True Horsepower

Four Amish Plow Horses in Field

True Horsepower

What is Horsepower? Horse Terms Explained

We hear about horsepower all the time, in cars and lawnmowers and pretty much everything else with an engine. But what exactly IS horsepower?

Hudson and Diesel, two percherons, stand harnessed to a wagon.

The Definition

Horsepower is a unit of power equal to 550 foot-pounds per second (745.7 watts). This number may seem a bit random and, in fact, it IS a bit random. It was created by a guy named James Watts (the same inventor of the watts in light bulbs). He was working with ponies that helped move mining materials and he found that, on average, a mine pony could do 22,000 foot-pounds of work in a minute. Since ponies are just small horses he increased the number 1.5 times to 33,000 foot-pounds of work/minute and decided that this was probably what the average sized horse could be

Regardless of the arbitrariness of how he came about determining these numbers, the numbers themselves are clearly defined and can be measured, so the term “horsepower” stuck around!


Real Examples

Our horses can carry a lot of weight on their backs; 240 pounds is our weight limit, though large draft breeds can indeed carry more. However, when you add on how much their tack (the saddle, pads, bridle, etc) weighs they are easily carrying 280 lbs or more every ride.

The real strength in horses is not how much they can carry but in how much they can pull. The above description should give you an idea…. strap 8 horses together and they can tug 264,000 pounds a minute, that’s 132 TONS!


Quarter Horse vs Belgian Draft

The Right Horse for The Job

Notice the picture with the horses pulling the plow all of the horses look the same as the horse on the right side in the above picture? That’s because the horse breed is the same: they are all Belgian Draft horses. The “Belgian” part is their breed, the “Draft” part is what they were bred for, which is pulling heavy objects.

The other horse in the above photo is a Quarter Horse Hack. “Quarter Horse” is the breed (which is very common) and “Hack” is his job, which is taking people out on trail rides. We own both of these horses at Mountain Creek Riding Stable and we use them for exactly what we just described: Apollo (on the left) takes customers on trial rides and Jr. (on the right) pulls our carriage.


So, the next time you are looking at a vehicle and you notice that it has 120 horsepower, just imagine squeezing 120 of Jr. under the hood.

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