Mechanical Horses: Now & Then

Last week, Abbie posted a quick blurb about the newest invention in hyper-technological equine science, and I thought it was worth a second look. If you didn’t catch it, the above picture is two “Legged Squad Support Systems” (or LS3) out for a jaunt in the woods. These crazy looking things are also referred to as mechanical horses, as they are designed as a kind of military pack horse. Developed by Boston Dynamics and financed by the US Marine Corps and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, they can go wherever soldiers on foot can go, while carrying 400lbs of gear and enough fuel to cover 20 miles over 24 hours. They don’t need a driver, because they can follow the leader using computerized vision, or they can be programmed to head off to a specific location through a built-in GPS system.

While I wouldn’t really want to name my horse Legged Squad Support System (imagine: “Kate Samuels, over jump three on course with Legged Squad Support System“), you can color me impressed with every other aspect of this super-sciencey techno-horse.  Check out the video below:


But no, the LS3 doesn’t really move, look, or act like a horse in any capacity other than it can pick its way around rocks and streams, and seems to be capable of carrying a fair amount of stuff. Need a mechanical horse that seems more….horse-like? Look no further than the Handspring Puppet Company, which technically isn’t a “mechanical” horse, since it is powered by people, but I’m including it anyway because it’s super cool, and I love TED Talks.


Not impressed yet? Sheesh, you’re hard to please! For a little perspective, I am going to introduce you to the very first mechanical horse, named “Blowtorch”. Blowtorch was the work of a Canadian inventor, W.K. McIntyre, who was reportedly a tad eccentric. In 1950, he finally succeeded in creating a functional, engine driven horse that you could ride at your own risk. He had a body made from sheet-metal that concealed a nine-horsepower petrol engine to give Blowtorch his get-up-and-go. While he didn’t move his legs like the previous two examples, Blowtorch sported wheels in the bottom of his hooves, which enabled him to move backwards and forwards (no lateral movements, thank you) in a smooth-as-a-Tennessee-Walker-gait. Blowtorch also had the distinct advantage of a paint job, giving him the black and white coloring of a real horse, as well as a mane and tail. Blowtorch is now in retirement, stabled at the Western Development Museum at Moose Jaw.



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