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Volume 19 Issue 06 - Publications Date: 1 June 2000
 
A Trotting Horse Model
 
H.M. Herr Massachusetts Institute of Technology and T.A. McMahon Harvard University
 
A new control strategy is used to stabilize numerical simulations of a horse model in the trotting quadrupedal gait. Several well-established experimental findings are predicted by the model, including how stride frequency and stride length change with forward running speed. Mass is distributed throughout the model's legs, trunk, and head in a realistic manner. Leg and trunk flexion is modeled using four flexible legs, a back joint, and a neck joint. In the control model, pitch stabilization is achieved without directly controlling body pitch, but rather by controlling both the aerial time and the foot speed of each stance leg. The legs behave as ideal springs while in contact with the ground, enabling the model to rebound from the ground with each trotting step. Numerical experiments are conducted to test the model's capacity to overcome a change in ground impedance. Model stability is maximized and the metabolic cost of trotting is minimized within a narrow range of leg stiffness where trotting horses of similar body size have been observed to operate. This work suggests that a horselike robot will exhibit behavior that is mechanically similar to that of a trotting horse if it operates in a narrow range of leg stiffness and employs simple control strategies where postural stabilization is an emergent property of the system.
 
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