than short.

Given such great variations in speed among horses, those who wish to race them will need to take particular care to ensure they purchase the right racehorse for their needs, as well as that they take the right steps in training their horse.  

The varying ways in which horses move – and the implications for their speed

There are four ways that horses move, and each one is accompanied by a different step and speed.

  1. Walk: the horse will pick up one foot at a time in a four-beat rhythm. This is how horses will move most of the time, and you can expect most horses to average 4.3 mph or 6.9 km/h.
  2. Trot: in a trot, the horse’s gait changes to a jog with a two-beat rhythm. You can equate this to a human jog. The average speed will be about 8 mph or 12.9 km/h.
  3. Canter: equivalent to a human steady run, the canter uses a three-beat rhythm. You can expect the average horse to manage 10 to 17 mph or 16 to 27 km/h.
  4. Gallop: this is the fastest speed for a horse, and is equivalent to a sprint for a human. The gallop follows a four-beat pattern and speeds can vary from 25 to 30 mph or 42 to 48 km/h.

So, exactly how much speed can you expect from a racehorse?

Although the above stated speeds are average speeds, there are horses that can reach higher speeds. However, this is usually only over short distances.

Racehorses are generally trained to reach speeds of up to 40 to 44 mph or 64 to 70 km/h. Most of them can only maintain this speed for around 20 seconds. There are also breeds that are faster than others because of breeding and genetics.

Modern-day racehorses are usually made up of Thoroughbreds and can trace their lineage back to three famous horses: the Byerley Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Arabian.

Guinness World Records has officially recognised Winning Brew as the fastest horse in the world. This horse was recorded with a top speed of 43.97 mph, although some horses of other breeds have been faster over a shorter distance.

All in all – horses, just like humans, vary greatly in the speed that they can deliver in movement. But whatever speed a given racehorse reaches, one cannot doubt their grace and elegance.

Don’t forget that if you would like to appreciate these remarkable animals at closer quarters than you can from your phone or laptop screen, it’s easy to book tickets online for UK horse racing fixtures at Newbury in 2022.