I was lamenting in an email for being behind on my blogging posts and was reminded that blogging is suppose to be fun. And really, that’s the problem - it’s not that I love blogging so little - it’s that I love it too much! I’m pretty good at putting off my riding (or even my running) if I need to get school stuff accomplished in a crunch time (and I’ve gotten pretty good at putting it back into my life once crunch time is done!). But blogging? It’s almost physically painful for me to get a great blog topic, write it down on the list with the other great blog topics I have, and then get my school work done.
Sometimes I manage to trick myself - I’m not writing a blog post I’m writing a response to a comment!!!!!
And that is how this post came to be written last night, when I should have been working on a neuro case write up that was eminently due.
Don’t worry Gail - I’m not singling you out because it was bad!!!! It’s because your question/comment was so much more intriguing and because I’m a much better blogger than vet student.......so please take this as a compliment :)
I believe that the cavalry comment was directed more at the “how to ride 25 miles” than longer distances beyond that. The cavalry pace and distance expected of their horses seems to be similar to the expectations of a modern day LD. If I’m remembering my history right, even the pony express only rode 10-15 (sometimes as many as 25) miles before switching horses. Doing a 100 miles in a day just isn’t something I can find that was done historically as a matter of fact. If someone has different history - please let me know - but I think the whole training for and doing100 mile races (even a couple a year) with the goal of being able to do it over and over on the same horse is a modern phenomenon. So while I think that it is interesting (and reassuring!) that the cavalry had similar pace and mileage goals as some of today’s endurance events, taking the historical reference too far has it’s limitations.
Using slow, long rides to get to this 25 mile distance is sort of like getting to the 20-26.2 mile distance in humans. You can actually go the race distance in training, although some plans only take you up to 20 miles max for a marathon program. I haven’t run an ultramarathon, although I’ve done some research since it was my intention to a couple of years ago. What I found is that at some point you stop doing training runs as long as your goal race. You worry more about time on your feet (“conditioning” your feet) and staying injury free. To do a 50 miler, you might do a marathon or 50K. To do a 100 miler, you do a couple of 50’s, maybe a 70.
Having not actually done an ultramarathon, this is pure speculation of course.......but from what I’ve read it all seems very mysterious. You work your way up to a marathon distance and then.....you just sort of make some fantastic jumps in mileage that you just sort of keep running through and you figure out your nutrition and hydration and your mental game and if you have a bit of luck, some training, and pick the right race you complete that ultramarathon.
Completely reminds me of getting a horse to a 100 miles. It’s easy to systematically take a horse from 0 to LD. A little more “take it on faith and close your eyes” to take a horse to 50, and pure magic to get to a 100.
And in that no mans land between LD and a 100 I think there’s a huge chance that HIIT could be one of those “cornerstones” that has been ignored for a long time.
It’s true that horses are “designed” to move slowly over long distances and as was mentioned cover mileage in the double digits if left to their own devices. But.....by slow, that means a walk. Not the trot and pacing we use to cover 50 or 100 miles in a day. Sure, they trot in the wild, but most of their movement is to slowly walk and forage, with infrequent spurts of activity. BTW - based on what I’ve read lately, humans are designed to walk too. Not run or jog over long distances. Sure, we can do it, but what I’ve read is now they think that early humans, not being fast enough to actually run after their prey, basically stalked it by walking after it hour after hour after hour - and could keep moving at a walk far longer than the prey they sought.
So, in some ways, we are “designed” more like our horses than I used to think!
However, you are spot on about the differences between human and equine physiology and its something I harp on over and over and over. You canNOT make direct correlations between what works for humans and what works for equines.
It’s impossible for me to actually know what my horse is feeling during our rides and I’m not doing truly HIIT workouts with Farley. We do intervals of extended/faster trotting and canter and she is still aerobic. Our “interval” ends when she starts to slow - I then bring her to a walk for a 30-60 seconds, and then ask her to go back to the faster pace. Then repeat. I’m not brave enough to try actual HIIT with my horse where I’m working very close to the max. I didn’t set out to do “interval” training with Farley - I didn’t realize that was what I was doing until about a year into it. I’m less trying to apply a human exercise concept to my horse, and more trying to explain the phenomenon I’ve seen in the last 2 years with Farley. Maybe something else is going on and it has nothing to do with my “accidental” interval training. But right now, it’s the best explanation I have.
I just don’t know.
In the short term it gave me a sounder horse that had better performance.
In the long term I don’t know - We spend a lot less time “pounding the pavement” (to use a human term). She gets a lot more rest and time off. Does this mitigate any increase risk from increasing speed and intensity for short bouts?
I know that from a human side, I really respected the advice that was circulating when I was in high school/college that it was incredibly easy to get hurt and injuried from speed training and unless I was actually after trying to “race”, I should avoid it.
However, according to the 20 min book, 20 min of HIIT 3x week = 30 min of non-interval exercise 5x week. 60 minutes versus 150 minutes. I’m spending a LOT less time pounding the pavement. And if you consider in that 20 min of HIIT, I’m only sprinting a MAX of 12 minutes per workout - the rest is recovery, it makes the difference even more significant. And from this wee bitty amount of cardio a week, I can run 10 miles - without a problem and even PR it.
The caveat is like I read for my ultramarathoning prep - it’s not necessarily the mileage that is hard - its the time spent on your feet.
How long can you stand and walk around before you think to yourself “my feet are killing me! I need to sit down....”?. Because I’m only “on my feet” for 20 minutes and I’m not doing those 2 and 3 hour long runs on the weekends, I consciously stand and walk as much as possible during the day. Back to that concept of what we were “designed” to do, I truly think that this model of spending most of my time on my feet moving slowly (walking) with just a few minutes of “mad dashing” is probably really close to the truth.
It’s worth pointing out that both me and Farley had what could be considered a “good base”, even if it was several years old. Neither one of us were truly beginners. And while (according to what I’ve read so far) muscles do NOT regain their conditioning for months and years after starting exercise - there is evidence that “historical” exercise (highschool/college for humans, yearlings for horses) will in part determine how much athletic capacity or fitness levels in future years. Farley being sent to the track as a youngster and me running in junior high, high school and beyond definitely fits that description, even if both of us were “failures” (Farley was deemed too immature to race and was used as a broodmare, and the only chance I’ve ever had for an age group award was if there was 3 or less people in my age group.....).
I’ve never suffered classical “concussion” injuries and I have REALLY good, normal biomechanics. In the past I’ve suffered from nerve injuries on the bottom of my foot, an achilles issue, planar fasciatis, and IT band issues (at the knee). The fasciatis and nerve pain disappeared when I switched to primarily barefoot running. About a year later I started interval training and the achilles and IT band issues have gone away (except for riding in a Wintec saddle apparently....). I’m not sure how my study would have differed if I had shin splints, or knee arthritis, or other joint dysplasia, or flat feet, had been running in motion control shoes etc.
I’m not even sure whether the HIIT I’m doing is aerobic or anearobic - it’s such a short duration and 75 seconds seems to be plenty of time to recovery. I may be anearobic for the intervals later on in the session, but I’m not sure.
I hope you (my Dear Reader) read this commentary and realize I’m just another person that’s trying to figure it all out, and trying to decide how best to apply knowledge, research, and personal experience to myself and my pony. A one rat study proof does not make :). I just know that I’m approaching 30 with over 10 years of running under my belt and numerous chronic injuries and now I’m faster and injury free since making the change to HIIT. Farley is in the same boat - she’s a middle aged pony now with several soft tissue injuries and yet....more sound, stronger, looks better. There’s something to all the buzz on the exercise and health networks, even if we don’t don’t know the particulars.
Gail - I know you ride a Fresian (mix?) and so that’s where this/my one rat study REALLY breaks down. I have no idea how you apply this knowledge to a heavier horse breed. I dont know if speed training in a heavier breed carriers with it greater risk or greater rewards than a light breed. I know I never would have “chosen” to do interval training as a way of getting Farley to a 50 or a 100 - and I’m only here talking about this in retrospect because I did it on accident. :).
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