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  1. #1
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    Jul. 10, 2008
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    Default Things I've Learned About My Horse By Becoming A Runner

    About 2 years or so ago, I started casually running a few miles at a time a few days a week to help improve fitness, and as a fun, relaxing thing to do that got me outside and in the fresh air after being in the office all day. In that time, running has taught me a LOT about horses and riding!

    -Footing matters. Before I became a runner, I didn't really think much about footing unless it was really horrible at either extreme. But the effects of different footing on my own body are hugely evident! I can't run for anything on gravel, asphalt is a good surface for me but sometimes my knees get sore, running on wet sand - WOW - so difficult! I pay more attention now to the footing and how it makes my horse move.

    -Fitness is a process. I started out barely being able to run a mile, and I can now run four on a good day. But it was a process to build up my body to be able to sustain that. It's made me much more aware of the process of conditioning my horse, and the gradual changes his body has to go through to become fit.

    -Temperature matters. I perform differently depending on how hot, cold, or humid it is. This awareness helps me tailor my horse's workouts to his body's response to the weather. I know I feel TIGHT starting out on a cold winter run... a long slow warm-up helps me out, and my horse appreciates one too.

    -Correct movement matters. The way I run, taking long or short strides, adjusting how my feet hit the ground, etc. makes a difference in the muscle groups that I use. It's easy to feel which running 'styles' are harder for me! I have a newfound appreciation for the reason why it is more physically strenuous for a horse to move 'correctly' on the bit than to just toodle around on the forehand.

    Have any other runners gained some newfound insights about riding? I just thought it was so neat to be able to draw those parallels!
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun. 20, 2009
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    Northeast Ohio, where mud rules your world...
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    Default

    isn't it amazing what we can learn when we become part of the process our horses are going through? I too have recently started a fitness regimen. I've decided this year was the year to either get working to get in shape or getting working on becoming as fat as I possibly can. My hubby voted for fit, the party killer.

    Anyway, I have a question for you? When in the world do you fit in your runs? And where do you live? I live in Northern Ohio where winter running is very mentally taxing. I'm having a hard time staying motivated to do my runs.
    ...don't sh** where you eat...



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct. 18, 2000
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    22,485

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by caradino View Post
    Have any other runners gained some newfound insights about riding? I just thought it was so neat to be able to draw those parallels!
    I ran for years.

    Now my knees and back are shot.

    I guess my "profound" insight is that we, and our horses, only have so many miles in us.

    Use them wisely.
    Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
    Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
    -Rudyard Kipling



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct. 23, 2004
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    Southeast
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    Default

    I do interval training, love it, and agree with everything said so far. I wonder if my horse feels as good as I do when done - LOL
    "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach



  5. #5
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    Oct. 23, 2004
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    Southeast
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by winfieldfarm View Post
    Anyway, I have a question for you? When in the world do you fit in your runs? And where do you live? I live in Northern Ohio where winter running is very mentally taxing. I'm having a hard time staying motivated to do my runs.
    After living in the south where I took up interval training and then moving to Ohio for a job, can't agree with you more. This winter I have resigned myself to 6-8 extra pounds due to not running. Breathing in 15 degree air is not for me . .. .or my knees. Driving to an indoor fitness facility is impossible, unless I decide not to ride that day.
    "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr. 2, 2009
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    Default

    Couldn't agree more! One thing I particularly enjoy about running is it lets me practice "finding a distance" and training my eye. I try to count how many strides I have before I hit a curb or stick or even a change from dirt to cement. It's kind of fun to practice seeing distances in another capacity. (Nerd alert!)



  7. #7
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    Jun. 4, 2002
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    Suffolk, VA
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    Default

    Great post! I've found some similar insights after taking up backpacking! I ran many years ago when I was in the military but had to give that up from wear and tear...so now I walk/backpack. In many ways the backpacking is harder...it's slower but you are carrying weight...usually 30 to 35 lbs up and down steep climbs and descents. It gives you a whole new appreciation for horses that bear us.

    Something I would add to your list that is absolutely critical is footwear/foot health also as well as comfort of equipment in general. The importance of foot comfort and movement efficiency comes from working as a trimmer on a lot of horses over the last 4 years, and my own struggles to take care of my feet and deal with the wear and tear on them. Horses have the same issues or shall I say people have the same issues that horses do...but one thing is clear, without healthy feet and appropriate foot/hoof protection as needed and comfortable good fitting gear, it's hard for anyone to get the job done.



  8. #8
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    Nov. 13, 2004
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    Quote Originally Posted by JSwan View Post
    I ran for years.

    Now my knees and back are shot.

    I guess my "profound" insight is that we, and our horses, only have so many miles in us.

    Use them wisely.
    I ran track and cross-country competitively starting in second grade. In high school I was the track team's top female sprinter as a freshman, and had to quit after freshman year because I got to the point where I couldn't finish a race. I'm 21 now and can't run for more than 100 feet without my knees telling me, very distinctly, not to.

    My insight is that if you start too hard too young, you break down too fast. And if you ignore it and push through the pain, it doesn't get any better.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
    - Harry Dresden

    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG



  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr. 27, 2007
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    zone 6
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    YEP! I just purchased a treadmill (wanted one for YEARS and live in Nebraska where running outside equals 20 degrees or less, mud, ice, snow, you name it haha).

    What it did for me was pointed out where I wasn't straight. I pull my right shoulder forward and my right leg was 'crossing over' and then my right hip was sore....so I straightened out and the pain went away.

    Horses had 3 months off due to weather and I just got on the other day.... I was straight for the first time probably EVER and I didn't get tired at all (save for the new muscle groups being used haha).

    I'm really pushing myself because I expect my best horse to get to the 4' jumpers this year and I find it to be only FAIR that I work just as hard as him to be fit



  10. #10
    Join Date
    May. 6, 2006
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    Warren County, NJ
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    Same here, purchased an elliptical and this is how I found out that I am seriously rightside-dominant.
    I subconsiously put the right foot more forward on the platform vs where I position my left foot, which results in me pushing more with my right leg and also explains why at times my right knee hurts.

    It worries me, because in the saddle I have been told I sit to the right, all related, , help.

    When I force myself to keep both feet at the same position on the platform suddenly I feel how weak my left side is and to me inner balance I feel like I'm standing crooked, but in reality that's when I'm totally straight.
    Amazing insights, we gain this way.

    And I totally agree with the OP on building up the fitness, I now realize how long it took me to improve my stamina, so I shall be more understanding about things when I bring my horses back into work come March.



  11. #11
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    Aug. 2, 2004
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    Whidbey Is, Wash.
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    1. How important the proper footwear are, and this means a good farrier who doesn't leave your horse a disaster when he leaves. I tore my quad (yeah, ow) running "popular" running shoes that didn't fit me. Now that I wear better shoes, I'm in less pain.

    2. Sometimes you can't undo what's been done (see above). I still have pain, but with proper work and stretching, it's not that bad.

    3. It's always better when you have a running buddy
    COTH's official mini-donk enabler

    "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan. 21, 2009
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    Virginia zip 20120
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by aks710 View Post
    Couldn't agree more! One thing I particularly enjoy about running is it lets me practice "finding a distance" and training my eye. I try to count how many strides I have before I hit a curb or stick or even a change from dirt to cement. It's kind of fun to practice seeing distances in another capacity. (Nerd alert!)
    ::LIKE::
    “Always saddle your own horse. Always know what you’re doing. And go in the direction you are heading.” Connie Reeves
    Jump Start Solutions LLC



  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul. 31, 2009
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    Pittsburgh, PA
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    Default

    I am on my second go round of couch to 5k. Well, I finished the program December 31 and have continued on. I actually just ran my best time yesterday. I think I learned a couple of really important lessons- the need to stay properly hydrated in order to perform your best and when something seems very difficult or not achievable, break it into smaller, more manageable elements and work on those until you feel ready to move onto the next level of difficulty. Eventually, you will reach your goal. I never thought I would be able to run three miles at a time and now I am working on increasing my speed.

    I also learned that I ride much better if I am running on my non-riding days. For some odd reason, I feel much tighter in the tack and of course my endurance is greatly increased.



  14. #14
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    Feb. 23, 2009
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    PA
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    Default

    What a great thread! I agree with the OP's insights and with everything everyone else has said about equipment and correctness of form etc etc. I also think running taught me that it's ok to have an "off" day. There are some days when I go out planning to do a long run and I just. don't. feel. it. So maybe I compromise with myself and do a quarter or half my planned distance, but at 1.5 or 2x pace. Or maybe I'm just really not feeling it and I do a 10 min jog then go home and stick in a yoga dvd or something. I carried it over to my horse- there are days when he says the dressage is just. not happening. Before I started running I would push and nag and not get anywhere and end the ride frustrated. Now I'm much more likely to say, "Ok, let's go for a hack," or "how about a gallop?" or "let's jump around a few fences." I think it's taught me that I don't have to quit, but I can adapt my plan for the day to fit where I or my horse is/am mentally and still accomplish something.



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Mar. 11, 2005
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    CO
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    Wow, I thought I was just the crazy one who equates everything I do to riding!

    I ran my first half marathon in October, and I thought I'd ruined my knees. Once I was able to watch the finish line video and view all of my photos I learned I was really striking on my heel, not mid- or forefoot like I should be. A little more research, a little bit of money, and I've found that the right footwear AND going barefoot once in a while has made all the difference in the world.

    So, sometimes the problem with my horse could be just that it needs to ditch the shoes for a bit, or go basic (if it's one prone to sore soles).

    Training matters, too. Sometimes it's great to go the crazy distances, but sometimes I'm happy as a clam to scuff an easy 3 miles in. Horses are the same. Keep it simple, keep them happy. But in the beginning, keep it short and easy.

    Great to see there's a few of us out there!
    "IT'S NOT THE MOUNTAIN WE CONQUER, BUT OURSELVES." SIR EDMUND HILLARYMember of the "Someone Special To Me Serves In The Military" Clique



  16. #16
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    Aug. 21, 2000
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    USA
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    Default Alternating high & low impact days

    I know there are many serious runners who run consecutive days, 5, 6 even 7 days a week. I'm not one of them.
    I started working out 2 hrs/day before I got back into eventing, but I'd always alternate high and low impact days to give joints a break, and always include one day off a week.
    When I got into eventing, I applied that philosophy to my horse as well, including the day off every week. He's retired now, but I think it worked pretty well because he stayed sound through 11 years of eventing, including nine spent at the preliminary thru advanced levels, and seven or so three-day events.
    For me:
    High impact days involve running, plyometrics or aerobics; while low-impact can include weightlifting, biking, swimming and/or in-line skating.
    For the horse:
    High impact days are jump schools and/or gallops, low-impact days are dressage, hacks or trot sets (one could argue either way on the trot sets, I realize).
    I evented just for the Halibut.



  17. #17
    Join Date
    Feb. 14, 2003
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    Windward Farm, Washougal, WA- our work in progress, our money pit, our home!
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    I've learned that even though I hurt now, and I've abused my body through years of competitive sports (soccer, track, mt. biking), I can still be fit and perform. It takes slow fitness, good equipment and proper use of medical procedures like cortisone injections and pharmaceuticals to keep me going.

    I equate that to what I do with my older horse: proper foot care, proper footing, slow, steady fitness, using medical intervention when things hurt (hock injections and Adequan) and keeping him going keeps him sound and happy. Older horses (and people) can keep active and competitive.

    And sometimes, you just do it, even if it hurts a little. Cause it feels so good when you get out there!
    Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!



  18. #18
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    Mar. 26, 2001
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    Los Angeles, California
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    I'm a casual runner, but I've definitely gained some insights into how my horse must feel as well. The biggest lesson I've learned is that a slow warm-up is key. For me, the first mile or two I run is always AWFUL. Really hard. Then, as my run continues, I feel better and better.

    So, I've translated that to my horse, who is older now, and really give her a long warmup. I don't ask too much the first 30 minutes, just that she stretch and move forward.

    I also alternate my runs - I have two paths, one is 5-6 miles and one is 3 miles. I usually run 4 times a week, with days off in between. I alternate between the two routes. In regards to my riding schedule, I also try and alternate between dressage schools and distance work or jumping, and always give one to two days off per week.

    Also, ditto to the person who mentioned footing. Good, consistent footing is key to human and equine running. You really don't realize this until you try and run on inconsistent footing.



  19. #19
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    Jan. 13, 2005
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    Great topic! I always compare myself to the horse with bad confirmation but somehow manages to stay sound! I have been active my entire life outside of riding and the one thing I notice most now that I am getting older (or old depending on the day) is the importance of consistency. If I can't work out for a few days I really feel it the next time I work out. My muscles aren't strong, I'm not as fluid and I'm more tired at the end. If I stick with 5 to 6 days a week of working out I feel good on most days.

    When I look at my friends who are not consistent with their riding complain that their horse doesn't feel right or is stiff when they ride I cant totally understand what that horse is feeling. When I was riding seriously I rode five to six days a week and my horses were for the most part always sound. I wonder how much money my friends would save on massages and other therapies if they could keep their horses on a steady riding program?

    I never thought about riding distances when I was running but I'm going to try it next time!



  20. #20
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    Jul. 10, 2008
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    Great insights everyone!

    winfieldfarm - This winter it's been VERY hard to fit in runs, I've been able to do 1x a week max between the snow/ice and cold temps. I don't have a gym membership or a treadmill (too cheap and love running outside!) so I've been on an unofficial break for the past couple months. When the weather cooperates, I usually run right after work on the days when I don't ride, and on weekends when I can fit it in to the schedule.

    Daydream Believer - I backpack a little too! It's definitely driven home the importance of good footwear and properly balanced weight. We make our horses' jobs a LOT more difficult when we don't ride correctly, and when you backpack you realize that every extra ounce counts!
    Proud member of the "I'm In My 20's and Hope to Be a Good Rider Someday" clique

    PONY'TUDE



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