Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Modern Chariot (Part 3)

In 1992 the writer was asked to design and build a pairs sulky with which Australian horses of inferior ability could beat the world records established by the late Stanley Dancer in the USA in 1989. The world’s first negative-balance dorsal hitch sulky was the result. Horses using it - at least one an unraced maiden - proceeded to break all eleven world pairs records over the mile; to set two outright track records, and on five occasions to beat the previous best speed of the faster of the two horses pulling it.To this day no other pairs sulky has set an outright track record (i.e. faster than the fastest horse in a single-horse sulky); no other has even once gone faster than the previous best speed of the best of the two horses pulling it, and no other has set eleven or more world mile records.

In 1999 a customer complained that no existing vehicle would allow him to drive his miniature horse in off-road conditions, and asked the writer to create one that would. Given that the aim was to be an all-terrain vehicle of unprecedented efficiency, the writer decided to start with a clean slate and answer the question, “What is the simplest combination of independent suspension, a seat and a chassis that it is possible to build?”After about two hours of thought, a totally new design of sulky was created, and ten days later the prototype stood on the floor of the factory.

Designed and built in late December 1999, and first sold in the year 2000, it was called the “Millennium Mini”. It did indeed allow a miniature horse to easily pull an adult male over rough terrain and, as a side benefit, allowed the owner of any small draft animals with a combined weight over about 40 Kg to easily and quickly train the animals to pull a sulky.

In 2003 a smaller version, called the “City Mini” was released, to rave reviews from owners all over the world. In no time at all own ers were reporting hitherto undreamt-of speed, culminating in a highest recorded speed (so far) of 64.8 kilometers per hour (40 mph) in January 2007, with a 42 kg giant schnauzer pulling a 96 kg driver in an 18 kg sulky.

This is the combination:
So, getting back to our chariot design, we now know we need to have:
a) A dorsal hitch hitching system, and
b) Negative balance, and
c) Light weight, and
d) Low aerodynamic drag, and - if we are going to use it off-road.
e) Independent suspension.How might such a combination look?

Perhaps something like this:
This chariot was a 2-person vehicle, weighed 34 kg, and was built of stainless steel and designed for Standardbred horses. It was convertible between one and two horse draft (dorsal hitch when two horse) and demonstrated just how easy chariots are to drive compared with sulkies. A single person chariot would have a narrower “box” or cockpit.That is, of course, on a sulky and not a chariot, but only the shape of the pole would vary between the two applications.

James Walsh

About the author.

Jim Walsh is the Managing Director and Product Designer of R.J. Walsh & Son P/L, manufacturers of the “REGAL” line of racing, training and recreational vehicles. The company is based in Sydney, Australia. Over the last 20 years horses using Jim’s vehicles have set ten times more world records over the mile than the total of all other Australian manufacturers combined since white settlement, and by hugely increased margins of up to seventeen times the previous best. Jim’s products have been featured on the ABC’s “The New Inventors”, The Australian Technology Showcase, the Questicon Science Museum and will shortly (August 4 - 31, 2008) be exhibited at the ABC’s Ultimo headquarters as part of Science Week in Sydney.

A member of Australia’s oldest scientific association, The New South Wales Royal Society, Jim is also a director of the NSW Harness Racing Club. He is a former director of Harness Racing NSW, former Plant Identification Officer with the Sutherland Branch of the Society for Growing Australian Plants, former secretary of the NSW Sport Aircraft Association, holds a Private Pilot’s Licence with a Command Instrument Rating and aerobatic endorsements, and has worked with prof. Chris Johnston of the University of Upsalla in Sweden on the construction of a mathematical model of the oxygen consumption of horses under stress. He is the only Australian author of a peer-reviewed scientific paper on race track design to be published in the USA, and co-author of the first scientific paper demonstrating the link between improved race track design and reduced rates of race horse injuries.His E-mail address is <> and his company’s web site is <>

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