Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cogs, Gears and... Stirrups?

Tonight's post is about mechanical horses. No, we're not talking about carousels or coin operated machines, we are talking mobile, engine powered machines. Let us start with a few examples throughout history:

(1933 but possibly before 1915) I wanted to start this one because even though it isn't engine powered, or mobile, it is one of the earliest I came across in my research. I even found rumors that they were used as early as WWI. The picture describes the use for these wooden horses better than I would.

(1925) While this is a modern picture, the mechanical horse in the above photograph was (U.S.) President Calvin Coolidge's. It was said that he was allergic to horses and that the machine was given to him as a gag gift, but after he rode it on a dare he found out he absolutely loved it. He was said to ride it often and even took it home with him after his presidency. It supposedly had four gaits.

(1933) This was the earliest metal one I came across, it's for children and is claimed to have worked. Visually, it is not screaming horse, however it would've presented great technological possibilities and imaginations.


 (1947) The last two pictures are a magazine article about "Blowtorch" who is a very successful mechanical horse. While it still looks slightly off, it looks much more like a horse than the previous one. I know it's a bit a text, but I'd suggest reading the article, I personally thought it was fairly interesting.

(1951) This picture is actually of the 1954 version, however it did not change much over the years outwardly. It was said to work fairly well, especially on brick and to be strong enough to pull an man. It is small but realistic and has four gaits, not to mention that fact that it pulls a cart behind it.

(1982 was first developed) The Equicizer is the machine shown above. The first is the earlier, standard version while the bottom was a modified version actually use for shooting a few scenes in the movie "Seabiscuit." While not mobile and only partially realistic, the Equicizer is a good machine to end off on as useful, modern, mechanical horses. These horses are used in teaching, rehabilitating and therapy.

This leads beautifully into the next focus of the post, my personal opinion on mechanical horses. I have a fairly basic standpoint when it comes to them, especially as a tool in the actual riding of horses. I see their usefulness in rehabilitating injured riders, and as therapy in multiple areas, however I simply do not agree that they would be especially useful for many aspects of learning how to ride. Especially if the rider is just a beginner. Machines have a set way of doing things, they are predictable. Horses on the other hand are not predictable, they are creatures who think, who have fears and likes/dislikes. I believe it is unfair to have a rider get use to a machine and then throw them on an actual animal.
Also, riding is a partnership. Relationships and trust must be formed between the horse and rider; and the rider must understand that horses might disagree with what you're asking them to do. I believe it is important for riders early on to understand that sometimes horses will be confused on what you want them to do, sometimes horses will get spooked and jump or takeoff, sometimes a horses gait will be disjointed and that riders should learn early on how to take care of these things. Machines don't make mistakes, so there is nothing to to fix.
Riders also must learn early on to anticipate their horses flaws. Every horse will have something that they don't want to do and some way to get out of it. Some, for example, will go around jumps or refuse them, others only like going clockwise or counter-clockwise, some will be aggressive towards other horses or horse reflections, some will tend to get antsy and speed up or prance in place. It is the job of the rider to proactively keep these from happening. Machines do not have flaws.
Keeping in mind that I see strong advantages in rehabilitation and therapy, I ultimately believe that riding is a team sport, and while the team involves only you and the horse, it is still a unit that learns and grows together.

On an end note, don't forget to check the results of my giveaway to see if you were one of the lucky winners!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting post! Mechanical horses are...old! But you hit the nail on the head; your points are absolutely valid. I think mechanical horses are awesome, but better for...pretending, maybe...or movies, of course...

    I actually like that mechanical horse that doesn't look like a horse!