I love to study Thoroughbred pedigrees and follow the juveniles on the Triple Crown Trail. Every year I find two or three horses I like, with nice pedigrees, but for one reason or another they do not live up to their breeding and their performance on the track is mediocre at best.
Thomas Herding Technique founder Kerry Thomas, in his essay Breeding for Behavior in the Hybrid Thoroughbred; Emotional Conformation, reapplying natural selection, says that in addition to physical conformation, Emotional Conformation is one of the keys to producing a successful equine athlete.
“It is not physical genetics alone that generate the successful athlete; it is the combination of both, Emotional Genetics and Physical Genetics. EthoGrading is an important aspect of the process for emotional genetics are revealed within the Emotional Conformation of the horse, and this is a key to adopting a more natural selection process to the mating program. There is a standard natural mantra that should not be forgotten that nature has provided for us: The mental capacity of the equine controls the physical output of the athlete.”…
“Nature provides the animal with the mental capacity it needs, exactly fitted to the requirements necessary to use the body in the environment it lives in. Think of the differences in horse size and mentality from breed to breed. Look back in history and you will see that the successful species was always matched naturally, mind to body. Indeed, for species on the move forward, the mental capacity is greater than the physical ability on its own; this allows for growth in evolution, this is what you should be breeding for in your thoroughbred athlete. This is the pure definition of natural selection; mental capacity, agility and focus that are best fitted to the needs within a given environment to survive. The artificial environment does not provide the canvas for nature to paint this picture as we select by paper quite often just who is mated to who and for what reason.”…
“When we select our breeding for success, we must remember how the process of evolution actually occurs. We like to look at pictures and we are fascinated by the changes in species physically through time. We also breed our race horses with how their physical make-up will operate in a given environment, or better said, what am I breeding for physically, turf, dirt or synthetic? It is not so much how the body is made to move over a given surface (environment) or how fast, as it is how the mental capacity is equipped to interpret the stimulus received. Physical evolution is secondary to mental evolution. Decision making ability stimulates physical change, not the other way around. The horse has an incredible ability to assimilate mentally and the thoroughbred is equipped to react very quickly to the directions given it. This is why understanding your individual horse’s Emotional Conformation and having a Psychological Profile plays an integral part [in producing the successful equine athlete].”
I like Thomas’ perspective on how to produce the champion Thoroughbred. To learn more about Emotional Conformation you can read the rest of the essay here and you can visit his website here.
Sid Fernando and Frank Mitchell recently posted blogs about Thomas and Emotional Conformation. Youbet’s Derek Simon also has a very good interview with Thomas on his radio show "Simon Says."