[FoRK] iron-age steppe >H

Dave Long dave.long at bluewin.ch
Thu Mar 24 19:13:19 PDT 2011

While sloshing through the internets, the phrase "core transhumanism  
idea of augmentation" recently got stuck in my baleen.

Arguably, an early example of augmentation occurred during the  
transition into the iron age, when people finally figured out the  
proper technique to actually ride horses, rather than just being  
dragged along behind (doing their best ben-hur/podracing impression)  
in chariots[0].

This results in a bit of a symbiosis, where the advantages to the  
human partner are accrued not only in mass and speed but also in far- 
sighted 300+ degree situational awareness, and the advantages to the  
equine partner are the improvements in food supply and medical care  
available with a bit of borrowed intellect.  Eventually this  
symbiosis progresses to the point where a single word, "ecuyer",  
naturally conflates a literally arms-bearing groom (the panoply- 
caddy), a heraldically arms-bearing person with parents of high socio- 
economic status (cf Esquire), and a trainer of horses (cf Hector,  
brother of Paris), as during the middle ages these roles were pretty  
much all filled by one and the same person.

The degree to which this augmentation was useful can be seen in that  
horses can be up to four times as expensive to feed as humans, while  
only living a quarter as long, yet cavalry stayed popular and on the  
bounce for almost three millenia.  The cyberpunk elite may have a  
certain relaxed contempt for the flesh, but the horseman takes good -- 
even obsessive-- care of his hoofed half, and knows that just as he  
learns from his current partners[1] he is obligated to pass on what  
he has learned to the equine epigones: the art is relatively long,  
their lives are truly short, and while a horse without a rider  
remains a horse, a rider without a horse (Richard III?) is just a  

> Sadly enough this [equestrian] art is fugitive, as once the horse  
> is dead, nothing, not even films, can reproduce the sensation felt  
> when the horse is seen in movement.  Death eradicates all the work  
> of the artist, unlike musical scores or paintings which live on to  
> lend immortality to their creator.  After the horse is no more,  
> only those who have admired him keep a remembrance of his quality  
> in their hearts, which is gradually effaced by Time, and others who  
> have not seen him know him only by romanticised tales, recounted,  
> and sometimes embroidered, by those who have truly loved him.[2]

Although "Equitation" probably has more in common with a literature  
than it does with head-freezing, one must admit that it has echoes of  
the latter insofar as it struggles to establish a continuity of  
spirit in the face of the rather discrete nature of equine and human  


[0] Robert Drews, Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in  
Asia and Europe, Routledge 2004
[1] cf Col. Podhajsky, "Meine Lehrmeister die Pferde"; my personal  
riding teachers started with Angel, Barfly, and Skipper ...  
proceeding to many, many, more.
[2] Nuno Oliveira, Reflections on Equestrian Art, JA Allen 1976
[3] "life is fire, slowed down, with an attitude"

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