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THT Bloodstock

"A horse lives by the laws of their nature. Where they fit in to the herd, how they interpret their world, how they learn, how they're coached, how they ultimately perform, is governed by the rules of that nature; it is wise to make an effort, to understand it." #HerdDynamics Matter. ~ Kerry M Thomas



Identifying Performance Issues; a brief summary

Posted on September 6, 2018 at 3:40 PM

Like a missing tooth on a flywheel, gaps in the sensory sequence and/or herd dynamic dependencies manifested from them, are seemingly random though ever present hovering in the background. Talent and performance always at their mercy.


Over the years we have been called upon to investigate elite talents with nagging accompanying "ghostly" issues that seemed to appear from out of nowhere, only we know these things have a cause that is in most cases not physical. The psychology runs the machine, car & driver if you will, and in the cases where physical performance is disrupted from things that rank in the unexplained files, we find their root most often within one of two areas and sometimes both by proximity; a gap in the sensory sequences or an issue developed over time seeded in the associative via the horses basic instinct cornerstone of learning, the Anticipatory Response Mechanism which when negative can create stifling stress manifested in one way or another depending on the environment.


The over all herd dynamic of the horse is made up many parts from behavioral tendencies and traits, sensory system efficiency to environmental dependenccies (inclusive of course of the horses in their herd or horses anew, thrust together as in competition etc.,). Horses with unaccounted for random performance disruptions we see physically, like refusing to jump at random or leave the gate, are being asked to complete a task at the same moment a gap in the sensory sequence (what we like to call the 'psychological spin cycle') is occurring; when no or uncertain information is being fed to the psyche via the sensory system the physical responce can be an assortment of things including a delay. This is what we call 'drag' in the psychology.


The "sensory sequence" in it's basic form is: outside stimuli is identified via the sensory system, delivered to the psycho-sensory for interpretation resulting in physical response. When the sensory system is efficient a horse can both ID multiple stimuli in the environment as well as transfer one targeted stimuli from one "sense" to another without losing physical efficiency; this we call a sensory lead change. In order for horses to compete consistently at a high level sensory lead changes must be a natural tendency, which is why we focus so much on this when recruiting prospects for any discipline.


Breaking the horse in three parts so to speak, investigating performance issues is compartmentalised in to the sensory system, psycho-sensory (interpretive) and physical. When the physical has been cleared, we focus on the sensory soundness and then the psycho-sensory. Quite often with older horses a gap in the sensory sequence helps cultivate disruptions within the psycho-sensory interpretations over time, housing them within the anticipatory aspect which is designed to protect the horse as much as it is designed to help the horse learn. Patterns in motion stem from patterns of behavior.


These are vital things to consider not just for horses competing, but for horses in or headed to the breeding shed. Behavioral genetics demands her vital role be understood in order to match mental strengths or fill in mental gaps. Like trying to get more leg or bigger hip, you have to be mindful of the psychology you're breeding. Emotional intelligence influences every aspect of a horses' life both in isolation as well as in a herd environment. What is overlooked or taken for granted in "normal settings" can become glaring when in the stress of competition.


Performance profiling is among our most (cost) affective services for the older horse and affords a base line of information for the determination of what is going on and how to circumvent it, where profiling herd dynamic potential is our most affective service for young prospects being considered.


Recommended: *For more information and for reference material, visit Big Race Analysis secton on this website and read specifically the "introduction" to our 2018 Kentucky Derby Herd Dynamics report*


Kerry M Thomas


Founder, THT Bloodstock







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