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A Horse in Motion; Assessing Aptitude, Expression, and Potential

The psychology of performance is, for any athlete, a determining factor in the realization of physical talent. A substantial component well beyond the frame of athletics, what I call the Behavioral Genetic code, their emotional expression, is indeed the operating system running the machine; not just in sport, but in life. The fibers that connect the physical world with the emotional horse run through the senses, making sensory soundness every bit as important as the commonly understood parameters of physical soundness.


Providing behavioral assessments, be it for the purpose of athletics or for the building of a better relationship between a horse and their human, is my passion. I have spent my entire career exploring, searching for a deeper understanding of those unique idiosyncrasies of the individual horse and how these bind them to the herd structure. Providing detailed analysis of "who" the horse is above "what" the horse is, which for me is a horse before discipline approach, leads the way in introducing the horse as an individual, in an entirely new and highly beneficial view. Afterall, who they are ultimately determines what they can achieve.


Through our services herein, we offer several different options that fulfill what is, as I view it, the need to know the horse. Used for any and all purposes from identifying athletic potential, developing coaching protocols or simply in helping people build a better partnership with their horse, we also offer self-empowering education. You are encouraged to explore the Life Through the Senses Education Center course opportunities we offer. Among the best investments you can make in your horse after all, is an investment in yourself.


As many of you are aware, I provide performance profiles for the contenders of the Kentucky Derby horses. What follows is a sample of a very real racehorse evaluation. Assessments are of course tailored to meet every discipline and need but the following profile is a very real example of the kind of information that is the result of the evaluation process done through video analysis. I have removed some key elements such as the horses name for anonymity purposes, but the raw information is left untampered. And who knows, if you purchase 2024's "Kerry Thomas' Visual Handicapping; Derby150", you might just recognize this profile among those...


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Performance Profile


Strengths:


There are quite a few things to like about xoxo, and at the top of that list is an honest and forthright athletic expression inherent in his Individual Herd Dynamic; xoxo is a racehorse. His growth patterns have been consistent and forward, he has learned how to better control his hi-rev target oriented emotional energy a little better with each herd motion experience and has found himself more refined in athletic execution because of it.


The credit for this is two-fold and worth mentioning: He himself has shown an aptitude for mental growth which means that his Group Herd Dynamic, not a prevailing characteristic within him, nonetheless is functional. And he has been coached and trained very well. The simple fact is that a patient human mindset has allowed xoxo the “room to grow” and to develop properly and proportionately. Thus, his underperforming group dynamic that was a part of his early combat service is now a strength in competition supporting his IHD.


Xoxo has evolved an IHD cruising gear from the “just enough” support he is now enjoying from an improved sensory efficiency within the group dynamic. He has grown stronger with energy distribution and more thoughtful with its conservation, helping offset a hi-rev/fast cycling natural cadence to his psychology which, early on, had many pinhole leaks. Most notable is his emergence from the barrier. This has become far less bumpy, eating up much less time than before in smoothing out the bumps, setting him in motion with more fluency.


Physically, xoxo translates every bit of his emotional energy into the production of forward thrust when he is in that IHD cruising gear where he is steady and rhythmical in motion. Additionally, he has recently started to be more mindful of the intentions coming from the human in the saddle. He has gone from a horse who was slightly indifferent to subtle ques to being a more sensitive creature, more responsive; another direct clue of his GHD growth, for communication is rooted within a horse’s group dynamic and physically expressed through the individual dynamic. This serves him well in elite combat because it invites him to be properly Bridged through situational chaos that his GHD cannot itself process. Having an outsourcing means from the saddle is essential when covering competitive distance. This is especially true for horses with underperforming GHD’s or still evolving group dynamics.


Interestingly, the fact that xoxo's GHD is less than fully developed (or with naturally lower efficacy to its characteristics) but is nonetheless supportive of his IHD, which is quite developed and high functioning, he can run more freely in the mud than many fast rhythmed IHD horses can. Surface versatility is indeed a strength not all horses enjoy.

 

 

 

Vulnerabilities:


For all xoxo's mind to body fluency when he is in IHD cruise, two things are noteworthy as points of vulnerability. His emotional energy surges through him with a lot of down-pressure, placing enhanced strain on his body while leaking out a lot of emotional energy in the process. His most efficient competitive gear is realized through the steady hum of IHD cruise when his mental cadence and physical pace become synced and congruent. It’s getting to that space and its ultimate sustainability that causes a hint of pause for me. His emotional energy is expressed more up-n-down than it is back-to-front when leading into his cruising gear, and then again when he is trying to press down a little more on the gas pedal to find still another, yet elusive, gear. Herein is where his physical efficiency becomes interrupted, presenting a marked challenge in the sustainability of long range or long-term combat.


Like a car at its maximum output being asked for more, things start to shimmy and shake and become more difficult to control and you soon realize that you need to slow it down a bit. This is where duration of intensity becomes more antagonistic than the physical distance; where he can easily compete physically for 10 Furlongs, I am concerned that emotionally the drain of being competitive during that time frame could prove challenging. I see 100 seconds of combat strength, for example, but maybe not the proverbial 120.


Something else that is gnawing for me as a vulnerability in the face of sustained competition is his overall Herd Dynamic Power. Against peers with highly developed sensory efficiency, the cornerstone of Independent Nature, xoxo, though having a well-formed competitive nature, is slightly below the top tier levels of HDP. It is true that physically efficient and talented horses on the daily “win” the wire against higher HDP athletes, but they cannot "beat" them. Things like longer duration and an increase in the number of upper-level combatants are points of aggression added to the mix to overcome and can expose the weakness.   



Additional Thoughts: (serving essentially as the "scouting report" in this example)


An interesting fact about Independent Nature is that horseracing is the only sport where I want to see it fully expressed. In other disciplines where the horse is doing things contrary to their nature where “teaching” and coaching through the associative aspect are essential elements, I never recommend horses that are strong HDP’s with “who are you again?” in their behavioral genetic coding.


A separating distinction between herd hierarchy are the degrees of independent nature, and it can, and often does, play-out over the course of a classic distance race. The trick for xoxo as I see it, is in not getting tangled up and locking horns with equal or more athletically refined peers. If he is still learning to distribute his energy and expand his range of competitive distance, he will need to navigate the herd chaos thoughtfully and strategically.


I can’t help but wonder, however, if indeed we are not at the apex of herd dynamic development, if xoxo is not now at his peak?  A part of me thinks so, and this leaves me to then consider the total environment he will likely experience as a key dynamic. Always a factor, horses going up against high level competitors who are themselves just a tick or two below them in emotional strength and presence, the environment plays a profound role in the unfolding drama. That said, if I am team xoxo, I would be praying for rain, a monsoon even, as I feel this gives him an environmental advantage.


With everything considered and having thought about this horse’s total performance profile in every detail from as many views from the hoof as I could, I ended up with a guarded *Competitive Edge Rating of C+.



Human Factor: (in this portion is where you can expect recommendations related to goals)


Avoid HDP if at all and when at all possible. If he has reached his Herd Dynamic Power zenith, which appears to be a real possibility, there are no more herd dynamic tricks up his sleeve and the growth pattern is complete. All that is left is refinement. This comes from the coaching staff before race day, and from the saddle during.


Xoxo is a very capable athlete, he brings to the table a whole bunch of “good” that are desirable characteristics for any racehorse, and he is 100% honest and forthright. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and he only asks that he be buffered where needed, guided when asked, and gently urged when required.


*Competitive Edge Rating, see Thoroughbred in the Services drop down for definition and context and Glossary in the Resources area for all terms and definitions.


Thank you for your time, be sure and visit our Education and Service areas and don't hesitate to reach out to learn more about how we can help you, achieve your goals. ~Kerry

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