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Horses Kick Ass Part 1: Horses Are Athletes

Zack Pennington with Animal Kingdom at Darley Farm

Animal Kingdom and Zack at Darley Farm.

Hey gang, Zack here. This is the first installment of my new series called “Horses Kick Ass.” If you’re interested in the back story of why I’m writing this series, click here to read all about it.

One of the reasons I think that horses kick ass is because horses are some of the most impressive athletes on the planet. They are large, muscular animals, and are built for sports. They run fast, jump high, and have incredible endurance. It may be common sense that horses are athletic, but most people don’t realize how powerful they truly are, especially when compared with top-performing human athletes.

Run Like the Wind

Horses are born to run. There are several disciplines of horsemanship (equestrianism or horse sports) that rely on speed to win: thoroughbred racing, barrel racing, driving, endurance racing, polo. But how fast are horses? They run average speeds of 30-38 mph, with some horses having reached over 50 mph. How does this compare to human sprinters? Watch this video to find out:

In all seriousness, they actually held a 100 meter race between British sprinter Jamie Baulch and a Thoroughbred named Peopleton Brook. The odds of the race were 9:1 odds in favor of the horse. Watch below to see how the race unfolded.

Despite weighing eight times more than Jamie, with a 100 lb. jockey on his back, Peopleton Brook was able to dust the sprinter. His immense speed is largely due to the elegant mechanics of a horse’s stride.

Take it in Stride

Horses are very big animals. They are the one of the largest domesticated animals (second to elephants (elephants are not domesticated)). With their massive frame comes long, lean, and powerful legs. These legs move in such smooth locomotion that it makes man-made steam-engines seem clunky. This motion gives horses their extremely long strides. On average, horses gallop 15-22 feet per stride. So, how does that compare to humans?

Stride-to-stride comparison is no contest, so I compared the longest horse stride to the long jump for people. Here’s a video of Mike Powell setting the world record for long jumping in 1991.

He jumped an incredible 29.375 feet! By comparison, Man O’ War, a race horse famous for his stride, was measured to have a 28 foot stride length. That means that in one “step” Man O’ War could nearly cover the same amount of distance as the best long jumper of all time. And that’s not the only kind of jumping that horses are good for.

Man O' War

Man O' War

By Leaps and Bounds

You’ve probably seen horses jump over barricades in Westerns and Medieval movies, but did you know that there’s a whole discipline of horsemanship dedicated to jumping horses? The United States Hunter Jumper Association is the organization dedicated to hunters and jumpers. At their competitions, horses of all ages/breeds take their hand at obstacle courses with different sized jumps. How do these jumps compare to human athletes?

Image Courtesy of USHJA.org

Action shot via USHJA.org

Lebron James and Michael Jordan are both reported to have had 44 inch verticals. To see what that looks like, here’s a video of Michael Jordan’s 10 best dunks.

By comparison, there are many horses that have cleared 88 inch obstacles. Here’s a video of Nick Skelton on Everest Lastic setting a world record in 1998.

Now, it’s true that this has been beaten by world record high jumpers, including Javier Sotomayor who jumped 96 inches. But Javier didn’t have to carry someone on his back while he did it.

Javier Sotomayor via Wikipedia
Javier Sotomayor via Wikipedia

You can see why I find horses to be such impressive animals. They are true athletes, capable of many impressive feats. If you’re a guy who is already into sports, try watching some horse competitions. I think you’ll be surprised how exciting they really are.

The goal of this series is to make horses relatable to guys and gals like me, people outside the industry, who would love horses if they were given the right exposure.

If this seems like something you’d be interested in, sign up for our mailing list to stay tuned for “Horses Kick Ass Part 1: Horses Are Athletes.” You can share this series with your friends and family who know how much YOU love horses but they don’t “get it” themselves.

Stay tuned for "Horses Kick Ass"

 

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