Saturday, July 28, 2012

Science of the Olympics: Sport Analysis Videos to Inspire Your Thoughts on Horses

Note: NBC Olympics videos have an annoying auto-play function so the videos have been moved off the blog. Please go to "Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports", a 10-part video series produced in partnership with NBC Learn to view the videos described in this blog post.

Have you been staring at a television screen, immersed in the Olympics? Are you chewing your nails for the Swiss beach volleyball team or the Luxembourg table tennis team? Do you wonder if they ever really will get back to Greenwich Park and the equestrian events?

We get wrapped up in the competition of sports but the Olympics is a good time to remember that the same sport science that is used to advance horse sports and hoof science is also used on human athletes.

So whether you are Usain Bolt or Zenyatta, there's a professor at MIT who can dissect your stride. And the same terminology is used whether you're measuring the stride of a track star or a Thoroughbred.
How can we get BMW interested in horses? In order to maximize his performance in the decathalon, 2008 Olympic gold medalist Bryan Clay teamed up with engineers from BMW to improve measurement of the horizontal and vertical velocities of his long jumps.

Could the same long-jump technique be used to analyze how Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup or how a rider like Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum's horse will clear the water jump at Greenwich Park this weekend?

While you're watching the Olympics, think about the fact that the emerging gait analysis and sport science we see used in horse sports is being applied to each and every one of those Olympic sports. In some aspects, horse sports have lead the way. In other aspects, horse sports have a lot of catching up to do.

So don't think for a minute that you're wasting time watching the Olympics. You're doing your homework, albeit on the subconscious level in many instances. Some creative thoughts about how horses move are sure to pop into your head a week or two from now, and you'll wonder where those thoughts originated.

Maybe you'll never see a horse on a balance beam, but when you think about the pressure to always improve the level of performance while not crossing the line to injury, you realize that all athletes have a lot in common, whether they're horse or human.

These two sample videos are part of "Science of the Summer Olympics: Engineering In Sports", a 10-part video series produced in partnership with NBC Learn. (You can watch them all online and if you're really interested or if you know a teacher who might be, there are lesson plans available to use these videos in the classroom. Just pretend the humans are horses.)

It's easy to order this colorful, award-winning image from Michigan State Equine Foot Lab
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