Horse and math question

Oh, my horsey friends, please double-check my book learning.

I’m figuring that Character A will take about 2 and a half hours to cover four miles on a deer path through a heavily wooded area. She’s got about fifty very short characters with her, so isn’t walking at top speed.

Returning, she’s mounted on a horse. Is it reasonable to think that she could cover the same distance in about forty-five minutes? If she were in a hurry, (and she is) how fast could she safely go? This is a path with which she is familiar, but a new horse.

Many thanks!

And just in case someone else finds them useful, here is a site with Horse Speed in MPH and one with The Average Walking Pace for humans.

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22 Responses

  1. Cat

    Well, it depends. If she’s skilled with a horse and the horse isn’t too difficult to deal with (despite being new to her), she could cover that distance a lot quicker, I think. But, if she isn’t that skilled, she might choose to walk (with a bit of trot) the whole way, which would make the 45 minutes about right. If the horse is difficult, it could take longer…IMO, of course.

    So, it depends…sorry my response isn’t more helpful…

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Let’s say that she’s skilled with the horse. The horse is well-trained, a little high strung, but bred for lords to prance around on and look pretty.

      And this does help.

  2. Cat

    Okay – well, if it was me…I would start the horse off at the walk, feel it out, and if it felt like said beastie was on the same page as me, I’d take it into a trot. If that went well, I might test out a canter. But, at a good trot, she could probably cover that distance in 30 minutes, provided that the trail isn’t too narrow (and the footing good). If the trail’s rocky, back to a walk, unless said steed has good shoes and hard feet (but, walk is safer – might be a good conflict point, the need to go quickly as opposed to the need to be safe, too…) 45 minutes of walk/trot seems reasonable to me, too…

    1. Elizabeth Barrette

      GREAT conflict point: go fast and get there in time IF the horse doesn’t break a leg, because if it does, you’re stuck on foot; or go slow, spare the horse because at least it walks faster than you do, and risk arriving too late.

  3. Yanni Kuznia

    Is it a city horse or a country horse? Seriously. A city horse would have issues with wildlife and branches and unsure footing, regardless of how well-trained it is, which could affect the forward direction of the trip. As long as the horse is fine with the surroundings, or at least rideable in them, doing a walk-trot mix, your 45 minute estimate is just fine.

    Hrm. Keep in mind that deer tracks are rather small so there could be branch-wacking for the significantly-larger horse. Also consider overhead branches that wouldn’t wack a deer in the head, but might get the rider in the face or chest. A horse also will frequently take the path of least resistance which the rider may or may not fit through ontop of said horse. There could be a lot of ducking and searching for areas that accommodate horse and rider.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Hi, Yanni! Good to see you here.

      It’s a horse in Faerie, so well familiar with country landscapes.

      The deer track in question ranges from single file to wide enough for two people to walk abreast. There’s at least one sizable tree fallen across it. I will bear in mind overhead branches. That’s an excellent point.

  4. Michele Lee

    When I worked at the barn we had trail rides 🙂 The one hour ride was really about 50 minutes if there were no complications and about 2 miles in length.

    1. Michele Lee

      Oops, this was all walking. Faster would shorten it up, but people who aren’t at all experienced tend to hit a trot and completely panic because on some horses it is very jostling and makes you feel like you’re being thrown off.

      1. Michele Lee

        Well, here I am again LOL I looked back and saw your bit about safety. First, I’d be willing to bet that particular horse would be quite surefooted because I’d bet its owner is the type to run it a lot, possibly even hunting with hounds. The dangers would be holes and sharp rocks. If she couldn’t see the ground (like if she was in a field with high grass) she’d likely go slower because the horse could step in a hidden hole and stumble, even throwing her and hurting itself. If she could see the ground and it was clear of rocks (many forest trails are usually pretty clear of rocks, naturally, and those that are present are deeply embedded in dirt and tend to be flat or at least not sharp on the top). Creeks and streams tend to have the worst volume and shape of rocks for a horse’s feet. Also, up hill versus down hill, you can run a horse uphill since they are putting umph behind their strides any way. But down hill should be cautious because of the risk of stumbles and falls.

        The biggest annoyances we ever had were, as has been pointed out, branches. Being rather adventurous we sometimes strayed from the established path, well honestly any place that we could. This led to quite a few bruises, scrapes, out right gashes and lots of riding while leaning down, almost on top of the horse’s neck. The horses always came out fine because they judged spaces for themselves, but never included us in their clearance. And I don’t know if this is applicable, but spiderwebs. Every morning we’d dread the first ride of the day because the lead rider would get to run into all the spiderwebs that had been built overnight.

  5. Jeff

    How far do you want to neep this one out? 😉 The horse speed site mentions gaited horses for example but does not compensate for extension in gate or trot. Your answer is probably mostly correct without getting into too much neepage.

    If your pony is built/bred/trained for lords and ladies to dance and prance than it might not have too much experience in wilderness environments. Where say an endurance bred and trained horse or a hunter/jumper (steeplechaser!) certainly would.

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      I don’t need to neep (love that word) it out too far. She’s making an estimate, but I hadn’t originally planned on showing the ride itself. On the other hand, you folks have introduced some fantastic complications that I hadn’t thought about.

      Strike that. I had thought about some possibilities, but much later in the story.

      1. Jeff

        “Through the mist
        Through the woods
        Through the darkness and the shadows
        It’s a nightmare but it’s one exciting ride
        Say a prayer
        Then we’re there
        At the drawbridge of a castle
        And there’s something truly terrible inside”

        I’m all Disney and Beauty and the Beast now…

        1. Mary Robinette Kowal

          I love that song. I started mentally singing along by the time you were in the second line.

          Have you ever heard the demo album for Aladdin? It includes a couple of songs cut from the final, including one called “High Adventure” which has a similar galloping feel.

        2. Jeff

          I haven’t heard of it. That’s certainly why I like that song though: you can stick a 4-beat gallop right alongside it.

  6. John Charny

    I agree with Michele, her experience is similar to mine. Hiking on foot on a trail that I did not know but that was in reasonable shape, I used to easily make better than 4mph when I was almost 50. On a horse you can do much much better. The risk is stumbling as Michele says. Holes, branches that might trip a horse and a sudden steep slope downhill are the dangers. If it is light enough to see well and she knows the trail, she could make it in less than 45min. She and the horse would have time to see them and react. Keep in mind that if there are no artificial lights and your eye’s have acclimated themselves, you can see quite well with a half moon or an hour after sunset in most places. Clouds would change that. If you are in the mountains, it gets darker much sooner. Oh and don’t forget the weather. If it is wet, you need to slow down quite a bit to be safe. If you know the horse well you can go faster but in good weather over good terrain the pace you are looking for would not require a lot of familiarity with the horse.

    Now as for low branches, it depends what you mean by low. As long as they are above the horses head, you just lean over close to the horses neck. One more item to consider. What is the rider wearing. A helmet of any kind makes a big difference when it comes to branches. If you are foolish enough to sit up straight they you get to experience falling off the horse.Also what kind of clothes is the person wearing. If the path is wide it won’t make a difference, but if you are on a narrow path through a forest, you want to be wearing something that will protect you from branches.

    John

    1. Mary Robinette Kowal

      Which reminds me that my character is in a business suit and I’ve said nothing about it…

      This is really great stuff.

      I should explain that she is calculating the time in her head in order to give an estimate to someone else on how long it should take. Once she actually gets on the trail, other chaos occurs which makes all her calculations moot.

  7. fabulousgirl

    If you ever need to know how long it takes to lead eight 14 year old girls, their bedding, food for a six day trip and three canoes over a 1.5 km portage after being up all night with the stomach flu, please make me be the first to know.