Keith Hunt - Wrangling on the Range - Page Forty- four   Restitution of All Things

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Wrangling on the Range #44

Good ol' Days ... maybe not so

                        WRANGLING ON THE RANGE #44


     While reading the first chapters of Laura Hillenbrand's book
"Seabiscuit - An American Legend" one thing really hit me between
the eyes. The account of the teen jockeys in the 1920s and 1930s
and how most were treated by horse trainers, race horse owners
and the world of horse racing, is to put it mildly "shocking" and
to put it bluntly "a criminal disgrace" that people today would
be put in jail for, or exposed on the "investigative" programs
like "60 Minutes" or "20/20" or "Dateline."

     This phrase and saying about "the good old days" is a hollow
bleating lie in many ways, it sure was for those jockeys, the
majority of them anyway.
     And when you consider all the other inequities, the racial
discrimination of the USA, between whites and blacks, the average
treatment of women in those days, the power of the employer, the
religious nutty fire and brimstone "burning in hell for eternity"
tent revival preachers, there is no real truth in the phrase "the
good old days."
     Those days were often sobering BAD!     
     Put all that in the context of TWO world wars only 20 years
apart, and the Stock Market collapse; it was anything but "good
old days."  

     Well there was this triangle of three unlikely men coming
together as a team, with this unlikely very ordinary looking
small horse, who did give the world something to cheer about, get
inspired about, get happy about, get excited about. And that's
what Hillenbrand paints the picture for you in detailed
technicolour, in her book on the newsiest news of the last years
of the 1930s.


     Quoting from Hillenbrand's book: "In 1991, George Pratt,
PhD., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used high
speed cameras, race films, and computer analysis to gauge the
speed of a high-class quarter horses at Los Alamitos Racecourse,
recording a top speed of 52 1/2 miles per hour for one horse.
According to Pratt's analysis, quarter mile world record setter
Truckle Feature had a peak speed of just under 80 feet per
second, or 54 mph. Note that this reflects top speed, not average
sped over a distance, which would be slower.

End quote

     Now, I have to take this with a might big lump of salt. Next
time you are out driving your car, safely of course, mark 52 and
1/2 miles per hour. Can ANY horse really go that fast? 
     You can do all kinds of things in a lab, with this gadget
and that gadget, and come up with things that in the reality of
the real world is HUMBUG and does not play itself out as the lab
tech stuff would indicate.
     It's like this. I could when a young guy, do say two yards in a
1/5 of a second, maybe a 1/10 of a second (oh yes I was the
fastest sprinter in my high school, and only lost one race in
four years in the inter-school Track and Field meet events, in the 100
and 220 yard sprint races). So what I could do in a 2 yard time,
multiplied by whatever this Professor did, could give an inflated
so-called technical time per hour of ... whatever.

     It's all PHONEY. It's all playing with machines and figures
in a lab. Few horses can reach 40 miles per hour, at any time,
maybe some can get up to between 40 and 45 miles per hour for
part of the race. 52 and 1/2 and 54 ..... as John Stossel would say,
give me a break!

     If a horse can do 10 feet in 1/10 of a second, it would have
to do 8 of them in a second to move 80 feet per second. Now stop
and look next time you see a timing machine, notice haw fast the
1/10th of a second go to complete 10 of them, to make a second -
they fly by. Then think of a horse in gallop mode doing slightly
less (having to do 8 and not 10) of those strides - 8 and not 10
in one second. See how fast those 1/10 second shoot through to
make one second in those second and 10th timer clocks. You blink 
(maybe two quick blinks) and those tenths of a second have gone.

     A quarter mile is 440 yards which is 1320 feet. The world
record is near enough 20 seconds. Divide 20 into 1320 and you get
66 feet a second. Actually the record is nearly 21 seconds
(specifically 20.71) so it is less than 66 feet a second.  

     The idea of 54 mph is ludicrous, but you could I guess come
up with this fancy figure if working it in a lab with fancy
gadgets. You may like to give it a literal try. Get a winning
fast horse lined up with a good flying car from zero to 54 miles
an hour car. Line them up and hit the gas, get that car to scream
up to, for any part of the race, 54 miles an hour. See if your
world class speed horse can ever get close to 54 miles an hour.
Make it a movie and prove it to me.

Keith Hunt 


To be continued from time to time

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