[FoRK] Wicked cool wind-powered robot / kinetic sculpture
Dave Long <
dave.long at bluewin.ch
> on >
Thu Nov 23 03:10:33 PST 2006
> Here we steer horses with reins.
Here we direct horses with legs and seat. I'll explain better what
that entails over the course of this email.
"Steering" is something one needs to do with systems that don't take
any feedback on their own, and involves a constant input of
adjustments. (think of the Κυβερνήτης, the steersman. I don't have
much experience under sail, but I do recall that leaving the tiller
tends to lead to trouble sooner rather than later)
When one has a system that processes its own feedback, however, the
problem reduces to a simpler one, that of "directing". A horse, for
example, knows where it intends to go. It may also have a firm or a
hazy grasp of where you intend to go. One only needs to provide input
when those intents have diverged, and only enough input to bring them
back into alignment.
> Only if you're riding Western saddle. If you use English Saddle (no
> pommel, longer, buckled stirrups etc) then you tend to steer using
> knees and you only wheel with the reins.
In my limited experience english riding actually leans more heavily
on direct reining than western. Consider the spade bits that vaquero
bridle horses went in -- one wouldn't get very far pulling on a horse's
head with one of those in its mouth.
Hardware alone doesn't explain the difference -- much of it has to do
with how much work one intends to get done while mounted. Most english
events emphasize having both hands on the reins, and do not require the
rider to do anything other than ride while mounted. Most western
events require one (or even two) free hands, and so one must use
different indicators for direction.
This naturally leads to an emphasis on "neck-reining", as reflected in
the curb bits and loose reins of the western horse. But even this is a
bit of a misnomer: if you have a horse that neck reins well, try riding
as if you had the reins in your hand, but leaving the reins on the
horn. You may have to exaggerate at first, but you may also be
pleasantly surprised to find that the horse understands your cues
almost as well as with the reins, and that is why I say that the horse
is a DWIM platform, in a way that cars are not, as what goes on between
its ears is more important than the pieces of leather. 
> Sometimes technology changes nothing. Some folks steer
> their cars with their knees while using the cell phone
> with one hand and shaving(or applying makeup) with the
In this case technology has changed much and (for the narrow
purposes of this discussion) for the worse. Driving while
incapacitated, whether due to inattention or inebriation, is dangerous
precisely because one needs to steer an automobile.
A car goes wherever its wheels point -- which is a function of the
steering wheel position -- and it does so regardless of whether there
is a car-eating plastic sack in the way, open road, a tree, or even a
cliff. Fail to provide the appropriate feedback, and one gets into
trouble sooner rather than later.
A horse, on the other hand, has a vested interest in getting home
safely. (and if it requires something with thumbs to throw hay, has a
vested interest in getting you home safely as well) Furthermore,
"home" is a direction in which the average horse needs very little
encouragement to go. I wonder whether drunk driving is problematic
only because the technology of getting home from the bar has changed
faster than the culture of having one for the road.
:: :: ::
 I have known horses that almost needed to be steered. My
condolences if that is the quality of the stock you've experienced.
(like with certain executive positions, the life of a dude string horse
seems to positively select against paying any attention to the clients)
If you were in the market, I could give you some pointers to good
stock in AB.
 "sooner" and "later" being relative to point of sail -- hence,
"gentlemen sail downwind".
 only since getting to Switzerland have I been riding in western
saddles. It is true that one doesn't have the close contact with a
western saddle that one does with an english, but although the horses
may have been trained with different cues, they all respond to the
natural aids of seat and legs. My wife started western, and as a girl
occasionally rode her horses without a bridle. So, yes, the saddle
affects communication (one speaks perhaps with different accents), but
not the basic content of that communication.
 even english recognizes that one must let the horse have its head
when it's concentrating on its work. Over fences, say, or when there's
Snowy River-fancy riding to be done. Australian stockmen ride in
english saddles, yet:
> Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
> Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
> And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
> At the bottom of that terrible descent.
 the two schools converge after the basic levels of english. The
ideal of quiet hands in english means that one may use the reins just
as much as an input, providing feedback on what the horse is doing with
its head (the auditory path has a finer time resolution than the visual
-- and the haptic even more so), than as an output, for directing
 ponying horses is also good practice, for three reasons: it is it
equine equivalent of pair programming, it saves a great deal of labor,
and it clearly demonstrates how well one can convey ones intentions to
a horse without hands, without even legs, but only with voice and a
 technological misunderstanding cuts both ways across the
equine-vehicular divide. One of my favorite stories is from the Irvine
Ranch, before it was a subdivision. Cars were new, and the Irvines had
just acquired one for the ranch. One of the uncles never quite figured
out the newfangled technology, and so to stop the car, he just pointed
it straight uphill and let it stall out -- which is a technique used to
deal with runaway horses, and, thanks to the low torque of cars,
coincidentally works just as well for them.
 you gulf coasters will have to tell me whether daiquiri buckets are
still available at the drive-through: "why sure you can drink and
drive, you just can't drive drunk"
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