top of page

Sensory Soundness; evaluation and mapping reference guide

Updated: Feb 29

“Because performance is driven by emotion, talent is fully realized only through mental aptitude. For where the physical horse may be athletic, it is psychology that determines athleticism. The sensory system is the doorway through which performance emerges, connecting the physical world with the emotional horse.”



 Note: The following is a transcript of the 5-part miniseries available on our YouTube Channel. Subscribe -->

Sensory Soundness Mapping is the process of analyzing the merger between the physical senses and the horse’s unique emotional interpretation of them, which is called psychosensory. Every horse has 6 standardized sensory aspect zones that, in natural design, are equally balanced and functionally proportionate. These are divided by *Sensory Lead Changes, the location where stimuli transitions from one zone to another. However, for the emotionally driven horse, the physical standard, (ideal) and psychosensory, (actual), rarely align save for the most high-level herd dynamic horses. Less than 5% of all horses will have both alignment and uninterrupted functionality of the six-step sensory sequence shown below.  

Natural Sensory Sequence

Survey --> Orienting --> Investigatory --> Absorb --> Interpret --> Respond.

When your horses psychosensory map is overlain upon the standardized “ideal” map, it reveals a multitude of things about your horse’s psychological capacity and their view of the world. This self-portrait of the horse brings them into view in ways never before possible, allowing us to identify things like stress accumulation, (the underwriter of training and performance issues), behavior inconsistences, natural strengths and weaknesses, emotional energy distribution and leaks, and how, where, and why your horse is who they are. One of the most important functions of the sensory system is the clearing of space for the body to move through, quite an important thing for the horse-athlete. This allows for fluent, uninterrupted physical movement. If you don’t have this in your physically sound horse, then you quite likely have a sensory unsound horse.

How do I do it? Two ways, one is I come to you, begin an in-person evaluation of your horse and record video footage to be further analyzed. The other and most practical way for many is to send me video footage of your horse. There is a tutorial video on the website in the services area on how to get the basic footage needed.

It has taken me nearly my entire equestrian career to fully discover the sensory sequence and appreciate its true, groundbreaking value and applications. I was never in pursuit of it, but it was chasing after me all the while. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I stopped and turned around to see it staring me in the face. Only then did I realize that all my work in researching natural herd dynamics was leading to the moment where I understood that the true nature of behavioral genetics was at the nexus of the emotional horse and their physical environment. That changed the course of my career and my life, leading me to the development of Sensory Soundness Mapping, and Life Through the Senses, the educational platform from which I share and teach my fellow equestrian minded scholars.

The applications are immense, from responsible, more natural breeding programs, horse selection, discipline selection, practical solutions to the most pressing training and performance demands, and everything in between.

The Map, a Legend of Exploration


Stress Markers; Bridges and Blocks see Intention & Bridging extended tips for more

Arrows pointing out from the body --> indicate locations of natural outsourcing tendency, these areas are directional “Pull-Points”, or “Pull”; the horse’s emotional energy is pulled outward, seeking a Bridge-Point while trying to complete the sensory sequence. Here is where you bridge by “answering the question” with casual/whispering, matter-of-fact emotional intent, and physical action (if required) after the horse asks. *“Leaks” are non-outsourcing areas steadily draining the horse of emotional energy.


Arrows pointing into the body <-- indicate inward pressure points called “Push-Points” or “Push”. These are directional areas where emotional energy is condensed and presses into the horse. Accumulative stressors can create internal sensory sequence blocks requiring more time for the horse to self-bridge either through the associative aspect or through Anticipatory Response Mechanism. Here is where you offer a bridge of firm emotional intent before the horse blocks and preceding physical action or asks. *"Soft" <-- indicates a moderate influx of stress with little to no accumulative effect.

Pro Tip: The strength of your emotional intent is the engineer that lays the bridge for your horse.


Sensory Lead Change

            ‘HF’ – High Functioning, elite sensory lead change capacity.

            ‘OK’ = Average efficiency during stimulus transition; normal Sensory Lead Change.

            <--> = Delays in Transition; additional time to ‘hand-off’ information is required. 

            ->-> = Emotional Drag; the tendency for accumulation of stress via *Stress Carryover.

             The up to 6 (standard) Sensory Lead Change Transition Points are denoted A through F.


Zone Area

Zone Condensed scope & range creates additional pressure and accumulation of stress.

Zone Exaggeration of scope & range causes delays in response times.

Balance: uniformity of corresponding zone area (Example; Z3 & Z5) w/minimum Value of C.

[-----------] = Area of Sensory Competence, Egg Efficiency & Stress Management Proficiency.

       Values: A =Athletic/Elite, B = Above Average, C = Average/Good, D = Adequate


Egg quick tips: Egg represents the Range of Depth Perception & Scope of Emotional Self Awareness, ‘where am I relative to where you are?’ An essential component that allows for accurate interpretive ratio; ‘how fast are you or I, or you and I, moving relative to one another?’. Psychologically, range of depth-perception is both in and out and up and down relative to the body. Scope is the area of total self-awareness within a zone.  Of Note: “Self-Perceived” is different than “Self-Aware”; one is an assumed position; the other is a known position.

*Intention & Bridging; Extended Tips:

Intention precedes physical action, an emotional rein connecting you with your horse; the strength of your intent is the engineer charged with laying the proper foundation.” kmt  

Pull markers --> going out from the body are natural outsourcing locations where the horse is seeking help with their sensory processing. The manner that you express your intention is key for proper Bridging and the completion of the sensory sequence. The strength within your intention should match the horses need; the “ask for assistance”. The direction of the arrows, straight or sweeping, indicate the common direction their body falls into or toward during the outsourcing process. Areas that are marked “leaks”, though not an outsourcing location, are Bridge Points; positions to be mindful of and offer a soft but matter-of-fact bridge of intention to offset any buildup of stress that could occur. Proper Bridging in Pull areas is to let the horse “ask” before you offer; this allows you to develop a sustainable associative response through the natural processes of learned behavior. If done before, you are blocking that process.

Push markers <-- pressing into the body indicate where stress is being onboarded and affecting physical expression. These areas of emotional pressure are “attacking stressors”, overloading and destabilizing the horse’s natural capacity to complete the sensory process. This generates reactive physical expression. The areas marked as “Soft Push” indicate where the influx of stress pushes the sensory process to its maximum capacity, the risk of destabilization and reactive expression is high. Bridging here serves to diffuse the stress. Providing a strong emotional rein before the horse physically expresses is key as it invites the horse to offload some of their vulnerability and sense of isolation, building a connection of trust between you. Intention applied after physical expression will be associated as a contributing factor, becoming a Block. When the horse is in the act of expressing, catch and redirect their emotions, but allow them time to physically filter; be the bridge, not the block.  

Sensory Lead Change (SLC) Notes:

Keep in mind that a high percentage of any horse’s eccentricities in behavior are the byproduct of accumulated stressors trying to work their way through their psychology, and collaborative to these are interruptions in their Sensory Lead Change capacity. Sensory Lead Change disruptions are blocking mechanisms further interrupting the sensory sequence. These alone do not embed trauma but when left untended, unabridged stress accumulates and when a horse is moving stress is compounded into another sensory zone, adding to their emotional weight. The further (duration) a horse must carry this, the heavier it gets, the heavier the emotional weight the more hypersensitive they become, the more hypersensitive the more reactive the expressions; if the horse is not able to or given the room to physically express and filter, the higher the chances that trauma embeds in the psyche.

Alignment Notes:

Where the psychosensory is askew when overlain upon the Standard Aspect Zone “ideal” it exposes the degree that the sensory zones are off balance; a puzzle piece misshapen. The degree of which affects the horse’s ability to evenly distribute emotional energy and harmonize with their environment. Alignment indicates those areas of strength (aligned) and those areas of vulnerability (misaligned). Showing us the positions around the sensory egg that we need to be mindful of and the positions which the horse manages well on their own. Contentment with their peers is realized when the horse’s natural vulnerabilities are bridged by another’s strengths.

Each horse has a Sensory Soundness Score


What is the Sensory Soundness Score? A unique grading system appraising the total impact stress is having on the horse. Calculated from 12 data points measuring the proficiency of the sensory system in both managing and filtering emotional and physical stressors, the Sensory Soundness Score is revealing of the horse’s ability to perform tasks without the onset of mental fatigue.


Sensory Soundness Scoring Chart:

Tier One: High Risk of Mental Fatigue Interference

0 to 35 = Dysfunctional à Very Difficult to Train, Corrupted Sensory Sequencing

36 to 40 = Below Average à Training Disruptions, Interrupted Sensory Sequencing 


Tier Two: Moderate Risk of Mental Fatigue Interference

41 to 55 = Functional à Adequate Trainability, Modest Retainment within Learned Behaviors

56 to 70 = Average à Good Trainability, Sensory Sequences Support Versatility of Learned Behaviors

71 to 85 = Above Average à Athletic Minded, Elevated Performance, Heightened Emotional Sensitivity


Tier Three: Low Risk of Mental Fatigue Interference

86 to 96 = Highly Athletic à Above Average Performance Ability, Fast Rhythmed Psychological Fluency   

97 to 100 = Elite Athletic Performance Ability, Sensory Efficient and Balanced, *Independent Nature


The separation between horses, especially as you get closer to the top, becomes smaller and smaller. It’s interesting to note that yes, seasoning, training and age do influence what we see expressed in any horse. The core value, that psychological baseline from whence their expressions come, remains the same throughout their lives. Who they are determines what they can become. Understanding their benchmark herd dynamic helps us in every aspect of our relationship with horses and is essential for making informed decisions whether we’re matching horse to human, human to horse, or horse to discipline.  


 Pro Tip: The sensory system must process stimuli at minimum two times faster than the rate of physical motion in order for the body have freedom of motion; fluency.

Profiling your Athlete, Assessing Potential


Here are some abbreviated evaluation notes taken from three different case studies and a sample mapping. One map is what I refer to as the Blank Canvas. The faded lines are the Standard Aspect Zones, representing the “Ideal Horse”. The 6 zones are divided by the locations where naturally occurring Sensory Lead Changes* take place. Over the course of the evaluation your horse’s functioning sensitivities are charted out and when overlain upon the standard ideal, “mapping”, a psychosensory portrait of the horse emerges. The end result is something never before presented, a detailed likeness on paper of the horse’s psychological capacity and herd dynamic makeup, Sensory Soundness.

Below are some snippets of profiling notes from real cases of horses in three different disciplines.

From Fourth Level Dressage and up, the horse needs High Functioning Sensory Lead Change in SLC-A, SLC-D, SLC-E & SLC-F with minimum rating of ‘OK’, or average at SLC-B & SLC-C. Balance between Zones 2 & 6 and Zones 3 & 5. Value of A in Zone 1, Value of C in Zone 4 with corresponding composite Sensory Soundness Score of at least 75.

Pro Tip- Did you know that High Functioning Sensory Lead Changes are an absolute must for the upper levels of Dressage?

Show Jumpers at Intermediate into Advanced levels need a minimum Value of B in Zones 6, 1 and 2 with High Functioning Sensory Lead Changes in E & F, Average Efficiency in SLC-A & D and a corresponding composite Sensory Soundness Score of at least 68.

Pro Tip- Did you know that the successful Show Jumper has at minimum, a 3 to 1 sensory clearance ratio in Zone 1? This means that their sensory system is clearing space three times faster than their physical motion. This is optimum fluency, keeping the mind ahead of the body.  


The Training-Level Eventing Horse needs Balance between Zones 3 and 5, a Value of B in Zone 1 and Zone 2 with a Zone 6 Value of C. High Functioning Sensory Lead Change in SLC-E & SLC-F and Average SLC’s in A & D with a corresponding composite Sensory Soundness Score of 50.

Pro Tip- Did you know that the choice Sensory Soundness Score for the Eventing horse is 70? It’s also the best score for Working Equitation. Why? Because this is the best cross-training psychology to have owing to the athletic malleability of the psyche in this range.


Pro Tip- Did you know that a smooth and efficient physical lead-change is highly dependent on the ease with which the horse performs sensory lead changes? Especially under performance stress. For example, I have evaluated thousands of Thoroughbred Flat Racehorses at the highest levels around the world and every one that could, did, and every one that couldn’t, didn’t.

As mentioned, the preceding examples are greatly abbreviated bits of a much larger picture. A full Sensory Soundness Mapping and Evaluation Profile consists of a comprehensive written report explaining the results. You also get zone by zone details with recommendations for moving forward with your goals in mind, details on your horses Sensory Sequencing, you will learn how they are viewing their world, how stress is affecting them and a multitude of unique behavioral genetic puzzle pieces. This includes the horse’s self-portrait translated into patterns-of-motion, the Enrichment Diagram. Through which you will learn how to be the bridge, and not the block!




Self-Portrait: Patterns-In-Motion Enrichment Diagrams


The most amazing thing began to take shape the further along I traveled down this trail of sensory discovery, what I was beginning to realize was that the true artistry of the horse was emerging. I began to see the process of herd dynamic evaluation and psychosensory mapping was, in effect, a psychological portrait painted by the horses themselves. This detailed investigation of emotionally driven expressions when translated to paper not only tells the horses’ story, but reveals what it is they need, what it is they’re asking for, and how to help them become a better version of themselves. All in their own unique voice. Psychological rhythms when translated to paper become patterns in motion. When we put emotional expression into physical action in a thoughtfully designed sequence of patterns, the results are diagrams of enrichment from within the horses’ mind straight into your arena. A true partnership begins when you take the first step together, the roles of teacher and student are often interchangeable making leadership a shared experience.

Regardless of the level your horse is competing at, an enrichment diagram serves a multitude of ambitions. From honing the skills of the elite performer to cultivating the life-skills needed for the horse to realize achievable goals and just being happy in their own skin. Your greatest training tool is education, your most effective application is understanding. Whether you’re needing to focus on one aspect of a training issue, or you’re wanting to sharpen your awareness and elevate your horsemanship prowess, Enrichment Diagrams are your key to building a program with your horse, for your horse, through your horse.

How many diagrams come with each mapping? It depends, your horse will tell us that, but on average 1 to 3 diagrams emerge from the horse’s profile.

The physical and emotional welfare of every horse should come before their discipline and our human-based objectives. Realistic and achievable goals are realized when we place “who” they are ahead of “what” they are. When we take the time to better know our horses, we often become better acquainted with ourselves.




Thinking Forward…


I would like to mention that my personal vision for this technology is to put in place a certification program. If this is something you think you may be interested in for the future, or if you’re just interested in learning more for your own interests, I can’t recommend enough that you visit Life Through the Senses, via the Education portal on the website, and consider becoming a student.

As you may have read on a previous blog post, I am strongly considering developing a Sensory Mapping computer program and App that will produce enrichment diagrams, track growth, facilitate training and so much more. Investor interests will be considered to help with this groundbreaking project.

Educational Seminars and Sensory Mapping Clinics are available, if you are an organizer and want to plan an event, anywhere in the world, send us an email. If you are interested in being made aware when an event is scheduled, let us know. Visit the website and sign up to be a member, and please join or follow the Sensory Soundness FB Page and subscribe to our YouTube Channel, where you can watch my personal delivery of this transcript!

Want to inquire about partnering on the new technology development?

Want to Book-In a horse mapping or any of our other profiling services?

Want to Book-In a Free Consultation to discuss your case to see how our services can work for you?

Want to get a signed Sensory Soundness Poster, stock our Rugged Posh Line, discuss Destination Hope?

Email Daphne, Director of Marketing:


Thank you and remember, be honest with your horse, because they will be honest with you!

Your Friend, Kerry



When you see *, it means the term or phrase can be found in the Glossary of Terminology and Phrases in the Resources section of the website. Learn-the-Lingo, Download it for free!


PS: Don't forget to follow our Facebook Sensory Soundness Page and subscribe to our YouTube Channel, links here on the website!



“We can never truly lead any horse when we attempt to do so physically. Physical expression is not a leadership characteristic, it is a response driven by emotion. The true nature of leadership is found within the serenity of resolute, dauntless intention.

Be the bridge, not the block.”  

Kerry M Thomas

101 views0 comments


bottom of page