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"a day's ride" in western movies

7 replies

CanadianJohn · 02/10/2022 14:45

Quite often, in western movies, a journey will be described as "three days' ride" or "ten days' ride".

Assuming it's not an emergency, and you want the horse fit for the next day, what distance in miles would "a day's ride" be. Yeah, I know, it depends on terrain, weather, etc.

I'm not a horse person, in case it isn't obvious.

OP posts:
MarmiteCoriander · 02/10/2022 14:47

I have no clue, but would like to know also 🤔

Surtsey · 02/10/2022 14:54

Walk = 4mph
Trot = 8mph
Canter = 15mph
Flat out gallop = 30 mph plus

But you can't expect a horse to do that. Probably 30-40 miles would be pushing it a bit, especially over difficult or mountainous terrain with no tracks.

(disclaimer - I used to watch a lot of Alias Smith and Jones!)

Surtsey · 02/10/2022 15:20

Speed would also depend on whether they were driving wagons or herding cattle.

Snowberry3 · 02/10/2022 15:29

Similarly - I visited a very small town in Wyoming called Ten Sleeps.
'north-central Wyoming’s Ten Sleep, “a little western town with a big western heart.” Rich in history, this ranching town was the halfway point—or ten “sleeps”—between two major Sioux Indian camps.'
Another way of measuring distance i would guess this was by foot.

CanadianJohn · 02/10/2022 22:10

Thanks for your replies. I was watching an old Clint Eastwood movie, and his destination was described as "three days' ride". Just Clint, travelling light of course, no cattle or wagons. So if the horse could trot at 8 mph ... well, for how long, bearing in mind that the horse has to do again the next day. Maybe 6 or 7 hours in the saddle, at 8 mph, so 50 miles a day?

(I noticed that Clint never seems to carry fodder, so I guess the grazing must be pretty good on the dry and dusty prairies.)

OP posts:
TrainspottingWelsh · 02/10/2022 22:24

In a western film, probably about 300 miles as they all appear to ride solely at canter and gallop for full days.
In reality probably anything between 20 and 40 depending on the terrain because it would mainly be done at a walk, and the odd bit of trot or canter would only be making up time lost when picking slowly through very rough terrain.

maxelly · 03/10/2022 12:32

I think the best modern comparison is competitive endurance riding which is basically marathon running for horses - so people competing in this kind of event will have themselves and their horses fit and conditioned for stamina over long distances over different terrains, and understand pacing etc (part of competitive endurance is managing your horse's heart rate and breathing etc as there are compulsory check points and you are penalised, held back or even disqualified if your horse is too fatigued). I would have thought 'cowboys' or just ordinary people living in the west and needing to travel would be effectively the same, if they regularly rode long distances naturally they would be fit and it would be incredibly important to keep your horse healthy too as if s/he went lame or had a heart attack your life could literally be in danger (even today in the third world the death of a donkey or mule or ox vital to subsistence farmer's existence can threaten a whole family), so they would know how to condition and look after their horse and be alert to signs of fatigue and distress.

Normal 'grass-roots' endurance competitions start with races over about 10 -15 miles in a day, and national level competitions go up to 50 or 60 miles (c.100km) - my horse and I are only averagely fit and we can easily manage a 2 hour ride in mostly walk and trot with bursts of canter and gallop, so we cover about 10-12 miles in that time without rushing or being particularly tired at the end. I reckon we could manage a 30 mile round trip (15 miles there and 15 miles back) to the next township or whatever over 2 days with stops to eat and rest etc without too much difficulty - I could walk 15 miles in a day so I could def do it on a horse). And if it was a purpose bred, fit horse with a good rider over easy-ish terrain, 30 miles a day sounds feasible to me, although bear in mind what weight the horse would have to carry - my boy is a large pony/small horse and I'm a small-ish woman, although he could theoretically cope with an average man's weight it would slow him down/tire him some, if you add to that a heavy saddle plus the weight of whatever other kit, luggage, guns, goods gold the cowboy is carrying it does add up.

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