Horses For Dummies….or maybe university graduates
I must admit I jumped on the chance to do this piece over all the others because I am a self confessed horse lover. I have owned horses and ridden for more than 15 years and still have seven horses in the paddock at home. The point is I can safely say that I have a comprehensive knowledge of the topic. This puts me in a perfect situation to judge this book chapter, entitled The Mechanics of Movement by Budiansky, because I am the intended target audience.
From the opening page of this chapter I realised that the content was not going to be as simplified as I thought. In all honesty I feel that even though Budiansky employed many of the key tools for simplifying complexity on the whole I do not feel that he did a very good job.
In saying this there were three techniques he used to help simplify the complex information.
Firstly he used a lot of analogies throughout the chapter that did help to describe what he was talking about. A good example was when he used the analogy of thick and thin rope when talking about muscle fibres. In some cases he also compared horse movement to certain human movements which is something we can obviously all relate to.
Secondly he did chunk information to an extent breaking the content down into a few key messages. These included leg design for speed, muscle use for efficiency and the importance of gait. Through all of these topics he was reinforcing the main message that horses had evolved in a way that allowed them to move faster than most other animals of their size.
Finally he used pictures to display exactly what he was talking about. This was probably the most useful tool as it allowed you to look at the image of while he was describing the complex characteristics of the horses bone and muscle structure. This was a case when a picture really did tell a thousand words.
So where did he go wrong?
Even with the use of those three tools I still found the information to be complex and highly detailed and I am someone with a strong science AND horse background. The language used was far too complex and he did not explain scientific terms or jargon very well. The other key downfall was the use of some very complicated analogies. These only work when they are simplifying a concept and to be honest some of the analogies actually made it more complicated and confusing than it was in the first place. A good example of this was when he was trying to use the distance between the door knob and the hinge to discuss the pros and cons of attaching muscles closer to the joints.
I think I have made it fairly clear that I did not see this as an overly successful attempt at simplifying complexity, but I am curious as to how people with a less intimate knowledge of horses find it.