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Horse versus Human, Part I

Published: 8/1/2013
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By Maddy Butcher Gray


Late summer is a time of peak performance.
  • For us trail riders, we have several dozen good rides under our belts. The horses are fit and partnerships are firing on all cylinders.
  • For serious school athletes, workouts are getting banked like so many study hours before final exams. Preseason double sessions and homecoming games loom right around the corner.
What a perfect time to revisit the Horse versus Human experiment!

We wrote about these contests last year. Sometimes, the horse and rider pair wins. Sometimes, the runner wins. Read more.
Why not try it ourselves?

Let the Game begin!


The Human: My 18-year old son, Cormick, an avid runner and soccer player at Brunswick High School.

The Horse: Comet, 10-year old rescued paint. A long, lean lover of trail rides and not coincidentally, our fittest horse.

The Rider: Yours Truly. A rider with average skills, weighing 130 pounds.

The Course:

We headed to Iowa's Pleasant Creek State Recreation Area, where a big loop roughly traces the perimeter of this public land. It’s a wonderful trail with a constantly changing topography of fields, woods, meadow, then more fields and woods.

Read article (with video)

There are some straight-aways but mostly it’s a hilly, winding trail. There are gullies with two narrow bridges to cross. The footing ranges from dirt to sand to grass - easy-going for horses and humans alike.

We pulled into the empty parking lot late in the afternoon. Cormick took a few more sips of water and dribbled a soccer ball as I tacked up. Comet napped, unfazed by the trash talk.

I’d mistakenly left the breast collar behind and hoped it wouldn’t impact our performance (It did).

The Contest

Nobly giving the runner a few minutes head start, I checked the cinch and mounted up.
We walked out of the parking lot and eased into a trot. Comet was more easily spooked and hesitant than she typically is when riding with a companion. It took nudges and reassurances to maintain our pace.

Where was Cormick?

We trotted more. As the trail ascended, I thought again of the missing breast collar. As the path dipped, I struggled to trot comfortably, leaning back slightly and using my legs as shock absorbers.
At this point, with more than a mile behind us, we’d usually pause, walk, smell the roses.

But where was Cormick?

He’d taken the lead and added to it. I barely spotted him, a fleeting speck on the far side of a grassy field. (See top photo) I gently pulled Comet from her quick clover snack and we moved into a gallop.
With much effort, we caught him as the trail got hilly again.
But the runner didn’t stop. Together, the three of us arrived at a scenic overlook, where we usually pause for drinks, snacks, appreciation, and conversation.

Again, the runner didn't break his stride.

Comet is nothing if not sensitive and willing. Simply my thought of forward movement is usually enough to propel her. But now, again, she needed prodding.

Part II: Lessons and Second Winds


View Reader Comments:

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8/1/2013 Mary
Cool test. I especially liked the old blog post about our evolution as hairless, hot-weather runners!

   
"Speak kindly to your little horse, and soothe him when he wheezes, or he may turn his back on you, and kick you where he pleases" - Anonymous