Horse on a treadmill causes viral sensation

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 27, 2013 – A horse on a treadmill is giving the HokieBird a run for its money (no pun intended) when it comes to iconic images related to Virginia Tech.

Horse on a treadmill from Virginia Tech's video library on Vimeo.

In 2008, Lola was a six-year-old Thoroughbred mare when The History Channel visited her at the veterinary college’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medicine Center. They were at the Leesburg facility to determine how far and how fast a horse could be expected to run for their new television series “Real Cowboys.” Turns out that Lola’s top speed was recorded at 30 miles per hour, which she maintained for approximately 15 minutes.

The horse was also filmed by Virginia Tech videographers for university promotional spots. Lola, who was owned by a center employee, was under the watchful eye of equine researchers when she was on the high-speed treadmill to test how well her respiratory system was performing.

The Lola clip has been shown on the Jumbotron at home football games since 2010 and has been featured prominently in university messaging related to Virginia Tech’s “Invent the Future” tagline. Football fans came to love the video and Lola gained a cult following. Horse on a Treadmill buzz grew on social media and one entrepreneurial fan even starting selling t-shirts featuring her likeness wearing an orange football helmet.

“No matter how well or poorly we play, our commercial is ALWAYS better than our opponents,” said one student. “The ‘Horse on a Treadmill’ has silenced many obnoxious friends of mine.” Another noted that “Horse on a Treadmill embodies the VT spirit,” while another said, “Innovation is a key value of Virginia Tech and Horse on a Treadmill exemplifies this value.”

When the university decided to retire the clip earlier this year, fans noticed and they weren’t happy. Horse on a Treadmill Facebook and Twitter pages were established with pleas to return the video to the Jumbotron. Today, the Facebook page boasts more than 2,400 likes, while the @HorseOnTreadmill Twitter account has more than 200 followers.

In response, Virginia Tech gave fans what it wanted: for the final home football game against Maryland, a special video spot was created that featured the horse on a treadmill on three separate occasions. The unsuspecting fans went wild when Lola appeared!

Since then, the horse on a treadmill phenomenon has gone viral. Media including Deborah Norville of Inside Edition, The Huffington Post, Gizmodo, Horse Nation, The Collegiate Times, and others have covered its popularity. Sports commentators and the campus community buzzed about it, and some students even started a petition to memorialize the horse on a treadmill on football helmets at the upcoming game with Tech rival, the University of Virginia. A second t-shirt, with the horse on the front and “Keep Calm and Gallop On” on the back, was designed and is now for sale on the horse’s Facebook page.

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, while known for its full-service equine hospital and its equine biomechanics and regenerative research, has also made advances in understanding equine athletes. It can also be proud of its role in this grassroots student-based movement at Virginia Tech.

Students share an undeniable passion for the Horse on a Treadmill. It has become as much a symbol of the university to current students as the pylons, Hokie Stone, and other campus icons. One student said, “The horse on the treadmill is arguably the best VT football tradition. Our team may be the most inconsistent on the planet, but horse on a treadmill always excels.”

“It means so much because no one else has a horse on a treadmill,” a student explained. A petitioner on wrote, “I don’t even to go this school, but I love it!”

Finally, a statement on the Facebook page may sum it up best:

One horse: $2,000 (which is no doubt a low estimate)
One treadmill: $1,500 (again, a low estimate)
A Horse on a Treadmill: Priceless