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David Ashforth on Saturday: You just can't go ignoring principles of kinetic motion.

Byline: David Ashforth

APHYSICIST called Graham Middleton has come up with a solution to the great going-meter mystery. The problem is that "the principles of kinetic motion are being ignored. It seems that current thought has evolved from the vertical application of a stick into the ground. This has expanded into the `tube and falling object' design".

Current meter design makes the mistake of focussing on only one of the two kinetic components of a hoof landing, gravity. It ignores the more important component - the fact that, as a hoof rises and falls, "the horse is moving horizontally with considerable velocity. The hoof does not `sink' into the ground, it shears [cuts] across and into it. The initial requirement of meter design is thus to imitate in not only direction but also in impulsive momentum, the action of a hoof in contact at galloping speed".

Obviously, it also requires an understanding of the biomechanics of hoof action at the point of initial contact with the ground. "The cut-and-slide action turns into drive by the rotation of the lower coffin joint, which then presents a normal [90 degree] surface to drive against the compressed turf. Time spent in this rotation varies from animal to animal and is governed by the proportional presence of fast-twitch muscles.

"Freeze-framing the hoof action of a horse like Galileo shows athletic perfection, with high-proportion fast-twitch." In contrast, Montalcino, Venetia Williams's hurdler, is "totally able to act on bottomless going," having "a natural quirk of arresting the forward slide and rotating the coffin joint instantly, giving time to develop a leg drive that leaves opponents floundering in the mire".

It goes without saying that "a device that deals only with vertical penetration is of little use". There is the grass to consider. "Grass has a surface and root system that develops in a mainly vertical plane. It is easy to cleave vertically - no trouble in inserting a stick. Now try cleaving the root system part horizontally. Difficult!"

We are now in a position to design the Middleton Meter. "The meter has to apply an impulsive force to the surface whose going is to be defined. The angle of application is part horizontal. The strike-head should be a wedge imitation of the hoof. The kinetic action could simply be spring loaded by human effort similar to an air gun. A load cell would digitally record the resistance, then be calibrated on a 1-10 scale".

It would be the size and weight of a vacuum cleaner, and easy to make. Well, go on then, get on with it.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 30, 2002
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