Tell me about the horse & buggy days.

My 88 year old father is fond of telling me about the buggy rides he used to go on with his grandmother. This would have been in rural Georgia in the early 1930s.

Not knowing much about horses, I’m curious about this mode of travel.

What distance could you travel & still return home in one day?

How far could you travel before having to water & feed the horse?

Hitched to a buggy, did the horse run at a trot? How fast is that?

Feel free to answer these & any questions I didn’t think to ask.

A horse trots about eight miles per hour, most buggy horses are thoroughbred standard bred or a mix of that type with draft especially back when they used their plow horses for work too. The horses were working condition then and also on IMO a better diet as there was no GMO corn oats etc, and the soil had not been raped of nutrients so the pastureland and hay would have had more minerals. Just from my own riding I would say probably about 20- 25 miles one way,needing water after a couple hours. An endurance horse can cover 100 miles a day with a rider on its back.

Assuming a horse pulling a buggy walks around 5 mph, it could cover approx. 40 miles in 8 hours. Repeated stops to feed and water would take about an hour, so 5 mph times 7 hrs = 35 miles. Uphills would reduce speed and distance. Horses can trot 2 to 3 times faster but it would take an exceptional horse to trot for 7 or 8 hours pulling a buggy.

There are so many things wrong with this statement that I don’t even know where to start.

This is not a very good answer for GQ, but I’ll share what I know from a composite of stories I heard from old-timers while I was a wee lad.

First, imagine that horses were as diverse as cars are today. You had your plow horses, your speedy travelling horses, your cow-working horses, your showy, ride-to-town-on-Saturday-to-impress-the-single-girl horses, your wagon-pulling horses, your light-buggy-pulling horses, your old-beater-because-that’s-all-you-can-afford horses.

You can imagine that horses were relatively the same magnitude of financial burden that cars are today. I’ve never though about it before, but I wonder how they compare in time. Cars are probably a huge advantage in that department.

I once asked an old-timer why all of the towns, communities, and ghost towns were about 10 miles apart in East Texas. He said, “That’s about as far as you wanted to ride to town and back in a wagon on Saturday.” He said it was an all-day thing.

I may think of more later.

Modern buggy-driver’s manual for Amish communities from Pennsylvania DOT

It’s mostly about the rules of the road in heavily automobile-dominated traffic, but there’s a bit on harnessing and hitching that will give you a flavor of the days when buggies were more common. (I also like the quotation of the proverbial description of the horse as “a large mass of nerve endings connected to a small brain”.)

Since I live in an area where there are a fair number of Old Order Amish I am familiar with if not conversant with the use of horse and buggy for routine transportation. Almost all of the buggy horses we see around here are smallish dark bay colored Standard Breds or part blooded Standard Bred. Think of trotting racers and reduce their size by 10% or so. On the road, really on the road shoulder, the animals move at a pretty brisk trot. I would figure something in the neighborhood of 10 mph. You can see a fair number of horses and buggies tied in Oelwein, Iowa, any time of the year, even now when it is well below zero. In bitter weather the tied horses are blanketed.

The distance between towns across the Midwest gives some indication of just how far you can travel by buggy, do your business in town and then get home in time to do evening chores. My guess would be a round trip of not more than 20 miles.

I’m not sure that horse feed is any less nutritious now than it was before motorized equipment took over. A working horse is typically fed twice a day, 20 or so pounds of hay in the morning , and again in the evening and a couple pounds of oats or shelled corn in the evening. Typically a working horse is watered morning, noon and evening except in extremely hot weather or when the horse is doing heavy work. Then the waterings are more frequent. Any one who is familiar with horses knows how to check for dehydration by pinching the neck skin and noting how long it takes the pucker to level out.

Because the roads sucked. 10 miles in a wagon on unpaved trails/roads would have been a PITA.

Not horse related but -

*The 1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy was a long distance convoy (described as a Motor Truck Trip with a “Truck Train”[1]) carried out by the US Army Motor Transport Corps that drove over 3,000 mi (4,800 km) from Washington, D.C., to Oakland, California and then by ferry over to end in San Francisco.

…In the course of its journey, the convoy broke and repaired[21] wooden bridges[2]:10 (14 in Wyoming),[22] and “practically” all roadways were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada.[1]:4 The convoy travelled up to 32 mph (51 km/h),[10] and the schedule was for 18 mph (29 km/h)[23]:111 to average 15 mph (24 km/h).[24] The actual average for the 3,250 mi (5,230 km) covered in 573.5 hours[25] was 5.65 mph (9.09 km/h) over the 56 travel days for an average of 10.24 hours per travel day*.

Indiana history says the 92 counties were laid out in 1823 with the idea that a horse could get to the county seat and back in a day. There are necessarily some exceptions, due to the bridges over rivers at the time, and the hilly areas in the southern part of the state.

Hamlets that now are too small to have a gas station had hotels in the early part of the 20th cent.For
traveling salesmen, people traveling to the homestead to visit Grandma, or going to town and spending the night before going home. Schools on the plains were no more than 5 or 6 miles apart; pupils rode horses or walked. After any sizeable trip at all the horse(s) had to have saddle/harness removed, fed and watered and brushed down and stabled before the person ate - unless you were rich enough to have someone else do it. Same at the end of a work day.

It really depends on the terrain and quality of the roads. My mother’s family is from rural West Virginia where both terrain and roads posed serious issues.

My mother (now 86) talks of how she was told how her grandmother had the fortitude to gather up the little ones and ride the carriage an hour each way for family visits of some sort. She (my mother) thinks that this was remarkable only in how little was expected of fortitude from women in those days, comparing it to her driving 10 hours to visit WVa from Michigan.

I hold my tongue, but I do wonder whether that 1 hr wagon ride (including hitching the horses and all else that implies) requires less fortitude than a 10-hr road trip in the 60’s, before Interstates (for that route). It’s a 7-hr drive now, either by turnpike or taking the cross-country hypotenuse.

My guess is that the modern trip (even in the 60’s) is less risky, with far more options if anything goes wrong on the way.

I remember asking her father (who grew up in a town about the size of Hootersville) about the first time he saw a car. He was 10 (making it 1908) and it was quite an event, in Reedy, WVa.

Go for it :), I have thick skin and have owned horses (five of mine are over twenty years old) approx thirty years. Plus have asked many questions about how they fed horses back then. My questions started because the horses and mules in my family pictures looked healthy and and in great condition. This was surprising to me because of lack of broad spectrum wormers , allegedly really good feeds, and so many horses that are now insulin resistant or will become that way in later life. The info given about the Amish people is really good as that is about as close as you will get to life back then. The GMO thing is my opinion, the mineral depletion of soils is proven fact. I
If you have an opinion you should share with the “ignorant masses” so we can all become enlightened. I am not close minded nor do I have a problem reviewing what someone else believes and why, and sometimes changing my mind. I became a guest on this forum so I can get different views and learn about topics I have never thought about.

My dad has mentioned more than once that when his grandfather would take the horse and wagon into town to get supplies (this was rural Manassas, VA during the depression) he would often get blackout drunk, stagger into the wagon and pass out and the horse would walk itself back to the farm with the wagon in tow. I imagine it was a pretty slow pace.

You’re new, so maybe you’re not aware that this forum is for factual answers to questions. If you’re the first person to respond to a thread in this forum, and you have to qualify your response with “IMO”, then you should just stop and wait for a few people to post factual answers.

Actually they were probably only about a mile or so apart as each township (one square mile) was divided into 36 sections with one being designated as the school section or school land.

an experience that stuck with Ike.

Actually a township is 36 square miles and a section is one square mile. This gives an average of 6 miles between school sections.

OK, for starters, to go back to a time before genetically modified grain, you’d need to go back thousands of years, and a time before soil depletion would be further back even than that. Not that it would have mattered, since that’s also a time before genetically modified horses, which means that they wouldn’t have been nearly strong enough to perform most of the tasks people have historically used horses for. We’ve been genetically modifying crops for all of history, with the purpose of making them better for what we use them for. In recent years, we’ve come up with ways to make the modifications more quickly, but the purpose is the same: If the new crops weren’t as good at feeding horses, we’d still be using the old ones. And while soil depletion still occurs, now that we know about it and understand it, we’re able to manage it a lot more effectively than we used to be able to.

Dammit!! I even looked it up, but I just looked up school section/land and just went by the map they showed not realizing they were just showing a section.

Way back in the mists of ancient time, like the late 60s, over half the pupils of rural primary school I was attending got there by horse, either ridding or in a sulky. Admittedly the school only had around 30 students. All of us would have travelled about 5 miles.

Actually the P&C used to drag the school, which was built on two large red gum logs, with a team of horses to the geo-centre of the school’s population every few years. This stopped when the task was done by two tractors and the greater speed caused the bearers to catch fire.

That’s because nobody took photos of the broken down and wasting animals back in the stable. And when they got sick they were treated with the best available treatments, typically a cocktail of neo-witchcraft remedies like poultices and purges, quack medicines based on alcohol, heavy metals or opiates and not to forget the fleams and bloodsticks. And they died from now easily curable conditions just like the people did.