Throughout my time playing, something seemed rather odd to me: despite upgrading my stirrups, gaining an additional speed bump from races, and owning horses with a radical range of speed and acceleration stats, I never noticed any measurable difference in the time it was taking to travel from one point to another. Contrasting this with RDR1, where the speed difference between the 2 fastest alone was a noticable one, I decided to do some quick testing.
Using a pre-determined route, and 4 vastly differing levels of speed and acceleration among varrying horses, my results were rather shocking. Each and every horse's time fell within merely two seconds of 2:45 for the route, which can easily be attributed to minor human inconsistency.
Some will defend the game, arguing that additional speed isn't truly necessary for completion. Some will say that it encourages the use of a variety of horses without incurring a "penalty" or rendering your favorites obsolete. While those are valid points, I would argue that it further diminishes any sense of progression, which is already severely lacking in Red Dead, and undermines the RPG vibe that R* was clearly going for. I really just don't understand the purpose of incorporating a completely illusory system, other than to mask laziness on their part.
If you aren't convinced, feel free to test this yourself. Maybe my game is broken? To some extent, I would hope this is the case.
Some will defend the game, arguing that additional speed isn't truly necessary for completion.
I'll defend the game, but not in that way. I have most definitely noticed differences in speed. I tried to do one of the runs, I think Strawberry to St Denis on my original horse, and absolutely was not making it. I upgraded to an Arabian, bonded with it, completed the run on the first try with quite some time to spare.
Epilogue spoilers: same thing with John's starter horse. Used it for a while but immediately noticed the slower speed on cross country treks, tried to do the run from... Van Horn (or Annesburg?) to Black Water, had a far easier time when I upgraded to an Arabian.
Why not record the same 4 runs you did and upload them somewhere?
Sucking at something is the first step to becoming sort of good at something.
I have a number of legitimate excuses, from hardware limitations to lousy internet speeds, but frankly, it comes down to laziness in the end. I have no hidden agenda against the game, therefore no reason to lie.
As for your situation, I can't speak to the potential variables you may or may not have encountered in each attempt at those runs. I can only speak to my "data." Timing a 9 speed saddled Arabian at full gallop against a 4 speed, saddleless Mustang, my results were, for all intents and purposes, identical.
If your game is broken, so is mine. The differences are indeed frustratingly small. I always kinda thought that might be the case, but hadn't tested until today. I used a Morgan with 4 speed and 2 acceleration versus a Rose Grey Bay Arabian with 9 speed and 8 acceleration on a relatively short stretch of road near Caliga Hall. Ran from one intersection to another and timed it with a stopwatch. Ran the route both ways with each horse three times to help identify any human variables. The Arabian consistently took a hair over 39 seconds. The Morgan consistently took a hair over 40 seconds.
Even the stamina stat doesn't really matter, because if you are on version 1.05 and have one of the nice saddles from the trapper, you can keep your horse at full stamina just by pressing L3 every 15 seconds or so.
Edit - on the plus side, I guess this gives us the freedom to value the horse's appearance above all other factors. Might be time for Arthur to bond with a giant war horse for awhile.
The one thing I will say, is the Arabian definitely FEELS like it goes faster than many other breeds, but this is solely due to its size affecting its gait. The Arabian is smaller than most (if not all) other breeds, so assuming you were using a larger horse prior to obtaining the Arabian, the increased output of individual gallops, and the camera motions associated, would lead your mind to believe you were moving faster. I would attribute your success post-Arabian more to your greater experience with the route itself.
To a certain degree, I agree with that stance. 2 of my favorite horses, the Grullo Dun Mustang and the Leopard Blanket Appaloosa, have pretty awful stats, going by the in-game info. Knowing that the Fox Trotter and Arabian offer an insignificant (if any at all) advantage over them, I'm far more comfortable with sending Ol' Snowflake to the glue factory.
What's more baffling to me is the implementation of the system itself. From what I can tell either a. the system is simply broken, yet hasn't received enough attention for R* to patch it, or b. they intentionally provided false/misleading information to the player in order to maintain some sort of game "balance" in regards to speed. Theory b seems ridiculous until you take a step back and reflect upon their incredibly strict design philosophy throughout the Story.
Make sure that your horse is not underfed. That effects horse speed negatively.
All 4 of the horses I used are "fit". I didn't feed them RIGHT before timing, but I have a feeling that if physique does effect speed, (I don't know for sure that it effects anything other than core drain) that wouldn't matter, so long as they weren't underweight or malnurished. Even so, let's say hypothetically each one's physique differed, and as such, their speed was effected. I doubt I would achieve such consistent results with that variable accounted for.