Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Training and Conditioning: Humans vs Horses

Some in my field make the generalization: You can train horses just like you train humans and get better results. Yes and no in my opinion, there are some similarities - but some major differences.

All living beings; greyhounds, camels, rats, horses, humans, etc. obey the laws of exercise physiology. 

One such principle is the law of specificity, or you get what you train for. Train long and slow for an endurance athlete, train with faster, shorter bursts for a sprinter. 

Another is the law of individuality, which means each trainee responds at his individual pace. That is the key with ThoroEdge Equine Performance, treating each horse as an individual. Big time trainers can shoe horn every horse into their regimen, and when some get hurt they are shuffled out and replaced with new, quality, stock. It's more of a marketing/networking game for them. I'm not being critical, that's just their business model. Everyone else must take more care.

Now the biggest difference: humans can train through fatigue and get stronger, horses that train when excessively fatigued get injured and breakdown. The managment of fatigue in the equine is another major function of my company, ThoroEdge. 

Another difference is one I love to explain to my clients, or anyone else who will listen, like you guys. Consider: let's call the human standard of excellence the 4 minute mile, and the equine equivalent we'll call the 12 second furlong, for simplicity's sake.

ALL throughbred horses in the racing game are born and bred able to run a 12 second furlong pretty quickly, it's in their nature. Some can never run more than 1 or 2, others get up to 12 - we call them Secretariat. Humans are never born able to run a 4 minute mile, some lucky ones may first be able to run a 7 minute mile, then they train/grow to a 6:45, 6:15, etc. The vast majority never make it to the 4 minute goal, but the elite do.

So my point is, in training a horse you have to be very careful not to let the outsides outrun the insides. The outsides being the muscles and horsesense, the insides being the lungs, blood, enzymes, soft tissues, nervous system, etc. Humans naturally have to go through this process, but horses can trick you into believing they are ready for more if you just rely on visual observations. 

If any reader has an idea for a future post, maybe it's something I have some info on, let me know in the comment section and I'll fire it on up. Thanks for reading.


  1. What nutritional regimen do you recommend? What ratio of carbs to protein to fats?

    What does a blood sample cost? If one is checking red blood cells for instance? Is there a home kit for this or does it need a lab?

    Don't get me started, I could be on here all day.

  2. Uhoh, I unleashed a monster.

    I promise next post will deal a bit with nutrition, but I am far from an expert. In general I would say 20% protein, 70% carb, 10% or less fat, taking care to lower carbs if exercise demands are lessened due to injury or weather.

    Most importantly, I believe evidence shows you must feed 2 hours before race time to ensure a topped off energy supply. This will be next post.

    Regarding blood, checking counts requires a lab at this point.

    But, checking blood lactate levels before/during/after exercise is where the gold is, and that can be done with a $400 handheld device onsite, like Lance Armstrong does.